The NQ in 2012

University exams have finished, everyone is off to celebrate, sunbathe and spend evenings at the pub. Well, everyone that isn’t a law student seeking a Training Contract.


For those of you in this position the next month will be focused on applications and (hopefully) interview preparation. Add in the fight for work experience and most of you will be looking forward to the start of next term so you can finally relax.

One thing you will be paying very little attention to will be the liquidity in newly qualified jobs for those just finishing their TCs. I don’t blame you – it is four years away and the economy will be sorted out by then (which, by the way, is what I thought when I was you – four years ago).

When you start a training contract you will know your firm’s most recent retention rate and, especially based on the 2012 figures so far, you will be relatively confident you will be kept on. If they keep 80% of their trainees then all you have to do is not be in the bottom 20% of trainees – work hard, get on with your supervisors and you will be fine, right? Well in truth it’s a little bit more complicated than that. People leave their firms at the end of their training for a multitude of reasons.

You will most likely undertake four training seats and of those you will probably develop a strong preference towards the area you most want to spend the next 35-40 years of your life practising. Suddenly the odds have changed – the department of your choice can only take on 2 newly qualified solicitors, with 10 people from your intake wanting those positions, now you don’t just need to avoid being in the bottom 20%, you need to be the best….what if you aren’t, or what if you just didn’t click with your supervisor? What if your firm wants you to go into Litigation and you want Corporate? What if you don’t like the firm and want to leave? What if the firm has had a bad year and they cannot afford to keep you? What if the Partner you worked best with is poached by a competitor, or what if they retire?

In any of these scenarios you could find yourself seeking an NQ job elsewhere, the only problem being that – at the moment – there aren’t really any. Having a good CV is one thing – finding anyone who might want to look at it is another thing entirely. Whilst retention rates are (mercifully) starting to rise this year it is still worth noting that there are a large amount of very well trained and highly educated NQs who, for one reason or another, are looking to move. The competition for these jobs makes getting a TC look like a walk in the park. I know some people who have had to look to other careers (after 4 years of legal education and 2 years of training) and they are finding themselves in a much worse position than their friends from university who failed to get TCs and started on different paths 3 years ago.

It is commonly accepted that many people go to law school and don’t end up with a Training Contract – it is less well known that there are also a lot of people having to leave law even further down the path on qualification. Getting the TC is the start, that’s when things start to get really competitive.

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