Qualifying as a solicitor
1) Which area of law?
This is the logical place to start and does set the platform for the rest of your career to develop. It’s a question to consider very carefully. Consider which area of law you have enjoyed the most and why? Where are you particularly strong technically? How would you develop a career in that particular sector? Is your training contract set up in such that has a bias towards non-contentious or contentious work? Perhaps most importantly, which area could you talk through most knowledgeably and enthusiastically. There isn’t anything wrong with considering multiple areas but think about how this might dilute your applications.
2) Where will I need to show a degree of flexibility?
This will be dictated by the availability of roles you are interested in. For example, most law firms have commercial property departments that are very often recruiting, so in this situation you could afford to be quite specific in your search. Other areas are much more competitive so if you were looking for a role in commercial litigation you may need to be flexible on the type and size of firm or the geographical location, or both.
3) Retained by your training firm or moving externally, which is better?
The answer to this very much depends on your personal set of circumstances. If you can find an area of law that you enjoy and you are engaged by the people and culture of your training firm then it is a no-brainer to stay. If, however, you are uncertain about the role you are offered or the cultural fit of your training firm then it’s in your best interests to explore the market.
4) When do the vacancies start to come out?
Now, April through to July are the busiest months but we also see a late spike in August. Most law firms will look to kick off their internal process when the 4th seat rotation starts in April and will look to conclude the process by end of April or in early May. This is when they identify where the gaps fall and the external vacancies start to appear.
5) How should my CV look?
Your CV is your way of communicating your experience to a prospective employer. The style and format for a newly qualified solicitor is critical. You need to consider the depth of experience that you include and does the CV point specifically to the discipline you are interested in but maintain the experience of a balanced training contract? Also is there anything that makes your CV different and stand out from the other applicants? You should not necessarily stick to chronological order for your training seats and it is important that the seat you want to qualify in is the first that you see.
6) Are interviews different to training contract assessments?
The short answer is yes. In your training contract assessments your competencies and thought process are looked at. In a NQ interview these are still looked at but you also have to demonstrate what technical experience you have developed and be able to effectively communicate this. Rapport building is often the key to securing a job offer so consider how to establish common ground and demonstrate that you are a great team fit.
7) Can I consider in-house roles as a NQ?
Yes you absolutely can! However, be mindful that the depth and breadth of on-going training you will receive in-house is likely to be narrower and directly related to the job you will be performing. A move in-house at this stage therefore requires you to be confident which area you wish to pursue and are able to demonstrate some degree of relevant experience from one or more of your Training Seats (Commercial, Data Protection & IP currently in most demand).
8) What salary can I expect?
Salaries for NQ solicitors are very often specifically set and will vary from firm to firm and location to location. You should speak to a specialist legal recruiter who should be able to tell you the salary before making any application. Most of the larger commercial law firms are also now offering a bonus linked to performance.
9) Can I move over in to anther area of law if I do not like my choice?
This will be difficult and is why it’s important that you consider all of the above now so you aren’t in this position. It isn’t impossible to move over to another area of law but it is rare and not without challenges.
10) What should I do next?
If you are approaching qualification and would like to talk through your options, be it how to position yourself internally, market trends or current vacancies then you can contact in confidence any of our expert consultants below:
Paul Duffy – Birmingham and the Midlands
firstname.lastname@example.org | 0121 234 9200
Richard Lock – Bristol, South West, South Coast and Thames Valley
email@example.com | 0117 930 8534
Bin Sparkes – Manchester, Leeds and the North
firstname.lastname@example.org | 0113 487 0119
Ben Mandell - In house - London, Home Counties and South
email@example.com | 0207 634 0148
Oscar Lawrenson – London City
firstname.lastname@example.org | 0207 634 0100
Alex Crump – Northern Home Counties + the South East
email@example.com | 0207 634 0100
Fraser Turnbull – Scotland
firstname.lastname@example.org | 0131 524 9020
Ben Fryer - In house Midlands
email@example.com | 0121 234 9218