Legal Recruitment News – December 3rd 2013
Welcome to the December edition of Legal Recruitment News, including a Legal Job Market Update and articles on whether elocution lessons are necessary for anyone from the north wanting to progress in London with larger firms, the Legal Practice Course, conveyancing, 2 sample covering emails and a brief outline of the new Employment Allowance worth up to £2k per year per employer. 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).
Job Market Update – December 3rd
Our final Legal Recruitment Market update for 2013. It is has been a very mixed year. In January 2013 I wrote that December 2012 had been one of the quietest months we had seen in 12 years of trading, and this had followed a downward spiral in work that started in October 2012.
January was much the same, but from February 2013 onwards we have seen high levels of recruitment activity across the job markets, both permanent and locum. Obviously various factors have been at work in this, affecting sectors differently. For example we have seen large numbers of personal injury solicitors laid off, vacancies disappear and candidates attempt to reinvent themselves as litigators. Similar things have happened in the legal aid sector. Crime solicitors have been falling over themselves to get off the sinking ship and crime recruitment has been minimal to say the least.
However the buoyant jobs market in law has been driven again by the house prices. We have seen an upsurge in locum and permanent residential conveyancing jobs and assignments. This started in the summer and has carried on into the autumn, showing no signs of calming down as we approach Christmas. November and December are being/have been busy.
Similarly there have been increased activity levels in the commercial sector, particularly on the locum and consultancy side of things.
New candidates have started to become more scarce. I ought to say ‘good’ new candidates are getting more scarce, because we always get plenty of weak ones (this month’s inappropriate applicants included a bingo caller and a boxing ring dancer – both applying for solicitor posts).
The scarcity of candidates is apparent particularly in the conveyancing market. What has happened is that a large number of conveyancing lawyers lost their jobs between 2008 and 2012. Redundancies were still occurring as late as November-December 2012.
Quite a few of those who left their firms have been lost to the profession. I see this from CVs we get in – candidates went off into other areas of law, they left the legal profession completely or alternatively they retired early etc.. Very few of these are now employable again in the eyes of recruiters and a good number of candidates do not wish to be!
As a result we have a shortfall of conveyancers across the profession. I suspect this will become more apparent as we approach the start of the property buying season in April 2014.
Incidentally if you are reading this and thinking of becoming a conveyancing locum, now would be a good time to start! Let us know – our www.interimlawyers.co.uk contains a lot of information about working as a locum including locum rates. We have managed to keep a couple of our regular property locums in constant employment since the start of the summer with short term and medium term assignments. This was until recently a very rare thing to do. One of our locums came back to the profession after a 4 year break and has not stopped working since.
The job market is still evolving. January & February should be quiet this year as we reach the bottom of the recruitment cycle, but this has not happened as planned in December so who knows what will happen.
Wishing all our clients, candidates and readers a very peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit one of our websites.
Recent permanent vacancies in over last few days:
South East London, Dartford, Bromley, Middlesex (assistant level), Kent, South West London, North London, Leicestershire, Central London (2-3 years PQE), Luton, Milton Keynes and St Albans.
Derbyshire (2-4 years PQE)
East London, Essex, Glasgow, Manchester.
Costs – Manchester, London, Essex.
Litigation – Kent.
For a full search of the vacancy database please visit www.ten-percent.co.uk/vacancies. Please remember that we are in the Christmas season and recruitment can be very slow indeed. Conveyancing seems to be the only pressing recruitment taking place.
Elocution Lessons – a vital part of a move from the North to London?
There has recently been a flurry of articles and comments in the media about the legal profession being traditional, conservative and middle class with a bias against anyone not conforming with the norm. This includes those with strong regional accents applying for work in the London city firms.
For years I have been (rather contentiously I suspect!) advising any northern-based students and graduates that one of the best ways of getting ahead in London is to take elocution lessons and learn to speak without a regional accent. Over the years very well known presenters and actors have confessed to having stifled their accents to get ahead, and I remain convinced that accents, particularly strong northern and midlands accents, can and will hold people back in London.
After all, for most people living and working in central London, the north consists of tourist destinations to spend time at – Manchester, Liverpool and the Lake District, and Wales is somewhere for a stay in a weekend cottage. Clients are always amazed when I attend appointments in London having just travelled down from North Wales (where I live) and taken less time than they have to get from Surrey.
