New Year Resolutions for Lawyers?
Every year we get a number of calls and emails from lawyers relating either to a change in practice or job, expansion or contraction, or new year resolutions – both employers and candidates. These are the top 5 queries since December 29th 2014:
- “I am a partner of a small practice. I’m tired of doing all the work myself and have decided to expand. I am looking for a partner to join me and share the workload. They’ll need their own following and we can agree a profit share arrangement.”
Great. The vacancy from hell! Firstly, why would anyone want to change jobs to take profit share, hand over their clients, and take on half the administration for a firm where the partner is fed up of doing it himself or herself? Secondly is this really going to assist the partner in the long term? Would he or she not be better off employing a more junior member of staff to deal with the administration or take on another solicitor to handle workload in order to free him/her up to do more business generation work? A PA with fee earning experience can be a low cost option, or alternatively an NQ solicitor. Despite the full page adverts in the back of the Gazette from a fee sharing law firm it remains one of the hardest types of candidate to find – the solicitor with their own following.
- “I’ve decided over Christmas that in the New Year I want to stop practising in conveyancing and start doing shipping law. Can you help?”
So many lawyers see greener grass on the other side of the fence when it comes to their own practice area. Well paid city lawyers envy the perceived easy lifestyle of their high street colleagues. After all you get to go home at 6pm if you work in a high street firm. High street lawyers see Magic Circle lawyers earning mega-bucks and fancy a bit of it themselves without appreciating the work the Magic Circle lot have had to put in to get there and also stay there. In House lawyers think private practice offers more earning potential – private practice lawyers think in house lawyers have it easy – flexible hours, pension, career stability etc..
Whatever the change is going to be – make it one based on fact. Never change fields of law without experiencing it first. Whenever I have coached lawyers in the past regarding a change I have always advised taking a week off work and getting some shadowing or work experience under your belt. Then make decisions that may affect the rest of your career, not beforehand.
- “I want to do locum work because I am looking for flexibility in my career.”
Locums are perceived to be earning huge amounts of money by their salaried counterparts. Very often because the salaried counterparts seem them on hourly rates that vastly exceed their own salaried positions. Locums get an easy life – they work for a few weeks, take time off, travel, pursue other interests, do another few weeks here and there when they need a bit more money. What fun!
Unfortunately, unless you are a professional locum conveyancer or private client lawyer in private practice, this couldn’t be further from the truth. It is true that because of the way local authorities and their staff approach recruitment (I suspect considerably more time is spent on sick leave in local authority legal departments than in house or private practice) there are opportunities to earn good money on an ongoing basis out of being a child care lawyer for a local council. However for all other fields of law locums do not tend to be able to pick and choose assignments if they want to work all year round.
A lot of professional locums will travel as well – a good number spend every week away from home around the country. Even then, 9 out of 12 months work is considered a good level to be aiming at. Quite a bit of time is spent indicating an interest for posts and pitching an hourly rate to secure it. This can be quite demoralising when you start out.
- “I’ve decided to get out of law and become an accountant/nails technician/pilot. Can you find me a job please.”
Again, this is a New Year’s resolution that needs to be based on fact. Get work experience, do the maths, think about it very carefully. Think again. Decide based on clear economic and objective grounds backed up with a little bit of subjectivity… Our first advice is always to think carefully as to whether it is the law you hate or your circumstances. Can you change your circumstances? If you are a solicitor who hates your boss, can you find a new boss? If you are a boss who dislikes your surroundings, workforce or lack of profit, can you do something to change these? Drastic decisions are sometimes made for the wrong reasons.
- “I am a graduate looking for work.”
Unfortunately we get this one quite a bit. I am sure a lot of law firms experience the same thing as well. We have managed to reduce numbers of calls quite drastically in the last two years by applying filters to our website. On our contact page we ask LPC and LLB graduates to follow a link before they call us. On our site we also offer a work experience scheme whereby anyone without experience can sign up. After candidates have registered we notify them automatically that if they are students or graduates we will not be able to help but they can visit our resource centre with advice and articles to read. This has taken about 75% of these types of calls away from our telephone lines.
Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director and a Recruitment Consultant with Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment – you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org