in Careers Advice, Newly Qualified Solicitors

Newly Qualified Solicitors – 10 top tips on recruitment

Newly Qualified Solicitors – 10 tips on recruitment
It is the time of year when NQ solicitors start to wonder what they need to do to find work on qualification if they do not remain with their existing firm.

Here is our brief guide – you can read the full article at

1. As soon as you qualify, you are a valuable commodity to your firm. You may think that you have no skills, are worthless, and unable to justify a salary you would like. People will tell you that it is very hard to find work as a newly qualified solicitor, and you should wait at least 3 years before moving. This is a common tactic towards the end of a training contract for employers to “put you down”. This is to prevent you thinking about pastures new.
2. If you make a move, the new firm will appreciate your worth and give you respect as a solicitor, as opposed to remaining forever a trainee solicitor in disguise (a common complaint).
3. Ignore points 1 and 2 if you are happy with your present firm – stay there if you can. There is more to life than your next pay cheque.
4. The best time to start looking for work is about 6 months before qualifying. You may be a bit despondent that no posts appear in the Law Society Gazette for newly qualified solicitors, or at least very few do. This is fairly normal these days, as firms get a lot of candidates via recruitment consultants or through individual speculative applications.
5. For a September qualifier, you need to start registering with your chosen recruitment agent from about the middle of March onwards. Contact the agent again each month to check to see whether any progress has taken place. The normal busy period is usually in May and June, but firms start collating CVs and interviewing from March with a view to a September start.
6. If you are a January qualifier the normal time to start looking is late September or October. The Christmas break is normally very quiet, and it is important to ensure that interviews are arranged before then.
7. If you are planning to stay with your current firm, speak to assistant solicitors, secretaries or the office manager to try and gauge what the firm are likely to offer you. If you are at a very small practice, and are the only assistant solicitor, you need to speak to friends at other firms to see what the going rate is in the area.
8. Negotiating at newly qualified level really depends on the current state of the market.
9. If the market is very poor you are at the mercy of your current firm, and need to be careful as to how far you push your wage demands. It is always a fine line between pushing for a higher salary and avoiding conflict at the negotiation stage. You need to be able to justify your requirements for a particular salary, and it is important to be prepared for the meeting.
10. If you are attending for an interview at a firm other than your own, you will probably be asked towards the end of the interview what salary you require. We get asked all the time by newly qualified solicitors as to how this needs to be approached. We recommend asking the firm what they have in mind initially, and then pitch accordingly.

Finally long term career plans are important to consider when you approach qualification, and in fact there is some merit in sitting down and writing out your goals. What do you want to get out of your career in law, where do you want to go, and in 5 years time, 10 years time and 20 years time where do you want to be? Is the field of law you are planning to specialise in the one you wish to stay in, or is it simply being done because this is what you ended up doing during your training contract? Do you want to work for yourself, set up in business, or remain an employee? Do you plan to have children and raise a family, do you want to work part time in the longer term, do you want to look outside of law as well, are you aiming to be very rich, comfortable or is money not a factor for you?

Decisions you make now will affect your career 20 years down the line. If you are thinking of relocating, it can be done at qualification, but similarly it can be done 1-5 years into your career without too much difficulty.

Jonathan Fagan, MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at