Is there a place for Newly Qualified Solicitors in the Local Government Locum Market?

Posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 by Venn GroupNo comments

In the increasingly candidate driven market of local government legal recruitment, Venn Group have seen a marked increase in the number of newly qualified solicitors securing locum positions.

Whilst historically the locum market has been dominated by established Solicitors with considerable PQE, more and more NQ Solicitors are choosing to embark on a locum career as an alternative to securing permanent employment.

Following discussions with a number of Venn Group NQ Locum Solicitors, we have identified a number of reasons why locum work is attractive to NQ Solicitors:

  • An excellent opportunity to explore different environments and gain different experiences at this stage of your career
  • No pressure of the commitment of a permanent  job
  • A better work life balance with potentially more flexible working arrangements on offer
  • Financial benefits – inflated locum rates are far more attractive than NQ starting salaries

Following discussions with a number of Venn Group Local Authority clients, they have seen a real benefit in recruiting NQ Solicitors into locum assignments. Some of the reason include:

  • During a training contract, the trainee is exposed to a selection of specialist areas of law within a Local Authority, leading to practical knowledge and experience to be able to assist in more than one area of work.  As budgets are continually being cut within the public sector, it is advantageous to our local authority clients to hire locums who can assist in more than one specialist area
  • Similarly, with cost cutting exercises continually in place, a NQ Solicitor may have the experience to cover the workload required without the requirement to pay high hourly rates of more experienced Locum Solicitors
  • Depending on the size of the Local Authority many Local Authorities have the ability to accommodate the supervision needed by a NQ Solicitor
  • A NQ Solicitor in many circumstances can offer an enthusiastic, proactive and fresh approach to work

Whilst there are undoubtedly many potential benefits to engaging with NQ Locums, it is important to note that many locum positions are not suitable for a NQ Solicitor. Many NQ Solicitors are likely to need close supervision and this may not be possible in all cases. It could be argued that it is not a good idea for an NQ Solicitor to work as a locum as it could affect their career prospects as some organisations may hold it against them that they have worked as a locum. Unfortunately, many local authority clients are still assuming that those who choose to take on temporary work are only doing so because they cannot secure a permanent position. Today many would argue that this is a very out dated view and the ability to go into a firm or a local authority as a locum actually demonstrates adaptability, professionalism and drive.

The legal industry as a whole has always taken a traditional approach to the training of Solicitors entering the profession. This however, is due to change with the Law Society confirming its support to the SRA proposals of a new route to qualification: The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The Law Society (December 2016) particularly supports the requirement for a fixed term of two year’s work-place experience and welcomes the agreement from the SRA that this is an “essential part of becoming a Solicitor” With the removal of the LPC, it is a concern that trainees will be less prepared for their training, therefore the 2 year placement will need to make up for the expected shortfall in skills for future trainees.

Whilst this has been well received in many cases, these amendments have been met with some criticism and a wider concern that NQ Solicitors simply won’t have the knowledge gained from a two year training contract and LPC combined. This therefore, could have an impact on whether NQ Solicitors would be able to satisfy the needs of an employer on a locum basis.

The legal profession is constantly having to adapt to change, and having recruited for the locum legal sector for almost 10 years now, my clients are continually demonstrating greater flexibility in working arrangements to include home working, compressed hours, part time working and also working practice. In an environment where local authorities must compete to attract, maintain and develop the best talent perhaps it is worth maintaining an open mind and considering all candidates on their individual merits rather than on how closely they conform to our existing ideas of what a locum should be.

Should you be a NQ Solicitor or due to qualify in the next 3 months, or a line manager looking for locum assistance within your team, please do not hesitate to contact the legal team at Venn Group on 0121-616 0660.

Emma Walker – Venn Group

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