in Employers, Legal Profession

Lack of Quality Candidates or Just Low Pay?

Firms who regularly complain that there is a lack of quality out there and no candidates applying for their jobs, are often the same firms who offer rates of pay so low a solicitor cannot get a mortgage above £60k!

I regularly read about the shortage in good quality staff, and also get called by some firms about this, asking why we are unable to find a conveyancing solicitor for them or a licensed conveyancer. Some firms, who shall remain nameless, give us specifications so tight we are not sure that there are any solicitors able to join their firm!

An example of this would be a call we had a while ago that went “hello, we are X firm of solicitors, looking for a 3 year PQE conveyancing solicitor able to do residential conveyancing, commercial property, licensing, company commercial law and civil litigation, looking for a salary of up to £24k and able to start immediately. We are not paying your full fee as we do not think it is worth it, and we cannot go any higher on the salary. Send CVs through immediately within the next 48 hours as the closing date is Friday.”

As you may expect, if this senior partner was then seen in the legal press bemoaning the lack of solicitors, a cynic may wonder if it is more to do with his/her requirements than the perceived lack of quality of the candidates. Uranus may be a better planet to do a search for this particular candidate!

I find that in most areas firms with a good reputation for quality of work and life, and treatment of staff in general, are the ones that do not have a problem recruiting. Those that are smaller, and perhaps have no reputation at all find that if they offer reasonable salaries they attract candidates who will stay and grow the firm, and those firms that fail to understand the direct correlation between paying solicitors a wage that enables them to live comfortably by their standards, and treat them as qualified professionals, tend to be the ones who constantly need to look around for staff to replace existing lawyers departing. 

I have however heard another side to this – there are some firms that actively encourage fairly rapid turnover of staff to keep the costs of employment down.

Take on a solicitor, flog them mercilessly until they are doing lots of extra hours each week, and then encourage them to jettison asap before they become despondent and the amount of output drops. Not sure if this works, but doesnt sound too pleasant a way to earn a living!

 Author: Jonathan Fagan MIRP MAC Cert RP LLM Solicitor (non-practising) – Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment ( – save time, skip the legal job boards and register with us!  Jonathan Fagan is a specialist legal recruitment consultant, author of the Complete Guide to Writing a Legal CV and the Guide to Interviews for Lawyers. He has recruited for law firms across the UK and overseas in all shapes and sizes. If you have any questions that we have not covered above, please email us at

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 20 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 You can contact Jonathan at