The Ultimate Guide to Legal Jobs
The Legal sector is one that is ever-changing, including the job market. We know it can be a tough route into the sector, so we’ve collated some top insights to help you along. We’ve got several different articles from a Q2, Sector Roundup as well as graduate help guides and tips on job titles.
Chapter 1: Q2 Legal Sector Roundup and FAQs
Chapter 2: Super-sized? New super exam set to shake the Law Degree route…
Chapter 3: Are Magic Circle law firms making it hard for themselves when trying to secure the top talent?
Chapter 4: What’s in a title: Lawyer v Solicitor
Chapter 5: Legal Graduates, time to think twice about your next employer
Q2 Legal Sector Roundup and FAQs
We are 6 months into 2017 now, so we thought we’d catch up with Will from the Legal team to find out about your most frequently asked questions, the state of the legal job market and what’s set to change into 2018 and beyond.
What have opportunities been like in the legal sector in the first half of 2017?
We’re finding that certain areas aren’t doing as well as others, particularly, personal injury is struggling. We also tend to specialise in property law which is currently booming. We’re constantly recruiting for several firms and, for anybody who is starting out in a legal career, you should have a strong desire to get into property law as it’s always growing and there are further opportunities to progress up the ladder. Conveyancing is also doing very well in the job market as is commercial property solicitors.
What do you think will happen for the rest of 2017 going into 2018?
It’s hard to say. I’m not sure it will totally change, if at all. There’s always a chance that the market could become saturated, and especially considering the firms that we’ve been in contact with are wanting to double or even triple in size, which leaves huge demand for the right candidates. In the interim, I don’t think it will change much but this could change as we approach 2020.
Do you foresee any major changes in the legal sector in the next couple of years that will affect training and recruitment in the sector?
Brexit, in my opinion, could change the job market. There is a danger that people coming from abroad will lessen, as Brexit is causing people to be nervous. Will students from Spain or the France come here if there are no jobs available easily? The risk is that people will see no point in coming here to study anymore. Brexit won’t change recruiting British citizens though. Things are also becoming slightly more specific when hiring, in terms of the specific job roles. When assessed, the first things would be your degree grades, where you went to University and your work experience.
How much opportunity is there in the legal sector to keep training and gaining new qualifications?
There are lots of opportunities qualifications wise. Providing you know what you want to do, there are some huge opportunities for progression. If you get your qualifications done, follow the structure and stay at your firm, then there’s every chance that you will succeed and hold the reigns. Most firms are keen to get people on board who want to grow the company as well as themselves.
One change will be to graduates though. They are going to have to choose much earlier what department they want to get into – for example, property law. You’re far more likely to get a role if you’ve decided early that you want to take the property law modules for example. There’s going to be much more of a strain on that now for Graduates.
What would you like to see more of in the applications you receive? Is there anything that jumps out at you that makes you put someone’s application straight in the shortlist pile?
What we’d love to see more of would be applicants showing a genuine interest in the advertised role. On their CV, they don’t usually point out specific work experience and some applications are irrelevant. We’d love to see people reading the role more carefully and fully considering whether they’d be right for the job.
One thing we love to see is loyalty. A candidate can be exceptional on grades but if they move every six months, the firm will wonder how long they’ll stay with them, therefore, the candidate becomes less employable.
A neat looking CV also makes a big difference. Sometimes it’s not always clear what the person does, and some CV’s are vague with the wording. Being more specific on your CV will be helpful for the firm. Say specifically what you do now and what you’re looking for in the future.
What is the biggest skills gap in the legal sector in 2017?
The sector is crying out for merger and acquisition lawyers, as we’re currently experiencing less than average applications for these roles. Others would include employment lawyers and commercial litigation needs more active candidates.
Will Cairns is one of our Recruitment Consultants specialising in Legal. Connect with him on LinkedIn here or call to have a chat on 0117 922 1771.
Super-sized? New super exam set to shake the Law Degree route…
By September 2020, we will be looking at a brand-new way of testing students with the current route set for a deep shake up.
