Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Flexibility is the Key to Survival in a Recession

I have read a lot of articles recently from business experts on how to survive the recession and including advice from people who had been through the last two recessions as to how to cope with the downturn in business trade sales and just about everything else. One thing that comes through all my reading is that flexibility is the key to survival.

I’ll give you a quick example as to how it has affected our business, Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. Ten Percent Legal Recruitment offers the lowest recruitment fees in the UK for the recruitment of permanent and temporary lawyers with law firms, in house departments and local authorities.

We have been charging 15 percent fees for many years now without any increases according to the salary or type of post.

Our competitors start their fees at 18 percent and they go up to anything around 35 percent.

Since the recession has kicked in, we have been getting requests from firms to lower our fees, which is fairly rare for us as our clients are usually very aware that we offer the lowest fees in the legal job market and that there is very little room for us to manoeuvre below this level.

However, quite a number of our competitors are struggling severely and have started to look at ways to cut their fees. Fairly large firms are indicating to us that they have been offered fees at 11 percent and 12 percent by our competitors who are effectively dropping their prices by at least 50 percent.

It has always been commonly accepted in the recruitment consultant world that you do not drop your fees under any circumstances as there is never a reason to do so – if a firm wants a quality candidate from you, they’ll take them regardless of your fee - certainly we would be happy to pay a recruitment agency fee if the candidate was going to generate fees for our company.

So how do we cope with this when a firm may have ten CVs to look at and although ours may be the preferred option, they may decide that the extra expenditure is simply not worth it and go for someone less qualified or less suitable for the post on the basis they are cheaper.

The answer is quite simple. We always start our negotiations by explaining that in order to give something, we have to get something in return and for us as recruiters what is important is ongoing business. A one off placement is great in terms of cash flow, but it usually does not assist the firm or ourselves in the longer term to build a relationship if we are simply placing a candidate and walking away. One of the visions of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment is to have long term relationships with clients, and we have these already, with clients and candidates remaining with us for many years.

What we would rather do is to not charge the client at all for the candidate but instead offer an Master Vendor Relationship.

This basically entails a firm handing over their complete recruitment and HR operations to us and us managing the department externally for them. Although we do not do the weekly tasks of payroll or holiday entitlements, we can assist with all the recruitment process from the sifting of CVs through to interviews and negotiations and on to contracts, references and start date.

We can also help out with external disciplinary issues as required and give management consultancy advice where necessary.

This means that we have an ongoing relationship with the firm and handle all their enquiries relating to recruitment as well, so they do not need to be concerned about a bombardment from other recruitment agencies or direct applications from candidates.

All of this means that instead of paying us a one off fee, the firm pay us on a monthly basis for a minimum contract of 12 months. During this time we may well introduce four candidates to them and only get paid the equivalent of one and a half to two, but in the same time, we will have also benefited longer term from a close relationship with that firm and be able to recognise their needs quite easily. For us as recruiters it means that candidates will come to us for other vacancies as they can see that we are credible and secondly, we get the benefit of speaking to all that law firms’ recruitment traffic and if you are able to introduce unsuccessful candidates elsewhere, then this can only benefit our company.

This is but one example of a way of being flexible in the current recession and although our prices are not competitive with the agencies who are so desperate for work they are reducing their fees by half, they still offer firms a very good deal in the medium to long term as they get candidates free of charge from us as soon as we have introduced one or two lawyers to them.

I have read of plenty of examples in other industries doing similar things and it is clear that this is one of the major ways to keep your business going during the recession when some of the more conventional ways of generating income are disappearing.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and can be contacted for press comment and careers advice at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or telephone 0207 127 4343. Ten Percent Legal Recruitment are expert recruiters for lawyers and have been operating since 2000 with over 5,500 solicitors registered to date. Visit our website at www.ten-percent.co.uk for further details.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Conveyancing Jobs - 40% of firms make redundancies - surely more?

40 percent of conveyancing firms report redundancies (surely more than this???!!)

The Law Society Gazette reported a while ago that 40 percent of law firms had made redundancies in their conveyancing departments.

This was based on a survey of 1300 firms who were all clients of one particular company.

About 33 percent of firms said that the slump had not affected them and that there was no freeze on recruitment and that things were continuing as normal.

Richard Barnett, of Barnett Solicitors, who is also head of a law society conveyancing body said that he could not believe this was possible, that firms were in all probability putting their heads in the sand.

I can agree with Richard Barnett as the evidence on the ground is simply overwhelming to show that almost every firm has ceased to recruit conveyancing solicitors and in quite a lot of circumstances, this has also affected other departments, including wills and probate, family, litigation, crime and anything else a high street firm will cover.

However, it has clearly been conveyancers like Barnett Solicitors and Hammonds Direct who have been hit the hardest, with some firms having lots of redundancies at once, like McKeags in the north east.

When one redundancy is announced, we almost see the effect on our website immediately and we will get a whole host of conveyancing solicitors and executives registering with us all at the same time from the same area and usually from the same firm or from a neighbouring one.

