March NQ jobs being advertised earlier than ever as firms scramble for best talent

Newly-qualified (NQ) roles for March are being advertised six months ahead of time, as a result of increased competition in the UK legal market.

“Last year the first jobs for March NQs were starting to be advertised in late November, with the real peak coming in January,” Jago Verna of recruitment agency Shilton Sharpe Quarry told Lawyer 2B. “This year, it’s only the beginning of October and we already have 25 vacancies to fill. It’s phenomenal.”

“It’s a vibrant market,” Andrew White of Macrae Roxburgh Appleby agrees. “We’re hearing from firms who are planning quite far ahead because they already know they’ll have the work in six months’ time.”

Verna put the trend down to US firms – with smaller trainee intakes and thus a need to make lateral NQ hires – advertising earlier, with the economic recovery giving them confidence that there will be enough work in six months’ time. As a result, UK firms are also having to engage with their own qualifying trainees much earlier in order not to lose them to a competitor.

The majority of NQ roles SSQ is seeing are transactional in focus, which Verna said was “not surprising” given the current point of the economic cycle.

The trend is good news for qualifiers, who “are now browsing the market to find the job that suits them best and getting two or three offers, rather than sticking with their firm out of a sense of indebtedness or loyalty, which is what we’ve seen in the past few years,” said Verna.

However, current fourth-seat trainees who are only now working in their favoured department for qualification may find themselves at a disadvantage, as NQ jobs are starting to appear before they get any experience in their practice area of choice. “My advice to current trainees would be to get your preferred seats under your belt ASAP as it may give you a competitive advantage,” said Verna.

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