The current assessments are the Law Practice Course (LPC) and the Graduate Diploma in Law and both of these will be replaced by the super-sized exam.
There will be 2 stages to the exam, which will be the skills and legal parts of the assessment. According to The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), to pass, candidates will have to:
• Pass SQE stages 1 and 2
• Been awarded a degree or equivalent
• Gained sufficient (2 years or more) of legal work experience
• Have the correct attitude and character
The SRA suggests that this will mean students won’t have to pay a big upfront cost of £15,000 with no guarantee of “a training contract.” It will also mean that, again according to the SRA, students will “meet high standards.”
The current way of testing is often seen as the “LPC gamble” and this is something that the SRA have been looking to eradicate with the proposed changes. They also say that the current way of testing “lacks transparency” as people range from pass rates of 50% to 100%.
The new exam will give opportunities for other ways into the legal route too, including apprenticeships which will give the sector a break from the traditional ways of needing to go to university.
Students currently in the middle of the course will have the chance to make a decision on what route they would like to follow, but for new hopefuls wanting to become solicitors, they will be forced to take the new exam.
The Legal Cheek (@legalcheek) on Twitter ran a poll asking whether people supported the move by the SRA, to which 63% of people surveyed thought it was a bad idea and only 15% thought it was a good idea.
The SRA are considering plans to split the super-sized assessment into two sections – part one and part two. Part one would be “significantly cheaper” than part two according to the plans.
Are Magic Circle Law firms making it hard for themselves when trying to secure the top talent?
Do the top firms in the UK, ie the magic circle firms miss out on the top talent?
- When you are a law graduate in the UK, you choose to go down two routes to become either a Solicitor or a Barrister
- This causes a split, are the top graduates choosing to become a Barrister over a Solicitor in a magic circle firm?
Compare this to how American Law Firms retain talent:
- America doesn’t have this problem, as all of their graduate’s progress to a Lawyer/Attorney and naturally progress into the top firms
- This means they get the best new legal minds to see them through while the UK’s magic circle struggles.
With the strength of the dollar to the pound, could the American Law Firms muscle in on the Magic Circle firms and take their talent?
- With the strength of the dollar over the pound, it can be seen that the US Law Firms are bulking up their presence in London
- With some of the US firms paying huge salaries to attract talent away from the magic circle firms
Could this lead to a long term knock on affect for the UK’s leading firms?
These points were made in a blog post by Mark Brandon, who wrote on the matter, noting that the UK magic circle had failed to grasp a firm hold on the US. Brandon also goes on to say:
“Yes, you can go on as much as you like about how special the English court system is, how respected around the world it is, and so on, but the net effect of taking many of the most talented legal brains out of the intake valves of law firms and sticking them as guns-for-hire in antiquated premises clustered where the centre of the English legal universe used to be has been to deprive the UK’s law firms of the cream of the legal talent pool, not to mention revenue.”
What’s in a title: Lawyer v Solicitor
As most people are aware the term Lawyer is a generic term used to describe anyone who is a Licensed Legal Practitioner who is qualified in law. Someone who is legally allowed to give advice in their specialist area of law. In layman’s terms, Solicitors and Barristers are both types of Lawyer.
The question is, are we seeing more or less Solicitors? – soliciting work, or as the change seems to be that people are moving away from the ‘S-word’ in favour of being a Lawyer, someone who is conducting Legal work. Therefore, by calling yourself a Property Lawyer you open up the whole scope of property legal work for your firm, as opposed to highlighting you are either a Criminal Solicitor or Criminal Barrister.
Now I recently spoke with a successful Contract Dispute Solicitor and posed the question; is the word Lawyer becoming more en vogue? Do you hear it more or less? The response that I received was:
“I am not sure that the word Lawyer is taking over, although I think it’s fair to say it’s used more. The overwhelming majority of solicitors firms (commonly referred to as law firms) will use the terms Solicitor, Barrister, Legal Executive, Paralegal etc rather than ‘Lawyer’ which is a generic term and can mean any of the above.
