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Fake News – is there a Shortage of Conveyancing Locums vs Wills & Probate Locum Solicitors?

Candidate Shortages in Wills & Probate and Conveyancing – myths and legends

As I write this brief article, I can reflect that I could probably have written the same article in any year between 2011 and 2017. In fact if you are reading this in 20 years’ time, and Donald Trump hasn’t ended the world as we know it, chances are the information and advice in the article will be the same. I have focussed on locum roles – on the permanent side it is still very difficult to recruit conveyancing and private client staff – there is a severe shortage of candidates.

Are Conveyancing Locums in Demand?

A private client solicitor called me today and said that she knew that conveyancing solicitors were in massive demand for locum work and that firms (including her own) couldn’t get hold of them at the moment. She knew that there is a lot of need for locum conveyancers but what about locum private client solicitors?

I was very surprised to hear this. Apart from short term conveyancing locum roles in areas with high levels of tourism in the summer we can usually get at least one locum conveyancer CV to any law firm in England and Wales within a few hours for cover of one week to one year. There are lots of residential conveyancing locums who as I type this haven’t had much work this year. Partly because their rates are too high for the current level of competition or due to lack of work in their specific geographical locations, there is almost always competition for conveyancing locum roles.

What about Wills & Probate?

It is completely the opposite for wills & probate, particularly anyone with trusts and tax experience or more junior wills & probate work.

For example, if you are a law firm with a vacancy for a private client locum for 1-3 months starting asap to cover sickness, I would be pleased to get you a CV across within 24 hours if I am lucky. If the role is around London this will probably entice a few more locums to express an interest, but anywhere else in the country you are going to do well to get many applicants.

Even when you have an applicant, chances are the hourly rate is going to be so ridiculously high you probably won’t want to hire a locum. What usually happens is that a locum who isn’t particularly bothered about working will pitch at £55-60 per hour and see if the firm take the bait. We do try and avoid levels like these, but sometimes it is inevitable that a desperate law firm will pay up.

What are the current rates for Wills & Probate Locums?

The usual rates at the moment for wills & probate locums are £40-45 per hour, although it is still possible to get them at £35 per hour for certain assignments.

To give you an idea of numbers – we have just over 300 residential conveyancing locums registered with us (solicitors and ILEX legal executives who solely do locum work) but just 114 wills & probate locums.

Whenever a firm call with a wills & probate locum role, I can virtually guarantee that even if we are not successful sourcing a locum we will later find one of the locums from our list has secured the role via another agency. It is such a small market that we pretty much know of everyone in it!

The Myth of Plentiful Numbers of Private Client Locums

The caller today couldn’t have been more wrong. Wills & probate is the place to be – locum work in this area is lucrative and there is usually plenty of it. The key is to be a locum who is available to travel everywhere for work to start with and offer a rate that law firms can afford to pay to secure your services. At the moment I reckon an affordable rate is £35 per hour, but this is certainly not the case for some areas of the country.

Thinking of working as a Private Client Locum?

If you are thinking of being a locum for private client work please bear in mind the following:

1. Work is not guaranteed – in 2008 when the market collapsed there were very few wills & probate locum roles for a very long time.
2. Once you have worked as a locum it is very hard to get permanent work again unless it is with a firm who know you as a locum or have previously worked with you.
3. We usually expect a locum wills & probate solicitor to be on assignments for 9 months out of every 12 months if they want to be.
4. If you are unable to travel there are areas of the country where you will get little work – the north east and north west are very good examples.
5. Locum work for wills & probate tends to be longer term. Firms usually try to cope with caseloads for shorter time frames.
6. Anyone who can do trusts and tax or with STEP membership will be in greater demand than those without.
7. Locuming is a good way of getting flexibility, but don’t expect to go into firms, sit around and write post-it notes on files. Firms tend to expect quite a bit of hard graft.

 

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk