in Careers Advice, Job Applications, Newly Qualified Solicitors

Why are jobs listed by agencies on job boards and websites not always active?

There are a good number of legal jobs on the web that have been listed by recruitment consultants that are not live. I can guarantee this. I reckon that for every 1 genuinely live vacancy with a finite deadline to be filled there will be 1 vacancy that is not. This means that 50% of job vacancies on the web are not active in the traditional sense.

We often get telephone calls from candidates enquiring about jobs which go as follows:

Caller: “Hello, I’ve seen vacancy VAC 14567 on your website and wondered what the current status is.”

Us: Vacancy 14567? Yes, that vacancy is showing as live but we haven’t had a response from the firm about it for a very long time.”

Caller: “Well why are you still advertising it if the firm haven’t responded to you for a very long time?”

Us: “Good question – send us your CV and I’ll check on current status and keep you posted with the firm’s response”.

This is fairly common place and I imagine this call plays out across the UK at various recruitment consultancies every day of the week.

The truth is, employers are more enthusiastic about posting job vacancies with agencies than they are actually dealing with them. After all, this is quite often why they have posted the vacancy with us in the first place – ie we do the work and they sit back and wait for us to recruit.

The reality is quite often that the original firm to post the vacancy have simply gone to ground and do not respond to any calls to check on vacancy status. This is common, even when we have a CV to send over. It may be the firm have recruited elsewhere, they have withdrawn the vacancy, they have decided the recruitment fees are too high or they have decided to wait for a while before progressing.

It is true that some agencies post vacancies that do not exist, but this is fairly rare unless the agency is new. What could be easier than simply making up 20 vacancies and posting them across the internet? You can often spot these as they will be for commonly posted vacancies for city firms (new agencies always go for the biggest clients they can spot in the marketplace).

So here are the reasons why jobs listed by agencies on their websites are not always active:

  • The vacancy has been made up by the agency.
  • The vacancy has been made up by the law firm.
  • The law firm have withdrawn the vacancy (and not told the agency).
  • The law firm have decided not to instruct the agency anymore (and not told the agency).
  • The law firm have decided to recruit internally (and not told the agency).
  • The law firm have decided to advertise elsewhere (and not told the agency).
  • The law firm cannot be bothered dealing with the actual recruitment process and are not responding to the agency.
  • The vacancy is not a traditional job opening. It is more wishful thinking on the part of the law firm – these types of vacancies can last for years – usually the give away is the word ‘following’ or a completely unrealistic salary level.

It is very rare for an established agency to make up a vacancy – after all – what would be the point? The most common cause of a vacancy being advertised that is not live is that the law firm have withdrawn the vacancy and not told anyone.

We do have a policy of removing vacancies after a certain number of attempts to check on current status, but so many vacancies come around again we tend to leave vacancies on simply to see if this happens. The second major reason is that the law firm simply cannot be bothered dealing with the recruitment process.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He regularly writes articles both for the site and the blog.

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