Good prospects for new solicitors as firms face up to trainee shortage

Young solicitors should be in a stronger bargaining position when applying for jobs thanks to a shortage of newly-qualified solicitors predicted for this September.

According to recruitment experts, the shortage has arisen because current final year trainees were recruited in the heart of the recession when business was slow.

Four years later growth areas such as company and commercial, and telecommunications, have expanded, but without the staff to support the work.

Liz Mitra, director at legal head-hunting firm Wellman Smith predicts there will be a fight for specialist trainees. She said: “We expect to see salaries rise by up to 6 to 8 per cent. Smaller firms will have to start paying more or see their newly qualifieds leave for larger firms. There is also an indication that firms will have to pay a premium to secure specific candidates.”

Most firms contacted by The Lawyer denied they did not take on enough trainees during the recession or that they will have to compromise on quality. But they acknowledged that there had been an explosion of work in certain areas.

Quentin Poole, managing partner at Birmingham firm Wragge & Co, said: “In hindsight it might be sensible to recruit trainees heavily during recession time and less during boom times to account for the changes in the market. We have already taken on four extra newly qualifieds in our company and commercial department, but we have consistently kept our intake of trainees at around 15.”

But Simmons & Simmons has doubled its trainees intake since the recession to service growth. Andrew Keith, graduate recruitment manager, said: “There have been problems with the number of trainees coming through. We have recruited a number of qualified barristers at a junior level.”

Herbert Smith has been looking at the Australian market for possible employees. Richard King, head of education and training, said: “There are fewer and fewer fish to catch at the moment.”

Adrian Fox of legal recruitment consultants Quarry Dougall said: “It is a little too early to say whether there will be a shortage of solicitors. But the indicators are that it will be easier for newly qualifieds to find work. Current final year trainees are already being offered attractive packages.”