This has been going on now for about four to five months, and this has got to such an extent that we have now removed all conveyancing posts from our website apart from one, as we do not believe anyone is seriously considering recruiting. I expect this to change very shortly, but I think we will start again from scratch with posting new vacancies as opposed to the pre-existing ones.

I also disagree in part with Richard Barnett in that I do not think that solicitors are putting their heads in the sand and some are clearly doing okay in the present climate as they have a good bank of established clients. Unlike Mr Barnett’s firm, which specialises in volume conveyancing, some of the smaller firms have a loyal client bank based locally who will automatically go to the firm for their work, and they don’t need as much work to keep going or to make a profit.

However, I think a lot of firms have been keen to avoid adding to the woes of the profession by stating that they are not recruiting or making redundancies, and I would imagine that they clearly are, they just didn’t want to say to the survey conductors, for fear of making things even worse.

Whilst I could understand the Law Society Gazette running an article like this, it has been the Law Society Gazette editorial that has added to the concerns in the profession and recruitment was particularly hit after the Law Society Gazette decided to wheel out some management consultants to say how hard their clients were being hit, when at the time when there was no evidence of anything taking place.

I think it is slightly again the effect of the media adding to the credit crunch by stoking things up.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment, and regularly writes and commentates on the state of the legal job market and the legal profession in general. You can contact us at www.ten-percent.co.uk.

Friday, December 19, 2008

No Legal Work Experience – Quasi-Legal Roles

"I don’t have any legal experience in my career to date although I do have prior work experience in different careers."

This came up quite regularly in a recent seminar session at a University. Quite a lot of the students said that they did not have legal experience but had former careers in other fields.

However, when we went through this in further detail, quite a lot of the students actually did have work experience to a certain degree and it was just a case of getting it out of them. A couple of examples were two students who had been directors or involved in the running of claims management companies and another student who had worked as an employment officer; there were also students who had been contract officers, employment managers and even IT consultants.

A quasi-legal role is one that involves some element of law but not actually working as a lawyer.

Examples would include someone dealing with race equality or employment issues or somebody handling contract negotiations, as all of these roles involve some elements of law, and although this law may not be immediately obvious or particularly stand out when you read through the CV, it can be used to enhance a CV that is otherwise lacking on the legal side of things.

It is just a question of thinking about roles from a lawyer’s perspective, because it will be a lawyer who looks through your CV (or at least someone from HR who is linked to law) and is looking specifically for legal issues or things on a CV that stand out to them. For a lawyer this usually means legally related issues, so if you can fill your CV with plenty of relevant bits of information linked to law this will stand out. You fill your CV with information that is linked to managers, management ‘speak’ & skills and it will not particularly stand out.

Nearly every role you ever work in has some sort of legal issue linked to it; during the seminar we did discuss the issue of how you make stacking shelves in at Tescos sound interesting or relevant to a lawyer. We try to discourage anyone from writing down lists of skills that you think are transferable, simply on the basis that usually nobody reads this as it is just subjective waffle.

There are things that a shelf stacker at Tescos would have been trained in. This will include things like health and safety, basic employment law and contracts to a certain degree. These are issues that will stand out to a lawyer, whereas if you just write that you are a good timekeeper and developed good communication skills - these will not stand out or be completely ignored. There is really no excuse for failing to have legal work experience of some sort if you are training to be a lawyer, as without it you do not know where you want to be, or how you want to develop your career. So although you may have good quasi-legal experience, you should still go out and get some of the real thing, even if it is just a few days here and there or an evening a week.

As an aside many years ago I remember a student on my LPC who was an electrician speaking to a local firm and being told that if he wanted to he could go in on an evening and help the partner shift a load of files off the floor, which he did over a period of about four to six months, unpaid for three to four hours an evening. This all lead to him getting a training contract and qualifying as a solicitor a few years later. Foot, door and right time are all words that lead to training contracts!

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and regularly commentates on the state of the legal profession and the legal job market. You can contact Jonathan for advice at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or telephone 0207 1274343.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Investors in People – what’s it all about?

Ten Percent Legal Recruitment has been recommended for Investors in People status (still waiting for accreditation to be confirmed), and it has been interesting to see what the whole assessment entails. We have always been very open with everyone who has worked within the company and also anyone who has asked us questions about the company as well and we hope that this is a good place to work.

Obviously being in a sales and performance driven industry means that it is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the approach we have seems to be very open with very little discipline or rigidity in the way that we work. As a result of this, most of our consultants work on flexible hours and this means that we are able to recruit a good standard of consultant to work for us as they do not find many opportunities elsewhere.

