​In the ever-evolving legal landscape, the hiring trends for lawyers have undergone notable shifts in recent years. The past few months are considered the regular “NQ” or “Newly-Qualified” seasons and I’ve personally met with more than 100 trainees who are completing their training contract this year. I’d like to share with everyone some of my observations and advice to junior candidates in this period of fluctuating demands.

A lot of our clients and candidates asked me about the NQ retention rate and some of them also tried to compare this year with 2020. The trainee solicitor retention among international firms was certainly better than in 2020. With less external opportunities, more trainees are also happy to accept the internal arrangement of their current firms, even if the teams they’re qualifying into are not their 1st choice.

Compared to 2021 and 2022, it’s been tough for NQ lawyers to say the least, especially for those who have not secured an internal NQ position. There were a few NQ opportunities this year but most of which came from offshore law firms. In terms of the practice area, it was evident that there were higher demands for junior lawyers with the dispute resolution, banking and finance and offshore investment funds teams. However, with the high number of applicants for the relatively few openings, the selection process has become intensely competitive, where candidates had to differentiate themselves to stand out among their peers.

Here is some advice:

1. Check with your recruiter and tell them your preferences! (Speed is always a key).

A capable recruiter keeps you posted on all relevant opportunities based on your preferences and experience.

2. Tailor your CV for each position and ask your recruiter for advice.

Increase the chance of an interview.

3. Consider in-house positions.

Borrowing the experience in 2020, quite a lot of junior lawyers moved in-house shortly after they completed the training contract.

Depending on their experience, some of them rejoined private practice, or after gaining valuable in-house experience, they continue to pursue a career outside of private practice.

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Talent Engagement Associate, Legal | LinkedIn