As June/July approached last year, it represented a real tide change as regards newly qualified roles. In previous years, as the economy faltered, retention levels fell and the landscape for those coming up to qualification looked increasingly bleak as corporate, real estate and banking could no longer sustain an influx of new lawyers. However, last year saw a marked improvement in both internal retention as well as external recruitment.
Last year saw an increase in external recruitment not just in niche areas such as banking, construction and insolvency but also within mainstream areas most notably real estate and corporate.
Among the top tier firms, Pinsent Masons, DLA, Eversheds, Addleshaw Goddard, DWF there is a very clear internal process and time scale that will see the determination of internal vacancies throughout April and May resulting in the release of external vacancies (where required) in May/June. Firms outside the top tier are often not quite as structured and therefore can still be determining internal candidates into July.
The resultant effect is that in most cases external vacancies have historically been released in June.
Last year was very different and we have seen an increase in roles and activity across all levels and disciplines, admittedly with a huge bias towards Real Estate and corporate. Without question the signs of economic recovery are there and this has fuelled greater appetite for investors, developers and entrepreneurs. The North West and, in particular, the Manchester market has shown how attractive it can be to investment and there have been a number of new entrants into the market including TLT, BLP, Nabarro and Freshfields entering the fray. Nabarro have a fantastic reputation for real estate and in Mark Heywood (moving from Addleshaw Goddard) have attracted a real heavyweight alongside Howard Gill on the corporate side formerly of Pinsent Masons.
All in all, the marked improvement has fuelled an increased demand at the NQ level and we have seen an unprecedented level of external NQ vacancies being released last year (not just in Manchester but nationally) and without doubt the NQ season started early. This is likely a consequence of market correction to some degree with firms having lowered the number of trainees taken on such that the increased demand cannot be met by internal candidates alone. What it has also done is give rise to a position whereby, in some areas (particularly real estate – spot the common thread!) demand is outstripping supply. This is giving rise to opportunity for candidates to take a step up in terms of firm and quality of work.
That is not to say that all areas are alive with activity but the NQ season starts now. Whilst we don’t expect it to move at the same pace as last year history highlights the need to be exploring opportunities sooner rather than later.
If you are an NQ coming up to qualification and considering your options please contact Paul Warburton for a confidential discussion