The IIP basically is a way of recognising the way that an organisation works and giving it value so that external organisations can see that the level has been attained internally. We hope, for example, that local authorities will use us more, because at present they seem to only use the larger agencies who are able to spend the time dealing with the rather extensive paperwork that usually goes with that type of work. IIP should open doors for us in that some of these organisations may start to use us if they can see that we are of a similar level to the companies they’re currently using but considerably cheaper. It has also been useful to go to start the assessment in that it has made us look at our systems ourselves and see where we need to improve or create better procedures or protocols. Sometimes when you’re working within a company it is very hard to take a step back and see what you are currently doing and to improve it. You can also miss business or opportunities that are out there if you are not aware of all the work that is going on within the organisation. We hope that we are successful, but it has been very useful to start the process off in any event.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and can be contacted at cv@ten-percent.co.uk

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bradford and Bingley gets nationalised – effect on housing market

What fault can be placed at the door of the banks and building societies who are facing serious collapse at present?

Bradford & Bingley Building Society were nationalised because of the amount of potentially dodgy mortgage debt they have and concerns about their ability to keep trading when the capital that was supporting them has gone.

There has been a lot of blame on the banks and the building societies for this situation, but one of the things that has not come up in this is the buy to let applicants themselves.

Five years ago, I was talking to someone who had entered the buy to let market who had purchased their first flat with a genuine set of details, before moving on and purchasing countless other properties and flats using what can only be described as fraudulent documents and making statements that were clearly not true and hence, obtained in a pecuniary advantage by deception. The key to all of this was mainly that they would make the application for the first property and then use the same information to make an application for a second one without mentioning that they already have the first one, or alternatively creating sources of income that did not exist, or alternatively to that, claiming that they lived in each of the properties that they had the mortgage on.

Whilst the banks and building societies have to be blamed in part for this, in that sufficient checks were clearly not made to make sure that the information being provided was true, it is clear that there has been rather a lot of fraud committed by various buy to let landlords in respect of their mortgage applications to purchase the properties they’re letting out in the first place.

It has clearly been a bit of a gold rush for some people but it must be of great concern to a lot of buy to let landlords at the moment to see how they are going to pay their mortgages if the cost of rental property is not increasing, yet the cost of mortgages is going up rather dramatically.

Perhaps in the climate we are currently in buy to let mortgages will suddenly become a thing of the past, apart from when there is solid evidence to back them up.

The same applies with self certification mortgages, which are very useful if you are self employed, but are left wide open to potential fraud and also people taking on more liability than they actually have the ability to pay for.

Let’s just hope that the current position does not affect conveyancing and similar markets for too many months to come.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment, he also regularly writes and commentates on the state of the legal job market. You can contact him at cv@ten-percent.co.uk

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why should I go on a Ten Percent Legal Careers Workshop?

Ten Percent Legal Recruitment is running Legal Careers Workshops in London on Tuesday 16th December for law students and graduates, or anyone wanting to get into the legal profession. The day starts at 10am, finishes at 5pm and is probably the most intensive course you can think of to fit everything relating to starting your legal career into one day and to keep the cost affordable to law students and graduates. In a nutshell it is seven hours of information and practice to ensure that you get the best shot at starting your legal career.
Timetable:
9.45 am Registration and refreshments
10 am Assessment Day Workshop
11.15 am Break for refreshments
11.30 am Interview Workshop
1 pm Lunch (provided)
1.45 pm CV Workshop
3 pm Break for refreshments
3.15 pm Covering letter workshop
3.45 pm Application form workshop
4.30 pm General career and individual questions
The course covers just about every aspect of applying for legal work, going for interviews and assessments and securing a training contract or pupillage, vacation placement post, work experience, paralegal or fee earning work or a mini-pupillage.
We have been coaching law students and lawyers for over eight years. We currently provide careers workshops at Huddersfield University for their LPC students, and responses to date have been very favourable. Feedback can be seen here:- http://www.hud.ac.uk/hubs/news/school/school_news_95.htm
The course will be run by Jonathan Fagan who is a well-known commentator on legal recruitment and Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. Jonathan is a qualified solicitor & recruitment consultant, and personally coaches lawyers from law students up to senior partners. Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment has been around for a long time, and has over 5,000 solicitors registered, 2,000 legal executives, and over 6,000 law firms across the UK and worldwide have used our services.
The course will essentially cover every angle we can think for each of the workshop sessions.
A breakdown of the sessions is as follows:
1. Assessment Day Workshop
Assessment days are a bit of an unknown for most people who have not been on one as they vary so widely between law firms and no-one ever explains what the firm or assessors are looking for. This can lead to all sorts of problems in terms of the way people present themselves when attending assessment days and candidates do not always do themselves justice. We look at each element of a typical assessment day, go through live exercises with you for each of these so that you can have a go at an assessment day scenario. It is the first workshop of the day and it will be a good simulation of a similar environment to a real assessment day. Get the nerves and the mistakes out of the way now so you are ready for the real thing..
2. Interview Workshop
For some assessment days, the interviews are held in the afternoon after a cull has been made at lunchtime. Interviews are one of the hardest parts of any training contract or job application as it is the one chance you have in a very short space of time to make an impression on your future employers. We conduct practice interviews with you and provide feedback as well as going through each type of question that could be put to you, so you can see the different ways of answering and also understand why questions are being asked. Full feedback is provided.
3. CV Workshop
The CV workshop will provide you with an assessment of your current CV and suggest ways of improving it. It is not just standard and general CV advice, the advice you receive will be specialist legal CV advice aimed at tailoring your CV according to your experience and background in a way that makes it stand out.
At the same time, careers advice will be given as it is inevitable in most CVs that extra items are added, such as improving the amount of work experience you have or ensuring that you have presented your interests and activities in a way that employers will want to see. You must submit your CV to us 7 days before the course starts.
4. Covering Letter Workshop
Covering letters are probably not as important as most people think, but there is still a way of writing them and we will go through this with you to ensure that you do not miss the opportunity to sell yourself a little bit more to a future employer.
5. Application Form Workshop
This workshop will cover all aspects of completing application forms and you can bring along your own to go through in the session. If you have any already, we can review them for you before you turn up to the session and go through any parts that need looking at in detail during our workshop.
6. General Legal Careers Advice Workshop
During this session we will look at individual circumstances and talk through options available to you. It is also your chance to ask the course leader any questions you may have on legal careers and the legal profession. The day will also include unlimited numbers of tips for starting a legal career, dropped into the course where appropriate.
By the end of the day, you should have gained an advantage over your peers as you will have a head start in knowing what is going to happen in an interview, how to handle assessment days, how to complete application forms, how to prepare your CV to and preparing covering letters.
The usual cost of receiving individual Legal Career Coaching from Jonathan Fagan is at least £500. Our CV reviews start at £85, and our CV preparation service £154.99. For £150 + VAT you receive a full days worth of advice and practice.
For further enquiries, please email us at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or telephone 0207 127 4343.
Click here to book a place on the course. Numbers are strictly limited.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

