Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Guide to being a nice boss at Xmas

20.12.06 how to be a nice boss towards your solicitors, fellow partners, legal executives, paralegals, secretaries and office cleaners at Christmas
1. Don't throw things at your staff. Particularly the Law Society Conveyancing Handbook - it hurts!
2. Don't get drunk at the Christmas party - this always leads to consequences remembered for decades afterwards. Whether this involves rambling incoherently about how useless one of your staff is, or some minor act of vandalism, your colleagues will remember you for it the following day even if you forget.
3. Give out Christmas cards - sign them neatly and legibly, so that your colleagues know who are you when they put it up at home. Do not scrawl your usual signature straight across the greeting.
4. Firing staff on Christmas Eve could lead to your car windows being put in, and your car tires let down. Your workforce would probably symphathise...
5. Having a Christmas party is always a good thing, even if they are usually tedious affairs for some. It gives you a chance to talk to your colleagues outside of work, and have chats about other things than clients (although they inevitably lead back to work eventually!).
6. Buying your staff presents is always nice, and should be encouraged. However presents such as law textbooks, a DIY Willpack or a p45 already filled out are probably not appropriate...
7. Offering to close the office early on Christmas Eve (it is a Sunday after all!) is a nice gesture, and will probably result in more work being done in the morning before closure than if you keep it open all day!
8. Consider offering to do some cleaning in the office or more manual work (perhaps photocopying?) on Christmas Eve as a sign of goodwill to all men and women. It will give some of your staff a chance to talk to you for a change.
9. Offer large pay rises, and invite yourself round to a member of staff's house to Christmas Day armed with a goose and a box of chocolates! They would be overjoyed to see you.
10. Complain all the way up to Christmas about how you have to close down over the Christmas period and the extortionate cost of the Christmas meal (which you leave early in any event), keep the office open until 5.30pm on Christmas Eve and make all the staff stay until then, fire a secretary on Christmas Eve just for entertainment and pass a rumour around the office that redundancies are on the cards for all fee earners. Bah humbug!

www.ten-percent.co.uk - Legal Recruitment Consultants on the web

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

19th December Legal Job Update

posts just into us as follows:

3077 Conveyancing, Commercial property Small practice near Chichester seek a locum to permanent solicitor at senior level. Chichester, Sussex, South Coast negotiable

3078 Crime South East London firm seek a crime solicitor, with police station accreditation, but from NQ level upwards, to join their firm. South London negotiable

3079 Wills & Probate Wiltshire firm seek a wills & probate lawyer to join their firm. Wiltshire, South West negotiable

3080 Family Panel member and supervisor for LSC sought by Pinner firm of smaller size. Firm concentrate on family law work, and deal with LSC and privately funded matters. Pinner, Middlesex, South East negotiable

3081 Wills & Probate Birmingham firm seek a wills & probate solicitor to join their team. Birmingham, West Midlands negotiable

3082 Commercial Property, Company Commercial, Landlord & Tenant Three commercial/commercial property lawyers sought for an immediate start by an East London firm with a commercial focus. The areas the candidates need to cover are as follows: 1 L&T work. 2 Commercial property generally - sales and purchases of investmentand development work. 3 Assets purchase - hotel, nursing homes, dental praice. They will also look at taking on at salaried partnership level. East London negotiable

3083 Crime Crime locum to permanent post in Southend. Need to be at least supervisory level, dealing with defence and prosecution work. Southend, Essex, South East negotiable

3084 Conveyancing Solicitor sought by larger sized practice in Brentwood to join the conveyancing department. Brentwood, Essex, South East negotiable

Any interest, please let me know by email jbfagan@tenpercent.co.uk or by telephoning 01352 810850. www.ten-percent.co.uk Legal Recruitment Consultants

Christmas and Charity Giving

19.12.06 Christmas, Charity Giving and Legal Jobs. 
We have just entered the Christmas quiet period, when everyone has better things to do than look at the internet for legal recruitment consultants and legal jobs, so everything quietens down until the New Year when the New Years Resolutions have kicked in and firms start to find their staff are on their way off to new pastures! As a result, if you are looking for legal jobs now, chances are you will find that not a lot happens until the New Year. If you have been thinking about a move, but not sure when to make it, a good time is the New Year - partners have had a chance to think about future progression, and where to expand or replace, and everyone tends to be in a relatively generous mood, which leads me onto my next point for this article - why do we give the Ten-Percent Foundation 10% of our profit to charity? 
Well, when we set up the company, we wanted to link into the charitable giving angle as a means for promoting the company to lawyers and law firms. We thought it would be quite a good selling point at the time, and that a lot of lawyers would use the service specifically because of this. However, when we found out from market research that it was actually the quality of our service that solicitors liked, and not the charitable donation, it was very tempting to ditch the whole thing and keep the money ourselves! Unfortunately the managing director (me) has an inbred sense of needing to look after others and support those with a lot less than ourselves, and we have retained the commitment, and set up a charitable trust to receive the money. It is now in our articles of association so we have an obligation every year to donate a percentage of our profits to charity. 
We enjoy giving money to some charitable causes, and hate giving it to others! I have found that there are two types of charities out there - those that want you to give money to them and make the experience easy and a pleasure, and those that actually make it hard and difficult. We are quite awkward customers I must confess, as I like to give money to specific projects, so traditionally have supported small charities with specific aims like Sendacow or the Clwyd Riding for the Disabled etc.. and it has been quite gratifying receiving our first Christmas card from a horse! Feel free to get in touch and suggest projects - we are always happy to look at them. 
www.ten-percent.co.uk - Legal recruitment consultants in the UK

