The 4th and final seat for trainee City lawyers – but what’s your next move?

Sonder Consultants London

Jonathan Taylor, London Director

As we move through Q1 of 2022, we are about to enter the most dynamic and arduous legal recruitment market of the year! And, of course, as a trainee, your search for an NQ role in September.

Firstly, congratulations! After all those years of hard work to become a top tier lawyer, the end is finally in sight. However, with such intense competition among trainees, the realisation may begin to dawn that securing a role in your preferred practice area is by no means guaranteed.

So, what’s your next move?

The 4th and final seat for trainee City lawyers – but what’s your next move?

To get the practice you want as a trainee, you must apply to other firms. There are several reasons why. Firstly, your preferred practice area may be heavily oversubscribed – or perhaps there aren’t any roles at all. Perhaps your preferred practice area is your 4th seat, and you are at a disadvantage to those who came before you. On a more positive note, a very good reason to apply to another firm is that they offer a much higher salary and/or have better quality work. Most importantly, it’s never a bad idea to have a backup option.

In all of these circumstances, to compete for external NQ opportunities, you must use the services of a recruitment consultant.

The NQ recruitment market is notoriously tricky to navigate for a trainee. You will be hammered with messages from recruiters vying for your implied business. Recruiters often lie to lawyers about where there are jobs, and lawyers lie to recruiters about what they really want in order to hedge their bets, there are CV’s flying around the City clogging up the inboxes of Partners and recruitment teams, and it can all feel like the lawless Wild West.

A good recruiter will tell you all you need to know about which firms are recruiting and explain how recruitment actually works and how to get the best from the services.

Ultimately, the service a recruiter provides to a lawyer is entirely free – we get paid by the firm. In stark contrast to a typical commercial arrangement, it is really you -the lawyer, who gets the client treatment. We will only get paid for our work if we deliver a high level and successful service to our candidates in the months leading up to interviews, and then you subsequently accept an offer.

It is easy to assume that what is in a recruiter’s best interest – getting lawyers a job, is in line with the lawyer’s best interest – getting a job. However, this is not entirely true. The methods by which a recruiter can maximise their success through making the most placements can sometimes be at odds with the service a lawyer needs.

In an effort to deliver a high level of service to both our clients and candidates and build trusting relationships, we at Sonder Consultants will always start our initial conversations with lawyers by explaining how our game actually works. We know from previous experience that trainee lawyers find this information invaluable in their search for an NQ role and for their career as a lawyer for the years to come.

Overall, the trainee simply has to decide which recruiter to partner with. The top tier City law firm recruitment market is extremely busy. There is tremendous opportunity out there for an ambitious trainee who wants to start their qualified career at the truly elite level.

Sonder Consultants will hold an event on our stunning office rooftop bar entirely focused on advising September qualifiers on their options in late March. There will be guest speakers lawyers who have moved firms on qualification in the past, offering their advice and insight from recruitment consultants. The burger van will be out, and the drinks will be flowing, giving you time to network and take a breather.

Secure your place here

Follow us on LinkedIn for company updates, or email us at to express your interest in the event or schedule a call with one of our London Consultants.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it”
– A Lincoln
For more information on salary trends, market updates and the general process in securing a role.
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