BNI Breakfast Meetings – what are they all about?

This morning I have been to a visitors’ breakfast of a BNI breakfast meeting. I have never been to one of these before and I should start this article by saying that I am not a member and have no links to the BNI.

I had looked on the website before I went, as well, as read the email from the inviter that warned me that I would be doing a 45 second speech about my company.

I went to a local golf club for the meeting and there were about 15 people there. I paid £7.50 for a breakfast and the meeting consisted of an introduction from the regional director that lasted about 15 minutes, followed by each person there speaking for one minute about the organisation they were involved with and then a talk by the assistant director on the benefits of being in the Business Network International.

The cost of joining the BNI is £400 for the year with £100 membership fee.

As the regional director pointed out, it actually costs quite a bit more than this because you have to pay for your breakfasts and meetings every time you attend, and the breakfast this morning was £7.50. Incidentally, I had not realised that it would be a sit down breakfast and unfortunately I was unable to eat the fare that was put in front of me as I am a vegetarian. This seemed slightly expensive, and I ordered four pieces of toast and drank a cup of tea, which must rank as the most expensive breakfast I have ever had. Obviously this was not the fault of the BNI, but rather my own for not realising that I would need to tell anyone I was vegetarian.

In the room was a solicitor from a local firm of solicitors who was a fully paid up member. It is becoming very common for solicitors firms to be members of the BNI and to use it for networking.

I am always interested to see, and to speak to junior lawyers at every firm, who almost always are the ones who network and not the senior lawyers. I wonder exactly how much business solicitors firms get out of the BNI and what quality this is on the whole.

I am very new to networking, but generally the idea seems to be to go up to people and try to flog them your business.

However, it appears the BNI work in a slightly different way in that they are trying to get their members to promote all the businesses in the chapter (i.e. the local branch) to sell each other’s products to people that they meet and to give cross referrals.

In the chapter I went to this morning, there was a mortgage broker and an estate agent dealing with rentals. Obviously these two fit hand in glove and probably refer people across to each other quite regularly. Also there was a computer repair company there and obviously this would fit very well with any web design or web marketing companies who attended.

So should I join? I would be very interested to hear from anybody who has anything to do with the BNI as a member or non-member of their thoughts on this. I have spoken to other people who have been along to the meetings and joined and left after a fairly short period of time as they work they were getting from the meetings was not sufficient to market the company and to justify the membership fee.

Obviously at the meeting, I was told of lots of benefits by the people there, but it clearly is in their interest to get as many people to join as they can right across the spectrum.

If you would like to comment, simply add your comment at the bottom of this article. If I have in any way misrepresented the BNI, I apologise. I am still interested in any comment from the BNI, particularly if they would like to offer me a discount for writing such a glowing article about them!

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and regularly comments on the state of the legal profession and the job market. He went to the local BNI meeting with his other hat on, which is as a director of Chester Web Marketing (www.chesterwebmarketing.com).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Credit Crunch Affecting Nine Out of Ten Employers

It has been reported in a survey that 90 percent of employers have said that the credit crunch is affecting their business. The survey by Peninsular Law has found that 74 percent of employers have implemented a recruitment freeze and 64 percent have not ruled out making some of their staff redundant.

