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10 key questions to ask when qualifying as a solicitor

Qualifying as a solicitor
1)  Which area of law?

This is the logical place to start and does set the platform for the restof your career to develop. It’s a question to consider very carefully.Consider which area of law you have enjoyed the most and why? Where are youparticularly strong technically? How would you develop a career in thatparticular sector? Is your training contract set up in such that has a biastowards non-contentious or contentious work? Perhaps most importantly, whicharea could you talk through most knowledgeably and enthusiastically. Thereisn’t anything wrong with considering multiple areas but think abouthow this might dilute your applications.

2) Where will I need to show a degree of flexibility?

This will be dictated by the availability of roles you are interested in.For example, most law firms have commercial property departments that arevery often recruiting, so in this situation you could afford to be quitespecific in your search. Other areas are much more competitive so if youwere looking for a role in commercial litigation you may need to be flexibleon the type and size of firm or the geographical location, or both.

3) Retained by your training firm or moving externally, which isbetter?

The answer to this very much depends on your personal set of circumstances.If you can find an area of law that you enjoy and you are engaged by thepeople and culture of your training firm then it is a no-brainer to stay.If, however, you are uncertain about the role you are offered or thecultural fit of your training firm then it’s in your best interests toexplore the market.

4) When do the vacancies start to come out?

Now, April through to July are the busiest months but we also see a latespike in August. Most law firms will look to kick off their internal processwhen the 4th seat rotation starts in April and will look to conclude theprocess by end of April or in early May. This is when they identify wherethe gaps fall and the external vacancies start to appear.

5) How should my CV look?

Your CV is your way of communicating your experience to a prospectiveemployer. The style and format for a newly qualified solicitor is critical.You need to consider the depth of experience that you include and does theCV point specifically to the discipline you are interested in but maintainthe experience of a balanced training contract? Also is there anything thatmakes your CV different and stand out from the other applicants? You shouldnot necessarily stick to chronological order for your training seats and itis important that the seat you want to qualify in is the first that yousee.

6) Are interviews different to training contract assessments?

The short answer is yes. In your training contract assessments yourcompetencies and thought process are looked at. In a NQ interview these arestill looked at but you also have to demonstrate what technical experienceyou have developed and be able to effectively communicate this. Rapportbuilding is often the key to securing a job offer so consider how toestablish common ground and demonstrate that you are a great team fit.

7) Can I consider in-house roles as a NQ?

Yes you absolutely can! However, be mindful that the depth and breadth ofon-going training you will receive in-house is likely to be narrower anddirectly related to the job you will be performing. A move in-house at thisstage therefore requires you to be confident which area you wish to pursueand are able to demonstrate some degree of relevant experience from one ormore of your Training Seats (Commercial, Data Protection & IP currentlyin most demand).

8) What salary can I expect?

Salaries for NQ solicitors are very often specifically set and will varyfrom firm to firm and location to location. You should speak to a specialistlegal recruiter who should be able to tell you the salary before making anyapplication. Most of the larger commercial law firms are also now offering abonus linked to performance.

9) Can I move over in to anther area of law if I do not like mychoice?

This will be difficult and is why it’s important that you considerall of the above now so you aren’t in this position. It isn’timpossible to move over to another area of law but it is rare and notwithout challenges.

10) What should I do next?

If you are approaching qualification and would like to talk through youroptions, be it how to position yourself internally, market trends or currentvacancies then you can contact in confidence any of our expert consultantsbelow:

Paul Duffy – Birmingham and the Midlands
paul.duffy@badenochandclark.com | 0121 234 9200

Richard Lock – Bristol, South West, South Coast and ThamesValley 
richard.lock@badenochandclark.com | 0117 930 8534

Bin Sparkes – Manchester, Leeds and the North
bin.sparkes@badenochandclark.com | 0113 487 0119

Ben Mandell - In house - London, Home Counties and South
ben.mandell@badenochandclark.com | 0207 634 0148

Oscar Lawrenson – London City
oscar.lawrenson@badenochandclark.com | 0207 634 0100

Alex Crump – Northern Home Counties + the South East
alex.crump@badenochandclark.com | 0207 634 0100

Fraser Turnbull – Scotland 
fraser.turnbull@badenochandclark.com | 0131 524 9020

Ben Fryer - In house Midlands
ben.fryer@badenochandclark.com | 0121 234 9218