Help: I’m not being retained by my firm

Don’t take not being kept on as a reflection on your abilities. But what happens next, asks Jonathan Smith.

When you finally get the news you’ve been waiting for, that you’re being offered that elusive training contract, you think, ‘That’s it, I did it! No more lengthy applications, no more rejection letters or online assessments.’ You can finally take a deep breath and relax. It’s a nice feeling – and one that will last. At least until you start your training contract.

It doesn’t take long before the pressures of securing a training contract are replaced by the equally burdensome question: ‘Will I be retained at the end of my training contract?’ Of course, a firm’s decision not to retain a trainee may have nothing to do with their ability as a lawyer. It could be that the firm is not in a financial position to find a further newly qualified (NQ) salary, or perhaps there simply isn’t enough work. It may be entirely out of your control. But there are some things that you can do to try to alleviate the pressure in the run up to the completion of your training contract:

  • Don’t forget the day job. The best thing you can do to help your chances of being retained is to continue working hard and showcasing your skills and ability to your training principal and supervising partners.
  • Know what you’re up against. Although reviewing past retention rates is by no means a crystal ball, it can give you an indication of what your chances are.
  • Research the market. Legal recruiters can be very useful in helping you gauge the areas of law or geographical areas where there are likely to be NQ positions. Look out for local events.
  • Be proactive. If you haven’t already been told when a decision about retention will be forthcoming, then ask your training principal.
  • Update your CV. Include your training contract experience. As ever, ensure it is tailored specifically to the type of role you are seeking.

It’s not the end of the world and don’t take it as a reflection on your abilities. So, what now? Here are a few hints and tips for searching for an NQ position:

  • Make use of your network. Now’s the time to get in touch with your contacts and find out where the NQ openings are. A CV is always better received through somebody who already works at a firm (and even better if it comes with a recommendation).
  • Consider using a legal recruiter. Quality can vary massively, with some putting you forward for obscure roles you would never dream of taking, and others being brilliant, finding you the perfect role in a firm you’ve always aspired to work in. See if anyone in your network has had first-hand experience of a good recruiter that they would recommend.
  • Think about what job you actually want. Remember, there’s no point in going for a role in a firm or in an area of law that you’re not going to be happy in.

As the market continues to improve, there are some fantastic opportunities out there, so don’t take the easy option: take the right one for you.

This article was first published by Solicitors Journal on 8 December 2015, and is reproduced by kind permission.

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