I suspect it is fair to say that there is a South East / Remainder of the Country divide that transcends all aspects of society, including recruitment.
Think about what you hear whenever someone from the West Midlands speaks. In your brain (unless you are from the West Midlands yourself of course) do you immediately think “this person is intelligent, confident, persuasive” or do you think “this person is a bit simple?”
Studies have been done to demonstrate that very negative perceptions are held by listeners when hearing particular regional accents.
Whilst this may well be changing and Southerners become more accepting of Northerners (and vice versa), in the meantime I think it leaves Northern graduates at a disadvantage compared with their Southern counterparts if elocution is not considered.
I once career coached a graduate who had straight AAA at A Level from a state school, a very high 2.1 degree from a good northern university, lots of relevant work experience and a good all round extra-curricular track record. I gave plenty of advice, but I reckon the one piece of advice that would have made the most difference was for her to go and get elocution lessons. Her accent was very strong Merseyside and I am convinced to this day that she will be discriminated against because of this by recruiters in the South for the earliest part of her legal career.
The North/South divide does not just work one way. I can remember attending an interview many years ago for a training contract with a Bradford law firm of good size and using my wife’s West Yorkshire family home address in order to secure this. After I had muttered a few words one of the partners piped up with “you’re not from round these parts are you?” which possibly blew me out of the water (if it wasn’t my general unsuitability to be a lawyer!).
As coincidence has it, I have recently been emailed by a former City law firm partner who has developed an elocution course that will be most relevant to anyone reading this and contemplating elocution as an option. Information can be found at www.speechandpronunciation.com
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 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
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
2 Sample Covering Emails – with our compliments
Example Covering Letter Template 1
Email (for agencies)
I am a 5 year PQE Solicitor currently working In House, handling a general company commercial caseload on behalf of a multi-national manufacturing company. Present caseload includes Corporate Commercial, Employment, Commercial Contracts and Commercial Litigation. My experience is extensive.
Notice period is 3 months and my current package includes a basic salary of £84,000, pension contribution, a company car and an annual bonus.
I am looking for in house roles in London at a salary level higher than my current and I seek a move to further my career.
Please register my CV, keep me informed of any vacancies arising and refrain from sending out my CV to prospective employers without my consent.
Example Covering Email Template 2
Email for direct applications to companies
Further to your advertisment on Reed.co.uk please find attached my CV. I should very much like to apply for the role. I am an In House Counsel (and qualified solicitor) with over 20 years experience. I currently work in house for a multi-national service sector company handling a general company commercial caseload.
My caseload includes all aspects of corporate commercial law (I attend company board meetings as company secretary), employment (contentious and non-contentious including tribunal advocacy), commercial contracts (over 75 sets of T&Cs reviewed each week) and commercial litigation (over 500 matters issued in the County Court and High Court). My experience is extensive (match the job description in this paragraph).
I seek a move to further my career and note that the role (say a bit about the role and the company).
My notice period is 3 months, which may or may not be flexible, and my current package includes £94,000 as a basic salary plus employer pension contribution, a company car and an annual bonus.
Many thanks for considering my application and I look forward to hearing from you.
Covering emails should always be kept very brief, straight to the point, and not attached to emails as covering letters. As a recruiter I really don’t care if you think of yourself as confident, bubbly, veracious and a go-getter. I used to keep sheep and this description could probably fit most of these. Needless to say my sheep probably stood as much a chance as you of finding work if you think it necessary to write this sort of rubbish!
For Careers advice and assistance please visit our Careers Shop – www.ten-percent.co.uk/careersshop
Jonathan Fagan is a solicitor (non-practising), recruitment consultant and career coach to the legal profession since April 2000.
The Employment Allowance – new tax break for small firms
The Employment Allowance was brought in for the last budget announcement. It appears to be a rather generous tax break which in return for ticking a box when doing PAYE online, SMEs get £2k knocked off their national insurance bill. There seems nothing else to it and apparently it also includes directors’ salaries. This may be an attempt to encourage more limited companies to pay more of their senior staff in wages rather than dividends. We received an interesting update recently from a business magazine which included a link to the government’s employment allowance calculator – www.employmentallowance.com/allowance-calculator. The start date is April 2014. Lets hope it turns out to be as good as it sounds..
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 email@example.com. 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.
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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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