NQ market remains tough as candidates leave London to find work

The newly-qualified (NQ) lawyer market has remained difficult, with many ex-City trainees being forced to leave London in a bid to find jobs, recruiters have said.

Recruitment professionals are in agreement that placing NQs over the summer and into September has been challenging despite an upturn in retention rates. 

Career coach and recruiter at Kinsella Ziegler Anita Gohil-Thorp said: “Over the summer and September it has remained really, really tough. I had somebody who was at a top ten firm and was absolutely fantastic and who ended up at a tiny little firm in Kent.

“I have had candidates coming out of big, City firms who have then interviewed at very tiny firms. For the smaller firms it is a bit of a coup, they have somebody who has that City training.

“Where people have not been taken on, they have ended up going outside London. If they do not find something in London quickly they end up going to greater London, then the home counties and I had somebody who ended up in Oxford.”

Managing director of Michael Page Legal David Forsdyke agreed with Gohil-Thorp’s assertion that placing NQs was still difficult but added: “We’re seeing some positive signs in the market with higher retention rates across most private practice firms. As such, the market is showing some signs of returning to health.”

Director of legal recruitment at Robert Walters Colin Loth said that although NQ retention rates had shown signs of recovery this year, many firms were only interested in recruiting trainees who had been offered jobs by the firm they trained with.

He added: “So actually what the market does not do is compensate for those who don’t get kept on, they just try to get those few who were offered [NQ jobs] anyway. It is a way that they use to differentiate who they think the best trainees at a particular firm are.”