Traditionally, solicitors deal with the clients directly and instruct barristers predominantly for advocacy in the courts (and also for specialist opinions in much the same way as a consultant doctor might be used in medical matters).
Solicitors do not automatically have the same ‘rights of audience’ as barristers, which means there are certain higher courts that I cannot speak in as a solicitor, unless I pass a higher rights of audience exam.”
All very good but this poses the question are we too traditional to change and expand these barriers? Would it be better for the general public to use one straightforward title, knowing that you have a Lawyer dealing with your case or situation?
Though there are technical differences, practically speaking, only a lawyer would know the difference between Lawyer, Solicitor, Barrister, or in the US courts an Attorney or Esquire with the limitations of each.
Quite simply put I am of the opinion that the general public can probably rest easy in a world of synonym, as long as they ensure that the Lawyer handling their case is also a Solicitor or Barrister.
I would love to hear your thoughts on Lawyer v Solicitor. Which do you use and hear being used the most? Do you think we are relaxing into a world of Lawyers?
Legal Graduates, time to think twice about your next employer
Have you just finished your degree and are thinking about taking the next step of your legal career i.e. applying to a law firm? Most graduates will consider the magic circle and big law firms for an ultimate career. If you think that only the big names in the legal industry can offer you the best career prospects then think twice.
Have you ever considered the opportunities a high-street firm could provide you with? Let us consider the benefits of both types.
Whilst large law firms have their own advantages, they do not have to be the only place where you can establish your career. Yes, these do come with a brand name that will impress. Having a renowned name on your CV definitely, attracts the attention of potential employers and is impressive. However, the experience listed under this brand will be the deciding factor.
On the other hand, high street firms are very popular within the local communities and hold an outstanding reputation. With clients simply being able to walk into the office you will provide a more personal approach giving you more recognition in the locality.
Large firms offer excellent career progression with many opportunities for training and development. You have the benefit of firms funding your further qualifications too. However, it must be noted that getting their employees to progress has become more and more the agenda of high street firms as well with a view of retaining staff and a strategy to expand the business. If you prove your potential, then there is also partnering on the table.
Now, when it comes to progression, getting into a big firm may open doors to a training contract which is something next on the list of many graduates after their LPC. But, do you know that many high-street firms also provide training contracts and great support for you to complete it?
High street firms will have the benefit of working closely with colleagues, providing you with more hands-on experience and exposure to handling different types of matters. Not to mention, the ability to interact with senior staff will allow you to create a greater impact on the business. This is because you will be able to voice your opinions and give feedback to enhance the business as well as the working environment.
With large firms having their branches in other regions, it provides the opportunity for staff to relocate. Many have offices in other areas of the UK as well as overseas. This can be exciting for many, however, you need to consider if this is an important factor for you and be realistic as to whether you will ever be able to or want to relocate. Likewise, you will have a diverse client base where you can come across other big corporate entities as well as high net worth individuals. With smaller firms your clients could mainly be the general public, but again it will be on a one-to-one basis and a personal touch.
There is a structured environment with clear levels of hierarchy in big firms. Often, there will be different departments dealing with other aspects of the business such as HR and marketing. The roles of every member will be very well defined whereas the responsibilities within smaller firms will overlap. For instance, solicitors may also do the recruitment and advertising of the firm alongside handling their caseload. Many may prefer the former concept as then they are working in a fast-paced environment and just want to get on with the work. For some, having more responsibilities other than running a caseload can be seen as an interesting challenge and also diversifying their role.
Finally, the notion that big firms are the only ones that offer a high salary is just a myth. More and more local firms are now being competitive with the package that they offer in order to attract the best talent in the market.
With so many choices available, it can make one indecisive of what option to go for. The key question to ask yourself would be what type of work and environment you would enjoy the most. Getting your foot into the right firm will be absolutely crucial for your long-term career. The best advice would be not to use the size of the firm as deciding factor.
We would love for you to share your thoughts- Let us know if we have missed anything. What are the benefits of working for your firm?