For over two decades we have supported individuals in their careers by sharing with them the best of our specialist market insight and knowledge. In the following interview, Tom Hoult, Principal Consultant for Public Sector Legal, discusses his experience in this sector and the current market.
What impact has Covid-19 had on the demand for certain legal jobs?
A number of development projects across Local Government were put on hold in the initial months of the pandemic, so roles in Planning, Commercial and Property saw a drop off at this point. However, during this time, we saw a real spike in Childcare law and Adult Social Care law, as people’s domestic situations altered dramatically due to isolating at home and the pressure on the council to react with urgency intensified.
As a result of the pandemic, public sector legal teams have adapted their way of working (as have many other organisations) and recruited locum support to allow them to keep up with the influx of work within Social Care Law and more recently the Commercial side which has seen a dramatic recovery since last summer. We are currently busy across all areas as backlog has built up and departments attempt to get catch up on time lost. A more agile working model has been adapted to give lawyers more flexibility to work from home to meet high demands.
What are the best routes to enter into work in the Public Legal Sector?
Entering as a Legal Assistant or Paralegal will give you a foot in the door, and for this you generally need a law degree and/or an LPC qualification. You could go straight in at a training contract level, or alternatively do a couple of years as a Paralegal and then get a training contract internally; most local authorities we work with give out multiple training contracts every year.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent a number of years in the Private Sector; that experience is really valuable in the Public Sector and we are increasingly seeing Solicitors making the move from a career in Private Practice into the Public Sector.
What opportunities are there for progression within the sector?
Local Government is unique for its progression; you could join as a legal assistant straight out of university and be a senior lawyer within a few years. After five to ten years you could be heading up multiple different teams, and beyond that you can take on the Head of Legal and Monitoring Officer roles. There are a number of Chief Executives of councils that came from a legal background due to the great sphere of things that you get to experience within a legal career. So the possibility of going from a Legal Assistant to the Chief Executive responsible for millions of people could be done in anything from fifteen to twenty years.
What are employers looking for that would make a candidate stand out?
It’s important to make clear what your motivations are; if you’re looking to work in the interests of the community, then that’s always going to come across well to the council. You should also make sure to gain the right experience early on. Whilst you’re studying law, you could take on legal internship work or get work experience at a local council. Putting yourself out there and demonstrating a genuine interest will give you a real advantage in securing training contracts.
Why do you recruit for Public Legal?
I enjoy being a small part in making big things happen. For example, we’ve placed a couple of lawyers into the process for delivering next year’s Commonwealth Games, and so next year we get to experience the Games knowing that we’ve placed people who were able to help make it happen. On the other side of things, when lawyers are protecting the most vulnerable people in society or improving transport links, you know that you’re putting people into roles where they’re going to make a genuine difference to the community.