Legal Recruitment Candidate Newsletter June 2012

Legal Recruitment Newsletter June 12th – Ten-Percent Legal


Legal Job Market Report
Search Legal Job Vacancies
Does a Masters Degree improve Career Prospects
Removing the Salary Cap for Trainee Solicitors – a good thing?
Legal Careers Services
Legal Career Coaching Service

Legal Job Market Report June 12th
May and early June have been up and down like a yo yo, although I have been writing this since March 2008 for every newsletter we have sent out! We see pockets of very frenetic activity, followed up with a long gap without very much occurring.

The main points from the June 12th KPMG report on the jobs market reveals:

Growth of permanent placements eases
The Midlands outperforms the rest of the UK
Engineering/Construction sector sees growth in permanent and temporary vacancies
Weak pay growth signalled
Total number of hours worked per week in the UK increased by 8.4 million in the first quarter of 2012, compared to the previous three months.
Number of people securing permanent jobs has increased for the fifth consecutive month and official figures show a drop in unemployment.

In June 2012 we had 121 new candidates register with us. We have seen another round of redundancies, mainly in the larger firms, as management appear to be trying to streamline operations. Most of the redundancies appear to be for senior and middle level employed solicitors, which was the pattern emerging back in 2008 when the recession started to bite.

We have seen a large increase this month in the use of contractors (aka locums) by law firms, which appears to be the new trend.

Does a Masters Degree improve Employment Prospects?
I have recently seen an advert in the Law Society Gazette for a well-known London university offering law graduates a chance to enhance their career prospects by taking one of their Masters Degrees. A question we regularly get asked by candidates is whether taking a Masters Degree will increase their chances of success in the workplace.

The very quick answer, based on 12 years of recruitment in the legal profession is that a Masters Degree has absolutely no effect whatsoever in any circumstances on your future employment prospects. Speaking as a Masters Graduate myself I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed studying for my LLM and found it to be quite eye-opening in the sense that I was able to research a practical area of law I was working in and gain benefit from doing so personally.

However I got no benefits at all from a career perspective because a Masters Degree has absolutely no bearing on any future employment prospects. Furthermore, I found that it hindered me when making an application to join a Law Society Panel. When I went for the interview to join the panel I found that the panel members were more keen on trying to test out my perceived superior level of knowledge because I had done a Masters Degree rather than assessing my suitability to be on the panel.

In fact, when the feedback came from the panel to tell me why I had not been selected, it included the line “did not have the level of knowledge we would have expected from a Masters graduate”.

I think you would be better using the many thousands of pounds you were planning to expend on the Masters Degree by taking 6 months off and travelling round the world. When you get back from travelling round the world if you are looking to break into the profession make a concerted effort for a further 6 months to get as much legal work experience as you can and if you are already in the profession you will find that your 6 months break will have made you think very carefully about life, your existence on earth and your future.

Yes, I hear you say, but what about if you have a 2:2 or 3rd class Degree and are trying to get into a decent firm? I can safely advise you that the same advice applies. Law firms do not give two hoots for a Masters Degree. It has no effect at all on the fact that you may have low A-Levels or a low LLB, these things cannot be altered once they happen.

Furthermore, I challenge any higher education providers to provide evidence where their Masters Degree has led to a higher level of employment amongst their graduates than those graduates who do not have a Masters Degree. Simply comment on this entry and we will publish your response on our website.

Jonathan Fagan, MD, Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment

Removing the Minimum Pay for Trainees – A Good Thing?
The Solicitors’ Regulation Authority have recommended the removal of the training contract minimum salary, something that appears to have been broadly welcomed by a large number of organisations which include a significant number of vested interests, such as LPC providers.

Is this a good thing? I don’t think so. Probably a very controversial opinion, but I don’t think the legal profession as a whole can be trusted not to exploit potential trainee solicitors and take advantage of large numbers of desperate students and graduates who believe they need a training contract at all costs.

Furthermore, what on earth is the point of permitting law firms to effectively take on large numbers of low paid workers who can then be permitted to carry on and qualify as solicitors? Where does this leave the status of a newly qualified solicitor? Already in debt to the tune of around £25,000, NQ salaries in non-commercial practices are almost certain to plummet.

There are a good number of law firms out there whose sole purpose is to exploit just about everybody they have any contact with including their own workers, their clients and any third party such as the Legal Services Commission. These firms have to be regulated and monitored closely and the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority appears to spend its vast majority of time trying to avoid undertaking too much work and keeping very close tabs on firms.

One area where a vulnerable workforce is in dire need of an external organisation keeping close tabs on their employer is trainee solicitors. Trainee solicitors are particularly vulnerable because they invariably have large debts, are in need of a training contract in order to progress their career and fairly naïve in terms of the work place and any work they are asked to do.

By removing the minimum salary cap from trainee solicitors the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority will be giving these firms carte blanche to recruit as many trainee solicitors as they wish on a ridiculously low salary, provide a so-called training contract which in reality is anything but and to send these people out into the work place 2 years later as fully qualified solicitors.

The SRA have had no thought at all into the future large numbers of trainee solicitors who are going to struggle to get a newly qualified position. Furthermore they have had no thought at all to the likely future salary of any newly qualified solicitor as chances are firms will be able to drop newly qualified salaries even further than they currently have because there will be so many desperate trainee solicitors looking for their first newly qualified position.

We already have a profession where entrants into the profession are some of the lowliest paid. It made me laugh recently to hear of the Police Federation vehemently protesting that they thought a fairly recently qualified police officer could be earning as little as £22,000, when I am regularly dealing with 5 year PQE conveyancing solicitors who earn less than that because their firms have either taken the opportunity to mercilessly exploit them by claiming they cannot afford any more or because market forces dictate that there is so little work out there at present, they simply cannot justify a salary higher than this.

I don’t think the legal profession is responsible enough to regular itself with minimum salaries for trainee solicitors and I think the removal of the minimum salary is nothing short of a catastrophe for generations of younger potential solicitors to come.

Jonathan Fagan – MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment

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