The Qualification Season 2014: Employment

March 2, 2014

As part of “The Qualification Season” – seminars and a series of blogs by CapeClarke aimed at trainee solicitors looking to qualify in September 2014 – we will give a brief overview of the market conditions affecting many of the core legal disciplines that trainee solicitors look to qualify into.

The next area of law for discussion is Employment.

The Current Market: In the past 18 months, employment teams (with the odd exception) have reported a downturn in work and therefore utilisation of its solicitors.  This still seems unusual as the typical employment solicitor had been worked very hard in the preceding 4 years!  We are living in a financially turbulent world, which has resulted in mass redundancy programmes, restructuring and a lot of contentious employment work.  With a drop in contentious employment work, however, a lot of employment teams have been underutilised particularly in the last 6 months of the financial year.  There is no immediate upturn in employment work predicted and the departments will generally be looking to remain steady.

Is this a good career option? While it would be wrong to say any type of law is recession-proof, being an employment solicitor has always been regarded as probably as close as there is.  Employment solicitors will generally be in demand in a bad financial climate (as discussed above), but also during good times (working on more transactional work or providing clients with a more advisory service – drafting the company’s employment handbooks, for instance).  The downturn in employment activity is partly aided by the fact that almost every large or medium sized firm recruited quite heavily in employment, meaning there are too many bodies for a post-recession workload.  In the past, there has been a shortage of good mid-level employment solicitors on the market which meant that those solicitors looking for a move often had a lot of interest from other firms…this is already a thing of the past and the market is flush with 2-5 year PQEs, given the number of solicitors qualifying into this area since 2009.

September 2014 opportunities: Be warned – this next section does not make for happy reading!  Ordinarily, we would imagine that many of the large or medium-sized law firms would create an internal vacancy for a newly qualified employment solicitor. However, given the under-utilisation of existing teams, we suspect this number will drop this year (it did last year!) – indeed, as has been seen, a couple of firms have been making redundancies in employment.  Moreover, this is still a really competitive discipline to qualify as a solicitor into with numerous trainees often fighting over one qualification place in the employment department (last year, one national firm had around ten internal trainees from around the country applying for one vacancy in the North!).  Therefore, very few employment newly qualified solicitor roles make into the external market and when they do, they are fiercely contested!


If you would like to discuss this blog, have been thinking about a move or would just like some general advice about options in the market, please feel free to contact Terry Cape or Chris Clarke on 0113 2385965.

CapeClarke is a leading niche legal recruitment consultancy operating across Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool and London. Please feel free to check out our priority legal vacancies by clicking here.  Please note these legal vacancies are only a small selection of those we have been instructed on, so please get in touch if you do not see a role which looks suitable.

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