Whilst there are no indications of the number of employers surveyed for this report, it is certainly fairly gloomy. The idea of a recruitment freeze is a fairly quick fix option as usually staff wages are the highest cost to a business.

The problem is though that as soon as staff are made redundant, the whole business is threatened, firstly because buyers are aware of the redundancies when they phone up to speak to staff and secondly, when work does come in, the staff that are left find that they have to cope with increased volumes and it has an effect on their productivity as well.

Some of this is certainly a panic on the part of just about everybody with the threat of the words credit crunch, but there are serious concerns in some parts of the economy about the effects of the collapse of banks and the overspread of mortgages to very high risk recipients.

It is a damning indictment on our society that in the good times a lot of companies have not budgeted or allowed for the bad times. The Labour government has been very beneficial over the last ten years and has enjoyed periods of growth and a balanced economy, something that the Conservatives never quite managed in their time in office. This has been to the benefit of a lot of businesses, but now it looks like we may be entering lean times for a while and companies need to start waking up to the fact.

One way to save money is to review all current procedures and contracts and see whether anything can be removed without the company being affected.

Ten Percent Legal Recruitment has removed an out of hours telephone service, for example and instead opted to answer telephones internally through to a certain time and use an answer machine after hours. This has saved us considerable amounts of money in the last two months alone. We have also reviewed our advertising budgets online and offline and because the advertising is attracting candidates when there are fewer jobs, we have reduced these proportionally.

Both of these measures, we hope, will make us leaner in the long term and able to cope effectively with the credit crunch.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. He regularly writes and commentates on the state of the legal recruitment and job market in the UK and offshore. He can be contacted for press comment or advice at cv@ten-percent.co.uk .

Legal job update November 2008

"An incompetent lawyer can delay a trial for months or years. A competent lawyer can delay one even longer." Evelle Younger.

"Welcome to the November Newsletter for Law Firms and Companies. I hope you find it of interest - we have released our latest legal job market report, and you can find details below." Jonathan Fagan LLM Solicitor (non-practising), MREC, CertRP, Managing Director, Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited.

Legal Job Market Report - Nov 3rd 08 - 66% fall in new Jobs
Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment, online recruitment specialists and part of the Ten-Percent Recruitment Group, reported today that legal jobs for solicitors and qualified lawyers registered with them were down by 66% compared with the same time last year.

Jonathan Fagan, MD, said "during October 2007, 57 legal jobs (all at solicitor or higher) were posted with our agency by law firms and in house legal departments. In October 2008 this had reduced by 66% to 19 jobs. We have also recorded a reduction in the numbers of permanent posts as opposed temporary, and our temporary business has increased to 25% of our job postings." Fagan added "it does not follow that this has affected our business however. We specialise in recruiting solicitors, and usually the posts we recruit for have only a couple of applicants if we are lucky, so we would not have filled even a third of the 57 vacancies last October. In the current market we have more candidates available for jobs on our database, so the change is quite apparent". "The market has been hit particularly badly by the influx of conveyancing lawyers trying to get a new post, whether as a conveyancing lawyer or other field. This means that our candidate registration numbers are up, but the vacancies are down. We have gone from 700 conveyancing jobs earlier this year to less than 10 currently live. There is still a lot of optimism though, and law firms are still recruiting litigation lawyers and those making a living out of Legal Services Commission funded work." "I think law firms will see a reduction in the number of agencies bombarding them with sales calls in the near future as a number of recruiters are not going to survive the current economic downturn. Our company is well established with low overheads thanks to our unique online operation, and we also have other strands to our business which can support the recruitment during the credit crunch". Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment donate 10% of their annual profit to charity, hence the name. The company specialises in legal recruitment, and Jonathan Fagan is recognised as an expert in the field, writing the award-winning www.LegalRecruitment.blogspot.com blog. To view the Novermber 2nd 2008 legal job report, please visit http://www.ten-percent.co.uk/weeklyreport.htm

Redundancy & Career Coaching Packages for your Clients - generate income
If you have an employment law department looking for new ways to generate business or income, it may be worth forwarding this through to them. Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment is linked to another website JB Fagan & Associates who provide Executive Career Coaching and Outplacement Services.

Your Employment Department can market the Outplacement Service to their clients, and either sell it as a separate service or alternatively provide it as part of their service to clients along with their own redundancy advice services. Particularly applicable to medium-large companies and organisations at junior-senior management levels, our Career Consultants can work alongside your Lawyers to provide a full Outplacement Service including CV, Interview & Career Coaching, Job Applications, Skill Testing, Alternative Career Options and Ongoing Support Packages.

This enables your firm to sell the complete package to their clients - an employee being made redundant with positive thoughts about their former employer is a benefit, whereas one being dumped on the street without ceremony is a threat to future business. For further details or to discuss options, please contact us at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or call 0207 127 4343.Ensuring safe recruitment in a fluctuating market - special offer from Ten-Percent
One of the main concerns of firms currently recruiting is the uncertainty of the work, the fluctuating market and the possibility of paying out fees to recruiters where redundancy will have to be considered in 6-9 months time.

