The Qualification Season 2015: Frequently Asked Questions, Part 1

May 8, 2015

As part of “The Qualification Season” – a series of blogs by CapeClarke aimed at trainee solicitors looking to qualify in September 2015 – we will give a brief overview of the market conditions affecting many of the core legal disciplines that trainee solicitors look to qualify into.

After years of working with trainees qualifying as solicitors, we have seen various questions asked and certain issues raised time and again.  In an attempt to pre-empt the same questions this year, we composed responses to the following:

1.  My firm has offered me a position but it is in the wrong discipline.  Should I take it anyway?

It depends which discipline you want to qualify into.  If you want to qualify into Commercial Property, Corporate, Banking, Commercial Contracts or (to a lesser degree) Construction, we think you would generally be capable of obtaining a desired role elsewhere as there will be a number of roles out there.

If you are looking at a more competitive or less busy discipline such as employment or litigation, you could be waiting for some time before securing a role externally (if at all!).  Unfortunately, at present, outside of the transactional areas above, you cannot bank on that security and our advice would be to accept a role that you have been offered by your firm.

Your firm should give you time to decide whether you want to accept the role, so you can hope that the ideal position becomes available in the interim and, failing that, you always have the option of looking for the ideal role even after acceptance.  That said, the longer you practise in an area, the harder it will be to move to another firm into a different discipline.

2.  Can I qualify into one discipline and change later?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this was more of an option in a better market, especially a retrain into a discipline with a skill shortage.  Whilst it is not impossible, it is tougher now with more available solicitors looking for a new role, particularly at the junior level.

That said, corporate and commercial property teams may be open to re-trainers from disciplines such as projects and you should speak to us about any desire to do this.

3.  I have a choice of seat changes.  What are the best tactics?

Try to get seat you want when you can!  Some people believe your third seat (in a traditional four seat training contract) is your statement of intent and puts you in the best position, some people believe the fourth seat is where you should to qualify as you are under the noses of decision-makers.  Too many people work to these different tactics that they miss out on their desired seat move.

4.  Are there any possibilities of moving in-house at this stage?

In-house opportunities at NQ level are rare, but come up very occasionally, especially at the moment when all businesses are trying to save some money!  Private practice is still the more realistic sector to qualify into.

5.  What are the best disciplines for an in-house move at a later date?

Commercial contracts is still the discipline favoured by companies seeking to appoint an in-house solicitor, however it is not unheard of for lawyers in construction, corporate and to a lesser extent, employment, property or litigation to move in-house.  The key is qualifying into the area where you enjoy the work most, not doing something you do not enjoy because of an idea you may want to work in-house in the future.

6.  Can I apply to the same firm in different areas of law?

You can, but do not just apply for any seat you have completed on your training contract.  Most firms appreciate that trainee solicitors will generally have two or even three disciplines they would like to consider qualifying into, as opposed to a burning desire to focus on one.  This is how CapeClarke can assist you in the application process as we can manage that process appropriately because of our relationships with key people in each firm.

7.  Can I apply to the same firm in different locations?

Again, you can generally apply to the same firm in different locations.  Some firms want to see a particular connection to a location, but most of the national firms (with multiple offices) normally just want the best solicitor they can get.  The key point to bear in mind is not to make more than one application to the same firm.  Each of the national firms have a central recruitment database and it would look unprofessional to make duplicate applications, regardless of whether it is to a different office.  Again, this is where CapeClarke can help as we can make key people aware that you can consider a role in numerous locations.

 

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 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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