Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Interview Answer 12

Interview Question 12 (with answer) - Would you describe yourself as ambitious?

I have to confess I asked someone this once, and he said "oh no, I have never been ambitious - I just want to earn some money", which is an honest enough answer! In fact most employers would love this as in reality this is what they are looking for - a solicitor who is not going to recruit half their clients and set up over the road in a few years time. However as an interviewer I would not recommend this approach - although it is ideal, and I realise that this is very clear and helpful, at the same time it made me wonder about this person's approach to the work - afterall if you have no ambition, would you put as much effort into your work as someone with ambition to succeed?
Again, another question with an answer that clearly is v.obvious, but one that may not be as clear cut once you think about it from the employers perspective. I have to concede that an ambitious lawyer may be one to offer partnership to, and may also be interested in taking over your caseload at some stage in the future..
Jonathan Fagan, MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment - no.1 online UK legal recruitment agency - save time, skip the legal job boards and let us do the work.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Challenge to Companies from Ten-Percent MD

16.05.07 Challenge to companies to donate 10% profits to charity

North Wales Director Issues Challenge to Companies to Donate 10% of their Profits to Charity

Ten-Percent, the online UK recruitment group, have donated 10% of their profits to charity, and MD & qualified solicitor Jonathan Fagan calls on larger companies to follow suit and do the same. "When you look through the financial reports from blue chip companies, often their charitable donations are less than ours, and we have an annual turnover of less than £1/2 million, a fraction of the amount a company like Tescos generates in an hour. If every company did this, we could achieve significant change in the world, and make companies look more socially and ethically responsible to their customers than they do now." The company is an online operation specialising in the recruitment of lawyers, with 5 consultants covering the whole of the UK and beyond. One of the dotcom survivors from 2000, it has been expanding ever since.Challenge issued by North Wales Director for companies to donate 10% of profits to charitywww.ten-percent.co.uk, the online recruitment group based in North Wales, have donated 10% of their annual profits to charity for the past 7 years, and MD & qualified solicitor Jonathan Fagan calls on larger local and national companies to follow suit.

"When you look through the financial reports from blue chip companies, often their charitable donations are less than ours, and we have donated over £20,000 on an annual turnover of less than £1/2 million, a fraction of the amount a company such as Tesco generates in an hour's trading. If every company did this, we could achieve significant change in the world, and make companies look more socially and ethically responsible to their customers than they do now. Think of the difference we could make just here in North Wales".

The Ten-Percent Foundation was established in 2002, and the company donates 10% of profits to the charitable trust every year with grants being paid out to UK and African charities. To date the company has enjoyed paying for cows and livestock in East Africa through SendaCow.org, digging wells with Wateraid, supporting the schooling of children in Zambia through Cecilys Fund, funded a youth worker in Stoke on Trent and youth work in Merseyside, donated to solicitors support charity LawCare (helping alcoholic and suicidal lawyers), a Denbighshire childrens charity, sponsored a horse for Clwyd Riding for the Disabled, paid for various activities for the Parkinsons Society and the British Stroke Association, and hopes to continue to support activities for years to come.

"We believe that making money and generating profits does not need to be done to the detriment of anything else, and as a company we derive great pleasure from supporting those around us who need assistance. I call on other companies to follow suit, perhaps set up competitions or nomination panels amongst their employees, and get donating time, profits and effort to support community and international projects."

Fagan continued: "My company's motivation stems from the tithe laws of ancient times, where the clergy received 10% of anything in their village to pay for their upkeep, whether wine, women, song or honest hard grafting! I have always been interested in this take on life, and even if Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited continues to expand to generate significant profits, we will continue to donate at 10%." Living and working in Mold, North Wales, Fagan says he has found that the community around him is in need of similar funding to support community and environmental activities, and some of the money from the Foundation has been earmarked for this.

The company is an online operation specialising in the recruitment of lawyers, with 5 consultants covering the whole of the UK and beyond working over the internet out of offices in North Wales. One of the dotcom survivors from 2000, it has been expanding ever since. The company has a reputation online for absolute honesty to all users, and actually tells it like it is to just about everyone, from customers to candidates.

Interview Answer 11

Legal Interview Question 11 (with answer) - what contribution do you make to a team?
A cursed question to anyone who has not worked with business speak before. Includes myself I must confess, as I don't understand such words, but realise when I play cricket that it isn't just me trying to bowl out the opposition or bat to a century each match. The same thing applies in law. The reality is that the concept of teamwork is somewhat different in a law firm - the majority of decisions are made at senior level, and although more junior staff are informed that they need to be 'team players', very often the people who make this sort of comment are not at all in any way! The concept of teamwork is usually - if you smile when you make me a cup of tea, you are clearly a team player, but if you glare at me and drop it in my lap and then smile, you clearly lack social skills.