We have been recently trialling a new service where instead of paying us an upfront fee for our services (we remain the cheapest in the UK on this front), you pay monthly for the first 12 months. We are now launching this product for all law firms and in house legal departments across the UK. It is not available to international firms and companies.

If a candidate leaves before the 12 months is up, you pay a fee based on how long the candidate has been with you, so for example if a candidate has completed 3 months with you, you would pay a fee based on 3/12 of the annual salary.

This way you do not need to worry about collecting a rebate if for some reason you need to let a new member of staff go, for example if the market fluctuates yet again.

We have been speaking to law firms in recent weeks, and this seems to be the main fear amongst partners regarding recruitment - it is not that they want to freeze staffing levels, but they are concerned about the overheads like recruitment fees that will inevitably follow if they do go back to the job market.

For details, please email Jonathan Fagan at jbfagan@ten-percent.co.uk

For free access to our candidate database (unlike certain other legal recruiters), please visit our website.

Lawyer Joke
A man sat down at a bar, looked into his shirt pocket, and ordered a double scotch. A few minutes later, the man again peeked into his pocket and ordered another double. This routine was followed for some time, until after looking into his pocket, he told the bartender that he's had enough.The bartender said, "I've got to ask you - what's with the pocket business?"The man replied, "I have my lawyer's picture in there. When he starts to look honest, I've had enough."

Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment
2nd Floor
145-157 St John Street
London
EC1V 4PY
Tel: 0207 127 4343
www.ten-percent.co.uk
cv@ten-percent.co.uk

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to find a new job?

There are lots of ways of looking for work, and as the job market contracts, it becomes harder to find jobs.

In some professions it can turn into a hunt for a needle in a haystack. Not so long ago, the property market was booming and estate agents, solicitors and mortgage brokers were in great demand. Recruitment agencies reported that there was a large surplus of jobs and no candidates to fill them.

In early 2008, the property market collapsed and suddenly there were lots of conveyancing lawyers and estate agents looking for work and no jobs for them to go into.

This got worse in the months to follow as there were less and less jobs and more and more people looking for work. Redundancies were rife across the market and instead of having vacancies free, companies found themselves with lots of candidates applying for work.

This mirrors previous slumps in the market in other fields and is often the case when a large portion of the market suddenly stops being economically viable and lots of candidates are suddenly competing for very few jobs.

So where do you look for work in such a market?

1. Register with a recruitment agency

Registering with a recruitment agency can be one of the easiest ways of finding work as recruitment agents often have jobs coming into them that are not necessarily found elsewhere. A particular example of this is where the recruitment agent has a good relationship with the firm and the firm instruct them that they are just interested in seeing CVs coming through. When this happens there are plenty of possibilities for you, but of course, recruitment agents are operating in the same market as you are, and it does not follow that there will be lots of jobs immediately available for you to consider. However, when jobs do come up, it is important to be on the mailing lists because recruitments agents faced with lots of candidates will simply email or contact them all to let them know of a new opportunity and with plenty of choice, the vacancy will have gone within no time at all.

It is also beneficial to register with a recruitment agent because a recruitment agent can do some of the hard work for you, in that when a firm are advertising a vacancy, they will often advertise them with agents as well as on job boards.

2. Local and National Press

Again, a very common source of work. Most companies will first of all thing of advertising in their local newspaper which means of course that the job board fish4jobs.co.uk will also have plenty of opportunities on as well as this is usually linked to local and national media job advertising.

These can be a good source and traditionally the strongest way of finding work.

Of course, it depends on your profession and area, but local and national press are usually a good indication of the job market and it is important to keep an eye on posts being advertised there.

3. Trade Magazines or Publications

This is really dependent on your profession and area, but for example, in the legal profession, the Law Society Gazette and The Lawyer are the two main publications and the Law Society Gazette accounts for a very high percentage of all job vacancies in the legal profession. It should be noted that this is job vacancies being advertised, and a lot of vacancies at senior and middle level are not advertised as firms simply contact recruitment agents or receive details off recruitment agents and recruit directly from them.

4. Networking

Networking is slightly awkward in the sense of finding work, and often people find work through their circles of friends as opposed to more external networks. External networks tend to be slightly more awkward to just go and find work in as you will be approaching strangers and effectively asking for a job.

5. Speculative Applications

If you can identify a niche or specific area or a certain type of company, it may be worth going and making direct applications directly to those companies and see what the result is. It is possible that you will find that for every application you make, particularly in a poor job climate, you may get a response every 30 letters or even every 100 letters but if you are in need of work, it is certainly worth trying.

In summary, there are plenty of ways to look for work, but it all depends on what you are looking for and where, as it is important to have a strategy formulated before you start. In a poor job market it certainly takes a bit of effort to be able to source work.

Jonathan Fagan is a legal recruitment consultant with Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. You can contact him at cv@ten-percent.co.uk

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

How to make someone redundant or let them go

The climate at present in the UK is one of impending redundancy across all sectors. Whilst this may be a good or bad thing, here is our tip sheet on how to make a redundancy or let a member of staff go.

