Coming towards the end of your training contract? Unless you’ve already been offered an NQ role at your current firm, you’re probably contemplating your next move.
As ambitious trainees across Manchester and the North West prepare themselves for their NQ job search, I thought I’d address some misconceptions candidates have before they start the hunt for their first role post-qualification.
1. I can have my cake and eat it
In an ideal world, you’d quickly land your dream job in your chosen practice area in the perfect location with an excellent salary and comprehensive benefits package, and with the exact sort of firm you’ve always wanted to work for. Unfortunately, it’s unusual for any career move to completely tick every single box.
Before you begin your job search, think about the kind of things you’d ideally like in your NQ role. Which practice area would you like to work in? Would you prefer to work in a boutique practice or a big full-service firm? Are you looking for a job in the city centre or out of town?
Once you’ve made a note of your requirements, think about which of these are most important and try to determine those that are up for negotiation and those that simply aren’t. You can then adopt a strategic, targeted approach to finding what you need to get you where you want to be.
Considering job offers – be realistic
When you get a job offer, even if the role means a longer commute or the starting salary is lower than you were expecting, don’t be immediately dismissive. While you might have to spend a little longer travelling each day or take home less at the end of the month than you’d ideally like, the job on offer could provide you with unique experience, more importantly, it might get you noticed. By all means, have confidence in your ability, but in this competitive market, it is sometimes sensible to compromise without losing sight of your long-term ambitions.
2. My CV should be no more than two sides of A4
This will likely have been drummed into you by teachers, career advisers, and lecturers over the years. At this key stage in your career, don’t limit yourself to two sides by overly editing your CV if it means you have to leave out essential information about your training contract, other recent legal work experience, or anything else that truly helps to set you apart.
Over the years, I’ve received plenty of excellent longer CVs. Provided you don’t go over the top and your CV clearly and concisely communicates your relevant experience and skill set, length doesn’t matter.
3. Emphasising my passion in my CV will score me points
The purpose of your CV is to describe your legal work experience and pique the interest of your future employer. If you’re applying for an NQ role within, for example, sports or environmental law, there’s no need to overly express your enthusiasm for your favourite sports team or your passion for recycling, if this reduces the impact of what you have to say about the important aspects of your early legal career.
Of course, you can mention your passions, but the emphasis must be on your experience and transferable skills. The interview stage is your opportunity to demonstrate the strength of your personal brand, project your enthusiasm and reveal more of your personality and interests.
4. NQ salaries are determined by a fixed ‘market rate’
The concept of a fixed market rate is flawed. Yes, firms have salary bandings, but these are often flexible and can vary drastically from firm to firm. Salaries offered by firms will factor in supply and demand. They will also take into consideration the specification (e.g. strength of academics) of the NQ they’ve set out to recruit.
For instance, the salary for a NQ Pensions position at an international, Tier 1 firm might be different from what a solicitor at a mid-tier firm might earn doing Court of Protection work. The salaries for NQs in different teams within the same firm could also vary.
5. Applying for an NQ role is like applying for a training contract
I often come across trainee solicitors who approach their search for an NQ position in the same way as they did a training contract. Generally, in comparison with the formal training contract application procedure, the application process for securing an NQ position involves less red tape.
While there are firms that prefer a more formal approach, and employ, for example, a three-stage interview, when it comes to screening candidates for solicitor-level hires, the approach of hiring managers tends to be more individual.
I’ve seen junior solicitors secure roles after an informal discussion with a law firm, sometimes before seeing a CV. This this is rare, however; usually, firms invite candidates to interview only if they’re impressed with their CV.
6. The more recruiters I work with, the better
Many candidates begin their job search by registering with multiple legal recruiters and job boards in the hope that working with more than one agency will connect them with more firms.
It’s true, some recruiters will have better relations with firms than others, and some agencies may be preferred suppliers for firms that another agency isn’t. However, this scattergun approach can sometimes do more harm than good.
Job boards are essentially databases of candidate CVs accessible to large numbers of recruiters. As we explored in a previous blog, it’s important to be careful when using job boards. Make it clear to any recruiter you engage that they mustn’t send your CV to a firm without your permission.
At Realm, we favour a strategic approach. What’s more, when we represent you in your NQ job search, we’ll advocate for you and act as your brand ambassador, presenting you, your experience and your skills to the right firm for you. As a recruiter, I might be less willing to do so if I know you’re working with a number of other agents.
Are you a trainee solicitor on the hunt for an NQ role?
I suggest that trainees begin their NQ search 6 months before qualification. So, if you’re expecting to qualify later this year, now is the time to get the ball rolling. Get in touch with me today for a confidential chat about your career, call 03000 245 606 or email firstname.lastname@example.org