October 2013 Legal Recruitment News

Legal Recruitment News – October 2013

Welcome to the October edition of Legal Recruitment News, including a Legal Job Market Update, Latest Candidate Registrations and articles on new changes to Google, a potted history of conveyancing recruitment and statistics on entrants to the legal profession and the cost of the LPC. Legal Recruitment News is written by Jonathan Fagan, MD and non-practising solicitor of the Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment group (Interim Lawyers, Ten-Percent, Ten-Percent Legal Careers and TP Transcriptions).

Register Vacancies – Locum or Permanent

Membership Scheme under Review

Since July 2011 Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment has offered a membership scheme. Law firms with less than 100 staff pay £60 a month for 5 years and enjoy unlimited recruitment at all levels. The system operates in a similar way to a fixed rate mortgage. You can set your recruitment agency fee outgoings for 5 years at a very low price. If you would like to be one of the remaining firms to benefit from the £60 fee for 5 years please visit www.ten-percent.co.uk/membership-services.

Job Market Update – October 8th

September has remained a busy recruitment month, with increasing numbers of locum assignments coming in, coupled with increasing numbers of permanent posts. For example, on one Friday morning in the last few weeks we took details of 7 permanent vacancies from law firms across the UK. Last Friday we took 6 new locum assignments in the space of a few hours.

Main area has remained residential conveyancing with some commercial property. Wills & probate has not picked up as much as we thought it was going to, but vacancies still trickle in from time to time. Litigation has gone very, very quiet indeed.

Crime vacancies have not really materialised this year – the rota deadline is less than 6 weeks away but nothing has cropped up in any serious quantities compared with times gone by. Duty solicitors have only been requested by three of our member firms this year. Contrast this with vacancy numbers a few rota slots ago where we had over 50 separate law firms asking for duty solicitors.

Family law is now a bit of a dead zone. Absolutely nothing going on really. LSC work is the same – apart from a few very brave firms opening offices across the country to try and take advantage of the legal aid deserts that are now clearly in existence – it is not an area for high levels of recruitment.

We have seen an increase in corporate commercial and in house roles, which marks a bit of change as these areas have traditionally been very quiet indeed recently.

So in summary we are seeing a very busy market still, mainly fuelled by the property sector again and recruitment back to levels not seen for over five years.

If you are thinking of undertaking conveyancing locum work, now would be a good time to start! Let us know. We have been keeping a couple of our regular property locums in constant employment since the start of the summer with short term assignments. This was until recently a very rare thing to do.

The new KPMG report on the UK job market confirms our individual agency findings. This shows:

Marked increases in both permanent placements and temp billings
Permanent salary inflation sharpest since February 2008
Vacancies continue to rise at marked pace
Candidate availability falls further

One of the partners at KPMG, Bernard Brown, comments:

“With another month of data showing a strong rise in the number of appointments and job offers on the table, it seems that business is warming to calls for investment from Mark Carney. Improved market conditions, higher activity levels amongst clients and generally stronger levels of confidence amongst employers are certainly one of the major factors underpinning the latest rise in placements. Only last week the Bank of England argued that recovery will only be sustainable over the long term if regions beyond London grow strongly. The North is showing strongest growth, with the Midlands driving a rise in temporary placements. It’s a sign that local economies are picking up and gives hope that economic recovery is not dependent on one area or sector.

He expresses concern that employees are clearly still not sharing employers’ growing faith in recovery. Demand for staff may be up, but the number of individuals putting themselves on the market has dropped for the fifth consecutive month. He goes on to say “perhaps the pay on offer has to rise to encourage staff to ‘make the move’. If it doesn’t we could be about to witness a growing gap between what the employers need and what employees are prepared to do.”

We have noticed this ourselves. For example, one of our member law firms is recruiting for a private client solicitor in the Leicester area, and applications have been very sparse. Last year we would have had a good number of candidates applying.

The job market is changing…..

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and regularly writes the Legal Recruitment blog, an award-winning selection of articles and features on legal recruitment and the legal profession. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or visit one of our websites.

Hummingbird and recent Google changes

Hummingbird is the new Google change to the search engine rankings and results, fresh off the blocks at the end of September. Law firms may well have seen their natural rankings change quite dramatically.

It has now got to the point where SEO work is virtually impossible. Whilst there are still many overseas SEO companies offering paid links, guaranteed placings and link farming, no-one knows anymore whether they are signing their own search engine execution when Google blacklists them or a blank cheque to make huge amounts of money from being number one.

Hummingbird is designed to let Google quickly parse entire questions and complex queries and return relevant answers, as opposed to looking at queries on a keyword-by-keyword basis. Google says that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words.

The company has an ongoing strategy to become less dependent on keywords, which has major implications for SEO. You can’t just write “solicitors in Preston” everywhere on your website anymore and pop up at number one.

It’s probably going to be very important to give Google as much information about your site as possible in order for the search engine to “understand” it.

One of the main changes that Hummingbird has introduced is encouraging business owners to use Google+ as much as possible in order to allow Google to compete with Facebook. If you are not already signed up with Google+ you may want to consider doing so.

Conveyancing Boom and Bust – a potted history

Residential Conveyancing jobs have been the number one area of law where Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment have successfully assisted law firms, solicitors, legal executives and licensed conveyancers for over 13 years. When we first set up Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment, back in April 2000, over 50% of our vacancies were from solicitors firms looking to take on extra conveyancing staff.

Since then, we have watched a cycle of recruitment follow. Mainly upwards, but with major blips.

Firstly, when the invasion of Iraq occurred in 2003, we watched as solicitors firms began to cancel their job vacancy postings. This was a temporary blip because secondly we watched as the property market boomed and boomed some more. Apart from the Gulf War and the occasional World Cup and European Cup, the demand for conveyancing staff did not diminish for 8 years.

