NQ applications - things to consider
So you’ve just started your fourth seat of your training contract, and the fear about what comes next is starting to set in. Don’t worry - there’s a few things that all NQ lawyers should consider when applying for positions, but so long as you’re smart about it - and do your research - you’ll be in good stead.
Start planning early
It’s unwise to gamble on the possibility that the firm training you will automatically offer you an NQ position. Even if your firm has among the highest retention rates, you should still keep in mind some other options for if it doesn’t go well. Start thinking about alternative options as you enter your fourth seat - you don’t want to be left in the lurch if your current firm tells you they cannot take you on as an NQ.
Timing is everything
Trainees at major law firms tend to qualify in two cohorts per year - one in September, and another in January. With this in mind, recruiters seeking NQ solicitors - at your current firm and beyond - will most likely try to tailor their recruitment efforts to these times of year. Make sure that you’ve taken all the steps you need to start applying for roles, or expressing interest in internal roles, before the big rush comes.
At most of the larger firms, you will need to submit your qualification preferences in your fourth seat at the firm; it’s good to have thought about your options a bit before you have to do that. At any rate, make sure you’re on the lookout for positions about six months before the end of your training contract.
Having said this, if you find yourself qualified and still applying, you shouldn’t worry - unlike training contracts and vacation schemes, NQ positions aren’t exclusively determined by academic calendars, and a law firm may have a job opportunity at any time. Stay ahead of the game by signing up to job alerts and perhaps consider filling your time with temporary work - recruiters don’t tend to like gaps in CVs!
CV and cover letter
As an NQ, your CV will need an update, especially if the last time it saw the light of day was when you applied for training contracts. There are also specific things to consider when applying for competitive NQ positions. While trainee life is busy, take some time out one weekend to properly go through your CV to bring it up to NQ level. Your cover letter, too, will need to be a work of art - and you need to steer clear of using the same one for every application. Read more about honing your NQ CV here, and learn how to write the perfect NQ cover letter here.
Where to look
There’s the option to seek opportunities with a recruitment consultant, or under your own steam through the firm’s website and also through jobs boards. Firms will advertise NQ vacancies on jobs boards and in legal publications.