For most people it is a very stressful time, and it can results in sleepless nights worrying about the effect of the redundancy on the individual and also the way to couch it effectively.

Often it can involve making someone redundant who you really like and value as a colleague and employee, and do not want to see them leave the business. However, the economic climate is such that harsh decisions have to be made in order to ensure the survival of the company and to trim costs.

1. Be transparent. You have to be clear with your reasons for the redundancy and stick with them. The reasons have to be genuine ones as opposed to made up ones or reasons to make it sound better.

2. Plan what you are going to say – it is important to have an idea in your head of what to say to ensure that what comes out is what you really mean and want to convey to the employee. It can also help to have someone else present with you when you are undertaking this task. This can help both from a legal perspective and also to chip in if you forget to say anything.

3. Choose the correct time for doing this. If you choose an inappropriate time, the response from the employee could be very different and for all the wrong reasons.

4. Explain the reasons in full. Do not beat about the bush, and explain in concise terms why the redundancy is essential for the company. Smaller businesses may even find it helpful to tell the employee what the balance sheet is and what the effect of their redundancy will be or the effect if they do not make the redundancy.

5. Discuss with the employee how to make the announcement to other workers. In a smaller company, this probably is not necessary as most of the staff in the business will be fully aware why the redundancy is being made, but in a larger business with teams, it may be essential to explain to the other members of the team, why the action is taking place.

6. Sacking – if this is a sacking or dismissal rather than a redundancy, be aware of the legal procedures that you have to take, and check any employee manuals to ensure that you are complying with the procedures that are set out in there.

7. Above all else, retain your dignity and also be aware of the employee’s feelings. That person may have been with your company for quite some time, or similarly may place a lot of value on their position with your company that you do not necessarily reciprocate. Be sure that you treat the other person with respect and the way that you would expect to be treated in a similar circumstance. Do not use wishy-washy terms such as “I wish I could keep you on, I really like you,” etcetera, because in the employee’s mind, if you really liked them, you would not be making them redundant.

Good luck!

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. He regularly writes and provides articles for employers, lawyers and is also a business consultant. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or you can telephone 0207 127 4343.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Interview question - tell me something about yourself

Job interview question – “Tell me something about yourself”

This question was recently asked by a company in London and the candidate was slightly flummoxed by it as she did not know what to say or what exactly the interviewer was looking for.

Our advice would be to condense your CV into 45 seconds and give the interviewer a potted history of yourself. This will be particularly relevant if the question was asked at the beginning of the interview as this is often when an interviewer has not yet formulated their questions and answers.

So for example, if I was answering this question, I would say:

“My name is Jonathan Fagan and I am 35 years old. I live in village in North Wales near to Chester and I am married to a GP and have three children aged one year to four years.

I have a full driving licence and my educational background is GCSE, A-level then off to university at Salford, Leicester, De Montfort and Newcastle. I have a Masters degree in Law and LLB and the LPC together with various recruitment qualifications and financial advisor qualifications.

I came to Leicester before qualifying as a solicitor and subsequently working in Nottingham, specialising in crime, mental health and family. I then went in house with Ten Percent before becoming managing director and running the company full time. My featured skills are various, and I speak a bit of German and Welsh.

My activities and interests include cricket and lots of it, golf, walking the dog and spending a lot of time with my daughters.”

You can see that I have condensed my CV into 45 seconds and perhaps given the interviewer a couple of topics to discuss further with me if he or she so wishes. It may also give the interviewer time to formulate questions or alternatively think about what they are going to have for tea before they ask you their next set of questions which they have already got prepared.

This sort of approach to the question is quite useful because it also gives you the chance to talk at the start of an interview and get the initial uncomfortable time over and done with.

Jonathan Fagan is Lead Consultant with J. B. Fagan and Associates (www.jbfagan.co.uk), specialist professional career consultants. He is also Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment (www.ten-percent.co.uk). You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or by visiting one of the websites.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What rates do locums charge?

Recently, a firm have asked us to find them a locum but do not know what exactly a locum does or how much exactly they cost.

A company called us to ask us for a locum to cover for between three and seven weeks. We checked with our locums, found three or four and arranged one of these who was particularly strong and available. They interviewed him and he was quite happy with their set up and he was keen to take the position. We then had a telephone call from the managing director informing us that his budget was £100 a day and would that person be able to work within that.

Our locum gave us the answer we expected, somewhat incredulous, how dare they waste my time.

It was almost as if the company thought that locums charge less than permanent staff as a permanent member of staff on this person’s salary would be earning over £40,000. It would mean that on the rule of thumb, a locum rate would probably be closer to £60,000 for that length of time.

How much does a locum charge?

It depends on the position, but rule of thumb that works quite well is simply to take the salary that you would expect to pay to the permanent member of staff and add on 50 percent.

This will be the cost of employing that locum for less than, say, four weeks.