The contribution you make to a team must be that you offer up your enthusiasm and skills, and that if you are qualified these are going to be extensive, and if you are unqualified, these are going to be limited until you have some experience under your belt.

I cannot see any other way to answer this - you don't want to be a social misfit and say you are a business oracle for other members of the team to consult, or a thinker who carefully considers all options. If you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know!

Jonathan Fagan, MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment - no.1 online UK legal recruitment agency - save time, skip the legal job boards and let us do the work - register online at www.ten-percent.co.uk/register.htm

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Part Time and flexible Legal Jobs

15.05.07 Flexible working hours and the legal profession

I often have conversations with senior partners of law firms who ask me for lawyers willing to work hard, be committed to their firm, and show entrepreneurial flair and determination, but no-one lightweight or wanting to work part time. Usually the requirement is for someone who wants to work full time and in the office from 9-5pm. This, in the partner's eyes, is someone who is committed and hard working.

I have to say that I often find that if I work flexible hours, which I often do, my work benefits as a result. If I want to go and have a game of golf one afternoon, but then work the evening to make up for it, this means I get to relax during the day, and get some exercise, and then in the evening condense 3-4 hours of office time into 2 1/2, and not have to deal with the telephone calls or other distractions.

I would estimate that for a lot of part time workers, they do the same, if not more hours than a full time worker, as when they are in the office, they usually have a lot more work to do. Full timers can afford to spend a morning Ocado shopping, or arranging car insurance quotes, but part timers have to be focussed for the whole time they are in the office in order to complete their work in a set time for that day.

So when a partner thinks that someone is hard working because they are in the office from 9-5, he or she is probably wrong. Someone who is hard working is someone generating fees, and this can be done in shorter time frames or on a different time scale than just the normal office hours. Offices on the continent open very early in the morning and close early in the afternoon to enable their workers to enjoy other things in life, such as exercise etc.. Not quite there yet in the UK..

Jonathan Fagan, MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment (http://www.ten-percent.co.uk) - no.1 online UK legal recruitment agency - save time, skip the legal job boards and let us do the work - register online for our recruitment services 

Monday, May 14, 2007

How to become a legal recruitment consultant

14.05.07 How to become a legal recruitment consultant
This article also applies to recruitment consultant jobs generally. Becoming a recruitment consultant is a little like joining the dark side in Star Wars - it often involves professionals giving up a well paid job with status to take on what is, in essence, a sales position, which very often is viewed by just about everyone to be a step down the ladder rather than up it.
What do you need to become a recruitment consultant? Qualification-wise - none, but I don't think anyone less than graduate level for legal recruitment will find it very easy, as it involves a high level of communication with solicitors and legal executives, and you need to be able to empathise with them, which can be very hard work indeed at times!
Skills wise? Patience (by the bucket load) - this is a career that offers good rewards if you are able to gloss over the bad times and remember only the good times. At present for example we are going through lean period, which is not so bad as we have been so busy in recent months. However unlike a professional post, you do look at work and sometimes wonder where you are going to get your next meal from! Ability to think outside the box - quite a few of our introductions are as a result of unusual introductions which have come solely from our insider knowledge of the legal profession and generating leads where others have not. Flexibility - need to be able to work on your own and with bucket loads of initiative - there is no structure to recruitment - you generate the work, you arrange how often you do this, and you need to keep tabs on everything yourself often.
How do you find work? Often the larger companies recruit former lawyers to the trade, and dangle shedloads of money in front of them to get them through the doors. You dont need any training as such, but it sure helps! The REC is the main recognised trade body, and their website is www.rec.uk.com - I did the Certificate of Recruitment Practice after being in the business for a number of years, and it would have been very helpful to have done it prior to joining the trade, with hindsight!
I have written this article due to the number of queries we are currently getting from crime solicitors (cant think why).

Jonathan Fagan, MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment - no.1 online UK legal recruitment agency - save time, skip the legal job boards and let us do the work - register online for our recruitment services - http://www.ten-percent.co.uk/register.html

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Interview Answer 10

Legal Interview Question 10 (with answer) - If you did not have to work, what would you do?

This is quite an easy question to answer, as to a certain extent it has no hidden agenda, unlike a lot of questions, and does not leave you open to too much cross examination. One thing to be aware of is that if you come up with "I'd travel the world as I have a real interest in travelling and I hope to do this one day for an extended period" type of answer, you may get a very quick response from a partner asking you to clarify your commitment to a legal career. Similarly a response such as "I'd like to be a kissagram or pole dancer" may not go down too well. However something relatively jocular such as "I would buy an island and go and sit on it" would be OK, or "I would like to be a well known philanthropist" would be fine.
A question in summary that you can enjoy answering, and not have to think too much about it!