Monday, December 18, 2006

Solicitors not working for peanuts

18.12.06 Firms complaining 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 purchase a former local authority house!
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, let alone some of our 3500 lawyers! An example of this would be a call we had last year 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 £28k pa 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 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!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

City lawyers wanting a life of crime

13.12.06 City lawyers wanting to do a "John Grisham" and get down on the street.
Every year we get a load of lawyers from magic circle firms wanting to "do a John Grisham" as it is known in the trade, and get down with the boys on the street. The phone call usually goes like this:
"hello - this is a general query really and I am not sure if you can help me." "I work for Linklaters/Clifford Chance/Allen & Overy/some US firm/etc.. and I want to change my career direction - I feel it is important to do something I will enjoy, and I have decided to do crime work. Can you tell me about jobs X Y and Z?"
At this stage many years ago I used to get quite excited. Afterall, this is a high calibre candidate looking for work, and someone with considerable talent. However, as I have become more hardened to the job, I now ask two questions.
1. Have you heard of the Legal Services Commission and Carter?
2. What do you consider a reasonable salary to live off?
Sometimes they have heard of the first issue, and say yes they realise it is going to be hard to get in, and that Carter is going to cause a bit of a rumpus. However almost every one of them will give a salary level that is way beyond the dreams of most crime solicitors - I think the average they expect to get whilst learning the ropes is around the £45k mark, rising to £60-70k plus out of hours once they are fully up to speed, say in about 3 months...
It is at this point that I revel in giving a harsh reality check and explain that the only lawyers who get this kind of money as a basic in crime are the partners (some of them anyway), and then ask if they have any crime experience. This is usually indicated as being negligble, but that they have done advocacy and enjoyed it. As a former crime solicitor myself, experienced in being yelled at and abused by district judges, magistrates, police officers, prison officers, clients, ushers, a boss and anyone else who wanted to have a pop, I usually suggest they go and sit for the morning at the local magistrates court and experience the humdrum ordinary world of the crime solicitor and the tediousness of applying to adjourn a case or deal with a pre-trial review.
Most do not want to listen, and have got it into their heads that their career move is to find something more exciting than corporate finance. What they do not think about is the house they are going to live in when they can only get a £100k mortgage, and what it is going to be like sat at a police station at 3am followed by a full day trial the following day.
Some do make the switch, and then the next telephone call will be "Hello, I am looking to get into corporate finance - I'm a crime solicitor but I'm not sure it is for me - can you help me find a job?"

www.crime-solicitor.co.uk, www.ten-percent.co.uk - specialist legal recruitment consultants in the UK.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Solicitor Mums returning to work

Solicitors returning to work after having children

It is apparently the case that mothers returning to work after starting a family suffer the highest employment penalty of any group. (Equalities Review). Mothers with children under 11 are 37% less likely to be offered a job than equivalent males. Single mums suffer even worse figures - with it rising to above 40%. Firms should not ask questions about childcare or how you will deal with work and children, although we know that some do. It is very hard for mothers to get back to work at times - not only do they have to make childcare arrangements, collect and drop children from nursery etc.. but also research shows that they are still expected to do the housework! Some mothers also report lacking confidence to go back to work or do their job again after caring for their baby at home.

If you are a mother thinking about returning to work or about to go off on maternity leave, have a think about discussing the situation with your current employer before going or returning. Sometimes we find candidates automatically assume that the firm will not be favourable to them having flexible hours, reducing hours or having a longer maternity break. This is not always the case, and if indeed your worse fears are confirmed, you can always go off and find another post in the meantime!

If you are a firm reading this, think about the maternity from the mother's angle - she is going to worry that she is out of touch whilst off work, cannot return, worried about leaving her child at nursery or with family, and also about the money (income drops quite dramatically during maternity leave). If you value your employees prepare to be flexible in the short term, as you may find that longer term the solicitor or lawyer remains with you and is loyal to your firm (provided you are being nice on other fronts such as salary levels and career progression if wanted!).