From 2000 to 2008 conveyancing vacancies increased from being 50% of our vacancies to about 80% of our vacancies. We thought it would never end. Extra staff were employed, we invested in IT systems to handle the workload, purchased websites (www.conveyancing-jobs.co.uk is one of ours) and started to plan our retirement.

Alas, by about May 2008, we started to notice that our recruitment consultants were not placing candidates. At first we thought the consultants were doing something wrong. Did they have the wrong text in advertisements? Were they failing to put the work in? We stopped sighing whenever a law firm telephoned with a conveyancing vacancy and started to chase anything coming through the door.

At no point did we even think the market had dropped. Even with the Lehman Brothers and all the other dodgy banks collapsing did it register in our minds that the conveyancing market had collapsed at the same time as the financial markets.

Suddenly nobody wanted conveyancing staff.

We got angry telephone calls from candidates to ask why we couldn’t find work for them. What were we doing? Did we not care? Why were we advertising jobs that didn’t exist? Candidates started to get in touch with horror stories. Firms like Crust Lane Davis, a rapidly expanding volume conveyancer, collapsed. One of their partners went to prison. Mortgage practices which appeared to be fairly accepted and allegedly commonplace were suddenly becoming ‘fraud’. Mortgages ceased to exist. Nobody wanted the risk anymore.

An entrepreneur in North Wales, managed to persuade the local banks to stump up just short of £1 million to buy residential property. When he defaulted and the banks went to repossess the properties, they discovered that there was little value left. The properties had all been purchased less than 12 months beforehand, but already the sale prices had plummeted.

Between 2008 and 2011 we saw hardly any conveyancing posts. Conveyancing accounted for less than 2% of our turnover – the remainder being made up with our other areas of business – accountancy, legal cashiers, litigation solicitors, locums and specialist career coaching.

Conveyancing candidates registered with us by the bucketload. We started to hear sad tales of middle aged conveyancing lawyers who had been with the same firm for many years suddenly finding themselves on the scrap heap. Others commenced alternative careers. We came across conveyancers working as shelf stackers in Tescos, delivery drivers, salesmen, charity workers, care assistants and stock market traders.

At the same time solicitors’ firms started to exploit the situation by demanding that conveyancing staff took a percentage cut of the work they did instead of a salary, or worked only if they had their own ‘following’ of developer clients. Of course this rarely generated enough work to survive on or pay the mortgage.

This really was the dark ages in the conveyancing world!

However, this year we appear to be back in the boom times. Candidates are getting increasingly harder to source, the market is much brighter post-2012 and recovery is well under way. Conveyancing is booming yet again in London and the South East, and as a result we are expecting a steady increase in demand across the country from 2013 through to 2015.

When will the next collapse occur? Will the generation made redundant between 2008 and 2011 get back into the legal profession? Who knows…

Jonathan Fagan is a solicitor, qualified recruitment consultant and Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed here – www.linkedin.com/in/jbfagan

The Legal Practice Course – time for a change?

We recently had a look at a few statistics surrounding the Legal Practice Course.

The current cost of undertaking the Legal Practice Course at the College of Law ranges from £10,845 to £13,905. The Graduate Diploma in Law is £7,240 to £9,820 (depends on location).

Wolverhampton University fees, as a comparison, are £9,010 for the Legal Practice Course and Manchester Metropolitcan charges £5,560 for the Graduate Diploma in Law.

According to government statistics there were 93,575 law undergraduates in 2011-2012. In 2011-2012 there were 4,869 training contracts available.

Assuming that over half of these are people who don’t want a training contract, or go down the BPTC route, this still leaves a lot of potential candidates out there who are not going to get qualified – the figure does not include those entering via the GDL route.

If you consider that since 2008 the training contract figure has not increased, it means that there are probably well over 100,000 law graduates since 2008 who have not entered the legal profession via the solicitor route.

Thinking through the cost of the LPC – if you now complete this and get a training contract on the high street, assuming your salary remains less than £16,000 for the first two years of your training and less than £25,000 for the next two years, you are going to take about 6 years to pay off the fee (paying it at £200 a month). A mortgage and a family must remain a very distant possibility for most NQs at the moment.

Does this level of cost really create a sustainable future flow of potential trainee solicitors, or just deter those who do not have relatives and connections already in the business? Has the time come to restrict the academic institutions from providing LPC courses to those who stand little or no chance of ever progressing with a legal career?

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and regularly writes the Legal Recruitment blog, an award-winning selection of articles and features on legal recruitment and the legal profession. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or visit one of our websites.

Charity Donations

The Ten-Percent Foundation is still determining its charitable donations for 2013. We like giving money to legal charities or charities with links to solicitors or charities operated or established by solicitors. Recently we donated money to two Lincolnshire charities at the behest of Hodgkinsons Solicitors, Merseyside Welfare Rights and Alder Hey childrens hospital.

If you have any suggestions please email Jonathan Fagan at jbfagan@ten-percent.co.uk. The foundation likes to donate sums of around £500-£1,000 although we donate larger sums as well. No form filling is required and we prefer specific projects or smaller charities.

The Ten-Percent Group of Legal Recruitment websites gives 10% of annual profits to charity. We have carried on with this tradition since we formed the company 13 years ago. So far over £51,000 has been donated to charities in the UK and Africa including LawCare and the CAB.

We hope you have enjoyed reading our newsletter and look forward to hearing from you if we can assist further.

Warm regards

Jonathan Fagan

Legal Recruitment News is produced by Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment – you can view all versions of the e-newsletter at www.legal-recruitment.co.uk. Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment was established in 2000 and donates 10% of profits to charity, hence the name.

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