Not only are there fewer training contracts, but we are also seeing retention rates fall. The economic climate is such that firms are cutting back and taking a pragmatic approach to recruitment. There is less work available and therefore, if you are not needed after qualification, you will not be retained. This means hard times for trainees and NQs alike, and it is easy to see why there is so much doom and gloom surrounding the profession.
However, I think there are real reasons to be positive for law graduates and hopeful trainees. Firstly, whilst it may not seem like it at the moment, a recession does not last forever. Times are hard, but things will get better and when things do improve, we will see the full effect of the recessionary measures. There is likely to be a shortage of junior solicitors. Fewer trainees now mean less qualified solicitors in 2, 3 or even 4 years time.
This means that those lucky enough to secure a training contract today will be able to reap the benefits once they are qualified. I would therefore advise anyone searching for a training contract at the moment to ‘take what you can get’. You may have dreamt about working for a top 100 company, or working in the city, however these opportunities are very limited. Such firms, however are likely to need to recruit more generously once signs of economic recovery bear fruition and when they do, you will be far more attractive as a solicitor with 1, 2 or 3 years PQE.
Another advantage is that there are opportunities for the brightest and most talented to shine. Firms want to see innovative and entrepreneurial ideas that are going to make a difference. If you are someone who has these qualities, now is the chance to make the most of them. As a final piece of advice, although there are positives, opportunities are limited and as such it is important to take any opportunity available. Use whatever means necessary to make yourself stand out and give yourself the best chance possible of achieving success!
(c) Ben Collins, 2013