The Qualification Season 2019: A Focus On… Employment

February 25, 2019

As part of The Qualification Season, a series of blogs by CapeClarke aimed at trainee solicitors looking to qualify in September 2019, 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

What a difference a couple of years make!  This time in 2017, employment teams seemed nicely balanced and unwilling to expand due to the introduction of tribunal fees in 2013.  Consequently, there were very few opportunities to qualify into employment or move firms as a qualified solicitor.

Following the ruling in R (on the application of UNISON) (Appellant) v Lord Chancellor (Respondent) in July 2017, whereby the Supreme Court ruled that the Government had acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally in introducing tribunal fees, employment teams anticipated an increase in workstreams into 2017 and 2018. From a recruitment context we can report that employment teams did indeed experience this upturn in work, as there was a marked increase in the number of employment roles being released. The number of vacancies was so significant, that even the largest of national firms were being very flexible in their recruitment processes. There are numerous examples of candidates from lower tier firms, making the move into the larger, national law firms.

With the additional point that employment law could be the main discipline affected by Brexit, it will be interesting to see the effect on activity levels in the coming years as the UK leaves the EU.

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.

September 2019 opportunities

Given the 2017 tribunal change ruling mentioned above, 2018 did see firms recruit heavily within their employment teams. However, this is still a really competitive discipline to qualify into; we do not expect firms to continue to recruit at the same level as they have over the last 12 months, but there will certainly be more employment NQ roles available than there were in early 2017.

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