The Qualification Season 2016: Employment

March 14, 2016

As part of “The Qualification Season” – a series of blogs by CapeClarke aimed at trainee solicitors looking to qualify in September 2016 – 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 first area of law for discussion is Employment.

The Current Market

A little topsy-turvy to say the least!  The recession had provided a breeding ground for employment lawyers with lots of recruitment and qualification opportunities.  Then, with the drop in contentious work coming out of the recession, bloated teams downsized, taking the opportunity to strategically re-evaluate the quality of their solicitors. We have now settled into an employment market whereby firms feel fairly well structured and partners are happy with their associates.  With the changing rules around tribunal fees, firms are cautious about expanding too much.  We see small numbers of vacancies but nothing like previous years – similarly, the number of quality employment solicitors on the market has diminished.

Is this a good career option?

Employment solicitors will generally be in demand in a bad financial climate, 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) and most teams offer clients an advisory service usually based around set rates or retainers.  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 were 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 changed for a few years given the heightened qualification opportunities in 2009-10 but we are now back to a position where there is interest in quality.

September 2016 opportunities

Despite employment work levelling off for many firms, we imagine most large or medium-sized law firms will create an internal vacancy for a newly qualified employment solicitor. This is still a really competitive discipline to qualify into as a solicitor with numerous trainees often fighting over one qualification place in the employment department.  Therefore, very few employment newly qualified solicitor roles make into the external market and when they do, they are fiercely contested!  We do not envisage that being any different this year and it may be the case that some people will have to look at alternative disciplines.


If you 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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