In the last 3 weeks we have seen an unprecedented number of duty solicitor vacancies posted by firms looking to get their CDS 12 submissions into the LSC and desperate to recruit a duty solicitor to enable them to do this. Lots of smaller start up firms as well as older established ones, together with firms where duty solicitors have given notice of their impending departure.
This has proved an impossible task for a number of firms. A large majority of duty solicitors have elected to stay put and not move, whilst others have opted to go freelance and put their slots with one firm. Most appear to have got themselves sorted out very early on, and although we were able to assist 2 firms with placements that occurred on the deadline date, we could not help a larger number at such short notice.
These are our tips for avoiding this next time (ie in 6 months time).
1. Plan ahead. At least one of our clients recruited a duty solicitor provisionally back in February, knowing that they needed someone for July. This was a new entrant firm.
2. Do not call round recruitment agencies 2 weeks beforehand, and if you have to, do not call more than 2 or 3. A few times we found some of our candidates who were actively looking were put off firms whom they thought were desperate because they had been contacted about their vacancy at least 5 times.
3. If you are within 2 weeks of the deadline, do not under any circumstances play hardball with candidates. It does not work – most candidates this time round got about 3-5 firms following them at any one time.
4. Do not make very low offers and expect to negotiate upwards. This happened with a couple of firms this time and the firms got nowhere.
5. If all else fails, consider freelancers with slots to offer. Be prepared to pay well, but bear in mind if you plan ahead next time you may be able to get someone on a permanent basis (or persuade the freelancer to stay longer term).