Due diligence for your career (or how to find the perfect legal job)

Posted 19 June 2015 by Toby Williamson 

Like everything in life there are some excellent legal recruiters out there, some decidedly average and some downright awful. The problem that you have as a candidate is trying to decide which one is which, when choosing one to help you with your next career move. It is difficult to tell from just from looking at an advert or website.

You really need to speak to or meet with your recruiter to try and establish if it is someone you think you can work with and trust your personal details and career to. Rather than deal with lots of different agencies you are better placed (literally!) selecting one or two agencies you like to work with and have a rapport with.

The legal landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years. Legal job salaries have been squeezed hard on several fronts – oversupply of LPC graduates and lawyers generally, the recession which really hit lawyers hard, changes to charges and fees in personal injury litigation and employment law and Legal Aid and government cuts.

I think the vast majority of the population would be genuinely astonished to learn how difficult it is to get a training contract, how hard you have to work to become an Associate and the sacrifices you have to endure to make Partner.

Friends of mine in the public sector and in professional private sector jobs work nowhere near the hours of my lawyer friends, have nowhere near the stress and earn the same or more money.

As a generalisation outside London high street lawyers below Partner status earn between £20k and £50k. Paralegals anywhere between minimum wage (£13k) and £30k. Salaried partners between £30k and £60k.

Lawyers (again outside London) in Legal 500 style firms and commercial law firms can earn more – almost £40k for a newly qualified and £60k at Associate level and £75k+ at Legal Director / Salaried Partner.

The overwhelming majority of lawyers earn less than a six figure salary for their entire career outside London. For those that do and especially for higher earners in London City and West End firms they really earn their money with working long hours plus marketing and business development that takes their weekly hours to comfortably double those of many non-lawyers.

Of course being a lawyer is not just about the money. But law should be an aspirational profession should it not? We need to be very careful as a society not to push the legal profession too far with Legal Aid cuts, Government reforms and price competition, otherwise potentially excellent lawyers will choose other professions.

Lawyers have to tread a very careful career path – move too often you become unemployable, never move and you stunt your career opportunities – it has never been more important when considering a career move to speak to a good recruiter who can help and advise you throughout the process.

We hear horror stories from candidates about awful agency experiences they have endured from large multinationals right down to one man bands. A recruitment agent is someone you should be able to work with, not someone who arrogantly dictates what they think should happen with your career.

Common issues we hear about with bad agencies are:

  • Sending CVs out without the candidate’s express permission
  • Sending CVs out speculatively to lots of firms where there are no actual vacancies (and nothing on the horizon)
  • Finding CVs on a job board and sending them out having never spoken to the candidate
  • Sending candidates over for jobs they clearly are not suitable for
  • Arrogant and aggressive consultants not listening to what candidates want from a career move
  • Never taking your call or calling candidates back after the first conversation
  • Deliberately sending out a candidate’s CV to a firm they know the candidate has already been put forward to
  • Having deliberately duplicated the candidate’s CV (or mailshotted it) and caused a duplication, they then contact the candidate telling (lying to) them that if they don’t go through them they won’t be considered for the job and asking for an email confirming they are the sole agency instructed to deal with the application
  • Saying “I will speak to some firms in the area” and then mailshotting the candidate’s CV

A good legal recruitment consultant should listen to what you are looking for and tell you about actual vacancies you are suitable for. They should work pro-actively for you exploring the market, not just acting as a post-box. They should not duplicate your CV if another agency has already put you forward for the role. They should not send your CV out without your permission and they should not ignore you. Go with your gut feeling. If you warm to the person you are speaking to and they are pleasant and knowledgeable, listen to you and make sensible suggestions as to how to move your career forward then work with them. If not then use another agency.

QED Legal prides itself on the quality of service it provides. The testimonials page on our website is populated only by genuine testimonials from people we have actually placed in a new role. Visit it now at http://www.qedlegal.com/about-qed/testimonials and see what lawyers think about their dealings with QED Legal.

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