Jonathan Fagan, MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment - no.1 online UK legal recruitment agency - save time, skip the legal job boards and let us do the work - register online at www.ten-percent.co.uk/register.htm

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Yikes I'm Newly Qualified

02.05.07 Yikes, I'm Newly Qualified, and don't have a job!

If you are reading this and are due to qualify in the next 9 months, register for our services by clicking here. As soon as you qualify, you are a valuable commodity to your firm. You may think that you have no skills, are worthless, and unable to justify a salary you would like. People will tell you that it is very hard to find work as a newly qualified solicitor, and you should wait at least 3 years before moving. 

Do not worry! It is a common tactic towards the end of a training contract for employers to "put you down". This is to prevent you thinking about pastures new. They talk about loyalty, vague partnership promises, and usually discuss the high level of the firm's overdraft with you. They then charitably offer you a position with the firm paying a low salary, but in line with your experience, and tell you to think yourself lucky to have employment at all.
This is where Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment can assist you. Although firms do not often advertise specifically for newly qualified solicitors all the time, there is a large market out there. You offer firms a service at a lower price, and you are extremely marketable. Recruitment consultants can assist you by getting in touch with firms in the area they know, or by sending an outline of your skills to firms in the area in which you are looking. 
Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment allocate you a personal recruitment consultant, who liaises with you and the firms, puts forward your details to firms and arranges interviews, all without your present employer knowing you are looking elsewhere. We prepare your CV and tailor it according to the requirements of each post and firm you are applying to.
We do not chase candidates by telephoning, turning up at your home address (we know an agent in Manchester who did this) or bombarding you with messages. All correspondence is by email (unless you specifically request us to telephone or text as well - otherwise we only call in emergencies). 
Available 12 hours a day by email (and telephone & text if requested - we appreciate you may not want to be called by a recruitment consultant at work), your consultant can also give you careers advice, and negotiate salary for you (something a lot of people dislike doing themselves).
Your present firm will not know you are looking until you hand in your notice, and you will move to a new firm that will appreciate your worth and give you respect as a solicitor, as opposed to remaining forever a trainee solicitor in disguise (a common complaint).
All of this is completely irrelevant of course if you enjoy working with your present firm, and if this is the case, stay there and good luck with your career - you are very fortunate to have a firm where you enjoy working and are appreciated! There is more to life than your next pay cheque and finding a practice where you enjoy both your caseload and the working with the other staff is strongly recommended.  
However there are a lot of opportunities out there..... If you have any questions at this stage, you can email us at cv@tenpercent.co.uk or visit our confidential careers forum. 

Timetable for Job hunting
The best time to start looking for work is about 6 months before qualifying. You may be a bit despondent that no posts appear in the Law Society Gazette for newly qualified solicitors, or at least very few do. This is fairly normal these days, as firms get a lot of candidates via recruitment consultants or through individual speculative applications. 

From the second year of your training contract, we recommend finding out or getting an indication from your current firm as to whether an offer of a newly qualified solicitor post is going to be forthcoming, and in which field of law.
For a September qualifier, you need to start registering with your chosen recruitment agent from about the middle of March onwards. Contact the agent again each month to check to see whether any progress has taken place. The normal busy period is usually in May and June, but firms start collating CVs and interviewing from March with a view to a September start. 

If you are a January qualifier the normal time to start looking is late September or October. The Christmas break is normally very quiet, and it is important to ensure that interviews are arranged before then. 

At any other time of the year we recommend using the rule of thumb and looking 6 months before your training contract is due to expire. 