Possible links for mothers are Learndirect free telephone coaching service - 0800 100900, www.setwomenresource.org.uk - work experience placements for women wanting to try new careers, www.motheratwork.co.uk is a website looking at the balance between work and family life, and www.mumpreneurs.co.uk for information about setting up your own business (as long as it is not a legal recruitment agency!). Our career coaching service can also assist - www.ten-percent.co.uk/career-coaching

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bargain Lawyers

11.12.06 Bargain Candidates
Some firms seem very pleased at times when a candidate accepts an offer that is considerably below the market rate, but we think this is a false economy. I can think of two firms in recent times who have been aware of a candidate's limited geographical search area, or perhaps their requirement for supervision for various reasons, and have seized upon the option of offering a significantly lower salary than they ought reasonably to have done. Salaries that would possibly enable the person to afford Housing Association rent, and then perhaps to live a little bit if they took a second job in a fast food joint! When speaking to the partners, they have been really pleased with this, and we have actually been thanked for finding such a good candidate! This is a very short sighted policy, and we usually let the firm know this.
Firstly, the candidate is going to start looking almost immediately for an alternative post, secondly they are not exactly going to be very motivated to do a lot of work, and finally they may start to develop an interest in using up as much sick leave and annual leave as they can in a short period of time. They may also start to show signs of stress etc.. as they worry about their finances. There can be a whole host of reasons for accepting a low salary, and this can include the need to be near a spouse, or if there are difficulties with the Law Society imposing supervisory conditions etc..
If you are thinking of offering a low salary, we usually recommend thinking about incentives to go with it - eg; giving the lawyer the chance to receive bonus payments based on performance, or offering perks to go with the base salary.
If you think you have a bargain, think again! It probably wont be long before you are back on the market again...
www.ten-percent.co.uk - Legal Recruitment Consultants on the Web

Paralegal Rant

08.12.06 Paralegal Rant
Having run CV and careers workshops last week at a UK University, I have to take this opportunity to have a rant about entrants to the legal profession. Some law students (on the LPC especially) seem to think that legal work is going to come naturally to them, and they need to make no effort at all to find work.
I ran workshops to review CVs for students and then give guidance on how to improve the CV's and explain where the CV fitted into the scheme of things. Having reviewed all the CVs, I could easily see who was going to get a training contract and proceed, and who was going to struggle.
Starting the review, I looked through the CV as if I was a recruiter with 200 on the desk. I spent about 10 seconds going through. Usually this entailed a look at the name, the degree classification, and the work experience and background of the applicant.
What surprised the group I think was the fact that work experience was so important. There were candidates there with 2.2 degrees and 3rds who I looked twice at. What was fascinating was that the majority of candidates with lower academic qualifications had no legal experience. Some of the candidates with lower degrees had really gone about rectifying this aspect of their CV by obtaining lots of legal experience, and indeed a good number stood out above those with 2.1s and 1st class degrees.
Some of the students were quite surprised at the notion of work experience being important, and seemed to think the solution to progressing in their legal careers was simply to finish the LPC and then await an employer contacting them.
It certainly goes to show that those who want to make it in law will do so, whether by walking into a training contract post, or spending 4 years slowly inching towards it through other work experience. If I was spending over £10,000 on the LPC year, I would certainly make sure I knew what the end result was, ie what a solicitor did in practice, as afterall, it is not that interesting really! www.ten-percent.co.uk - Legal Recruitment Consultants on the Web

Lawyers Work Life Balance

07.12.06 - Work Life Balance
It becomes particularly acute once the candidate gets to about 3 years PQE, and realise that there is life beyond work, and other issues such as rearing a family, paying a mortgage and buying a house come into play. The legal profession as a whole suffers from a poor attitude towards the work life balance, as it results in a lot of despondent lawyers wondering what on earth is going on. I think it may be to do with the traditional approach to law that still survives in a lot of towns. This leads me onto another rant that is a particular bug bear, but one not relevant to this article about the quality of the frontage and state of offices of law firms, but that is for another day!
What should lawyers be doing and how many hours is healthy?
Firms need to be aware that solicitors are human beings, not robots. If you have a solicitor doing 60 hours per week at your offices, chances are he or she is doing it a) because you are not paying them enough to cover a mortgage application etc.. b) they have serious family or home issues c) they really enjoy their work and cannot bear to go home or d) they do not have a very good balance in their lives of work and play etc..
Have a look round and see what your lawyers are doing. If they are working the long hours because of a), it is likely that they will also be looking for a new post. If b) you need to keep a close eye on them, as this can affect their work, if c) not much you can do and good news for the firm if not the lawyer! and d) the solicitor needs to adjust this balance to make sure that their life does not suddenly disappear in front of them at the office.
As former solicitors and now legal recruitment consultants, we realise how hard it is at times to stop work at 5pm or 5.30pm and go home! www.ten-percent.co.uk