Demand for NQ solicitors among top firms falls

The demand for newly qualified (NQ) solicitors has fallen, according to one prominent legal recruitment agency.

Paul Turner, director of Garfield Robbins Legal Recruitment, said:Last year, the perception was that more NQs were kept on and for those that weren’t there were more NQ jobs available.

“This year, if anything, we are perhaps seeing fewer NQ roles than we were a year ago and it looks as though we have lower retention rates than a year ago. We are also seeing a little less demand than we were a year ago from those top firms (top 20-30).

He added: “We are seeing a bit of tacking going on. Firms are looking at what is front of them and making adjustments.

“I can certainly recall a time five years ago prior to the downturn when retention rates were almost 100 per cent. But I can also recall a time two or three years ago where retention rates were down at 50 or 60 per cent with some firms far lower than that.”

James Franklin, manager of legal recruiter Robert Walters said that the number of NQs looking for jobs externally rather than accepting an offer from the firm they trained with has fluctuated over the past five years.

He said: “Pre-Lehman there was generally an increase of people looking externally. That dipped in 2009-2010, anybody offered internally was not looking elsewhere.

“We have seen the market get better and so there is more confidence. NQs may well receive an offer, bank that, and consider other firms. It has fluctuated but it is not at the level it once was. Though it is starting to slowly climb back up.”

Turner said that the NQ mindset has experienced a significant shift during the past five years. He said: “I am not seeing as much of NQs being too picky about their job search as we have done in the past. I think the downturn and the economic uncertainty has changed mindsets.

“I think NQ thinking has changed quite significantly; they are pragmatic and a lot more ready to look at other opportunities which NQs five years ago may not have looked at.”

See Lawyer2B’s further analysis of this year’s NQ market here.