Salary Levels & Negotiation
If you are planning to stay with your current firm, speak to assistant solicitors, secretaries or the office manager to try and gauge what the firm are likely to offer you. Most firms will be fairly standard, although some still try and get away with paying a lot less by referring to your lack of experience, whilst others pay very well to keep you. If you are at a very small practice, and are the only assistant solicitor, you need to speak to friends at other firms to see what the going rate is in the area. 
Negotiating at newly qualified level really depends on the current state of the market. If you have offers from 3 other firms, or are aware of plenty of other firms who will want to speak to you, you can approach your current firm with confidence that you can pitch for a salary and if you don't get it, then move on. 
However, if the market is very poor, and you have no other offers and are not aware of any firms recruiting at newly qualified level in your area, you are at the mercy of your current firm, and need to be careful as to how far you push your wage demands. 
It is always a fine line between pushing for a higher salary and avoiding conflict at the negotiation stage. You need to be able to justify your requirements for a particular salary, and it is important to be prepared for the meeting. Having vital facts at hand such as salary levels in the area, your billing rates, your expected billing rates, wage comparisons with colleagues, your plans to get a mortgage at a particular level, your longer term plans etc.. will assist tremendously. You need to be able to explain why you think that £25k is a reasonable level when the firm are only offering you £21k.
Remember that how you speak to the firm depends on whether a) you have other offers, b) you are bothered about remaining with the firm and c) you are simply trying to get a good offer out of them to put to other firms when attending for interview. 
How much should you be earning for the firm? The golden rule for solicitors firms is 3 times your salary in most areas of law, although for example in personal injury you would be expected to be bringing in 6-8 times your salary in some firms. Others expect 3.5 times or 4 times your wage. The "one third rule" is based on your salary being one third, the firm's costs and overheads being another third, and the firm's profit the final third. 
If you are attending for an interview at a firm other than your own, you will probably be asked towards the end of the interview what salary you require. 
We get asked all the time by newly qualified solicitors as to how this needs to be approached. We recommend asking the firm what they have in mind initially, and then pitch accordingly. We do not recommend jumping straight in, which is the advice of some other recruitment consultants, especially if you like the sound of the firm. You can either overpitch or underpitch yourself, and this can have the unwanted effect of the firm deciding not to proceed further. 
If you have to give a range without an indication from the firm, we suggest giving one with scope, ie; it allows the firm negotiation. Of course, if you have offers at a certain level, and do not want to take any post that goes below this, then the pitch is quite easy. 
An example would be "I am looking for something in the range of £23-£27.5k".
£23k would be your absolute minimum for the perfect job and firm, and £27.5k would be the figure you would really like but are unlikely to get. If the firm are interested they will probably pitch somewhere around the £25k mark. In order to answer this question you do need to have some idea of the levels of salary paid in your fields of law and geographical area. 
Contact us for further advice on this area by emailing cv@tenpercent.co.uk
Qualifying with Training Contract Firm
Staying with your current firm is understandable. Firstly better the devil you know, secondly this was the firm that gave you the offer of a training contract, and thirdly you may actually be quite happy with them! Our experience is that some candidates are quite happy with their current firm, and enjoy working in the location, with no complaints about the office and equipment, and that the people they are working with are very friendly. Some even stay and become partners in the much longer term. 
Others are not sure and look around to see what options are out there. 
Others hate their current firm and spend the whole time trying to get out even during their training contract. 
It must be said that in business there is no such thing loyalty on the whole, and anyone who tries to pull the "loyalty card" on you should be reminded that they are taking the benefit of your labour to profit from you. Whilst there is a moral issue that the firm you are with took a chance with you by offering a training contract, it is often better to consider the issue from the viewpoint of your own career. If it is going to be beneficial to you in the longer term to remain with the firm - offers of partnership or career progression that you believe are genuine, and the salary levels offered are good, then it is probably best to remain where you are. 
Long Term Career Plans
Long term career plans are important to consider when you approach qualification, and in fact there is some merit in sitting down and writing out your goals. What do you want to get out of your career in law, where do you want to go, and in 5 years time, 10 years time and 20 years time where do you want to be? Is the field of law you are planning to specialise in the one you wish to stay in, or is it simply being done because this is what you ended up doing during your training contract?
Do you want to work for yourself, set up in business, or remain an employee? Do you plan to have children and raise a family, do you want to work part time in the longer term, do you want to look outside of law as well, are you aiming to be very rich, comfortable or is money not a factor for you?
It is very hard to consider these things at any time in your career, because often your choices are limited by certain factors, like LPC debts, or limited options due to geographical issues. 
However it is important enough to spend some time thinking about. Decisions you make now will affect your career 20 years down the line. If you are thinking of relocating, it can be done at qualification, but similarly it can be done 1-5 years into your career without too much difficulty.  
One of the questions we get asked every year is how easy it is to change fields of law, normally we get high street trainees wanting to become corporate lawyers, and corporate lawyers wanting to become high street solicitors. Neither think through the practicalities of such a change - the corporate lawyers think that everyone on the high street earns 50k, the high street trainees think the city firms will be interested in recruiting them for their conveyancing experience! 
Our normal advice on this is to find a firm that offers a field of law you are capable of doing but also the one you wish to transfer into. You can then make moves once in a firm if possible. It is very difficult to change fields at qualification without any experience in the field you wish to change into.

Jonathan Fagan, MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment - no.1 online UK legal recruitment agency - save time, skip the legal job boards and let us do the work - register online at www.ten-percent.co.uk/register.htm