The Qualification Season: Getting the Ball Rolling…

February 8, 2012

This is the first blog in the CapeClarke series The Qualification Season – dealing with issues faced by trainees looking to qualify as solicitors in Leeds and Manchester and surrounding areas in September 2012.  Hopefully, over the next few months you will find our assessment of the market and the advice we provide trainee solicitors useful and informative.

We work on the basis that at least 95% of trainee solicitors want to qualify and remain at the law firm at which they trained.  This is understandable – they have built up a degree of goodwill, have made friends and feel comfortable in their fledgling legal careers.  To that end, CapeClarke realise that as a legal recruitment consultancy we are here to help really on a contingency plan in the instances where qualification opportunities at the training firm are limited.  That said, it would be a good idea to get in touch with us as soon as possible so that we are aware of you and can let you know of any opportunities in the market as the year goes by.

The best place to start is, unsurprisingly, how to get the ball rolling.

Internal Applications

The first thing to say is that it is normal (especially in the larger offices with more trainee solicitors) for an air of awkwardness to appear amongst trainee groups.  Those fellow trainee solicitors who have become your friends over the last 18 months are now your direct competitors for that highly-contested NQ role you so desperately want!  Much of this is unwarranted anxiety – a little friendly competition, and certainly an awareness of the situation developing at your firm, is fine – and we hear stories year after year of trainees falling out.  The way you should look at it is that as long as you look after your own applications (and don’t give away anything beneficial to others), then the qualification process will work itself out over time.  Going for the usual pint on a Friday afternoon is not going to leave you without a job!

You will no doubt receive information internally from the graduate recruitment team or the supervising partner as to how the NQ process will work and what you need to do to apply for the available positions. You should receive guidance as to what your “internal CV” should look like.  In the meantime, you have identified which of your training seats you enjoyed the most and an early tip is to make sure the partners and decision-makers in those teams know that you would like to qualify into their department – this is especially important if your time there was in your first seat.  A failure to do this may mean any conversations they have with the graduate recruitment team, HR or the other partners may not involve you!

Looking outside of your training firm

If your internal applications hit a brick wall, CapeClarke can assist in finding you newly qualified solicitor role at another firm.

We are perfectly placed in the Leeds and Manchester markets to keep you informed of new legal vacancies as and when they arise.  Through our extensive contacts in Leeds and Manchester (and other major cities in Yorkshire and the North West), we will be instructed on any external NQ opportunities that come to light and will be able to give you a full appraisal of the role available.

As with internal applications, you need to assess which areas you want to specialise in – try to be as flexible as possible and this will give you the best chance of getting a suitable newly qualified solicitor role.  We appreciate this is difficult and a single-minded approach is often a very good thing, but if you absolutely won’t look beyond a highly competitive discipline such as employment law, then you may find the process difficult.  The more disciplines you can consider, the more opportunities will arise.

You need to get your external CV ready!  The CV is a very personal document and you may feel that it is already perfect.  On the flipside, because it is so personal you are worried about over or under-selling yourself.  We will advise as to what partners in law firms want to see and help you tailor the CV to make it as attractive to another law firm as possible.

Finally, really think about location.  How flexible can you be? If you have real ties to a particular city, you may not be able to look beyond that city. If you do not have such ties, a flexible approach to location will inevitably open a few more doors.

CapeClarke is a leading niche legal recruitment consultancy operating across Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, 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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