For a locum to work longer than four weeks, the rates can usually be negotiated down. So expect to pay 1.25 to 1.33 times the going rate for the permanent post.

Under no circumstances offer less than you would a permanent member of staff, and if you ignore this advice and go ahead, you will almost certainly find that the quality of the locum will be quite disappointing and may end up costing you considerably more than you would have had to pay out for the right level of quality of staff.

Professional locums work on the rule of thumb that they expect to be out of work for two months out of every 12. They usually do locum or contract work either because they are unable to find a permanent post in the area that they want to work in or alternatively because it gives them the flexibility to work for periods of time and then take time off. For that to be viable, they almost always need to be paid at a fairly good rate and very few of them will ever drop this. This applies across all walks of life. It makes a lot of sense.

Some agencies employ locums themselves and charge them out to clients at a rate from which they have applied a mark up and the candidate is paid by the agency.

The agency I am involved in, Ten Percent Legal Recruitment, does not employ candidates directly but instead opt for the self-employed route or a temporary PAYE employee status for its locums. In actual fact, this works out quite well and most locums will prefer to be self-employed in any event as it gives them complete control over the rate they are getting paid by the company, they do not need to worry that the agency is some way is taking off the hourly rate for them to work with them.

So when you are thinking of employing a locum, think carefully about what it is you are looking for, and how long you want them to be there. The rate you are prepared to pay will almost invariably affect what quality of work you will get and how useful the locum will actually be.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment, specialists for the recruitment of solicitors and employers in the UK. He also coaches all professionals and graduates via www.jbfagan.co.uk, as well as writing regularly for this blog. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk
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Friday, September 26, 2008

ECJ ruling on Age Discrimination

It’s been reported that the recommendation at the first level of the ECJ has ruled that automatic ages for retirement are not direct age discrimination.

A case was being brought to say that the idea of forcing someone to retire at a particular age was in breach of age discrimination regulations, from memory I think this was a partner of a large London law firm who was bringing the case. I understand that there are a further 125 cases of a similar nature that are waiting on this decision, no doubt the claimants will be a little disappointed by this outcome, which although is not yet finalised is fairly likely to be followed through by the court when it makes its decision.

There have been calls by various trade bodies to legislate on this ground either in favour of specifying an operation in terms of pensions or to remove it entirely as to allow flexible working.

There have been suggestions that it is a great relief that the automatic age retiring requirement is being allowed to stop in as it means that if there is the constant generating of new blood into companies and the prevention of senior employees being able to stay at work for a further 20 years without worries that they will lose their job on the basis of their age.

This is fairly common in the United States where senior members of companies can sometimes stay in their post until they’re in their nineties, as there is no restriction on them doing so and the companies are unable to get rid of them. Obviously it is not always the case that companies do want to get rid of them, and there is no legislation or usual contractual stipulating in the States to prevent them stopping in their posts.

Personally I think it is a good thing that there is an automatic retirement age as in larger companies it does allow the continual flow of new employees and promotion prospects. Only this week I was talking to a Lawyer who at three years PQE has no chance of any promotion in his current firm for at least another ten years because there are three very senior partners all above him in the same department, and none of them show any signs of wanting to retire. But you can already see that that particular firm are going to lose a very able member of staff simply because the top end is not leaving when it ought too, thus allowing the movement from the bottom end. Quite a lot of the people these days like to keep their hands in, and we get a lot of applications from Solicitors in their late sixties and early seventies wanting to do locum work or part-time work.

Where this is the case, it can allow firms to get a lot of experience at a fairly low cost, but it can also prevent more junior members of staff from getting promotions when they ought to be having them. Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment (www.ten-percent.co.uk). He regularly writes and commentates on the legal profession and any legal issues that arise on a daily basis.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Alternative ways to work for solicitors

In the last few weeks, we have seen large numbers of redundancies across the board. Every day a new area will see solicitors registering for work. It seems to be sporadic that one day it could be Hull, another day Guildford, for as firms shed capacity and downsize in order to survive the fall in the market, there are rather are rather a lot of lawyers out of work. Some of them, in particular, conveyancing solicitors in the current climate have no prospect of sourcing new work, as there is nothing out there for them to consider. People simple do not have the need for conveyancers when the market is so poor. However, we are starting to see new possibilities opening in terms of ways for solicitors to work. A quick example of this, is the rise in commission only posts. Basically this means that you work for a firm for nothing, well, almost nothing. You are paid according to results, so if you find work and do it, the firm pay you commission. This means that they do not need to risk paying you a salary and finding that they run out of money each month, when there is no work to go with the salary and it also means that people get to continue working.

One of the difficulties in the current market is that there is work to be had in some areas, in terms of overspends in the past and hence, have got too many overheads to cover in order to take on staff to do the work. Using a commission only structure, it is possible to take on more staff to generate business and service the work that is coming in.

However it is not to everyone’s liking, and particularly stressful if you are someone with a mortgage and other commitments. The problem is that firms are in a similar position, and senior partners of firms similarly need to cover their overheads and pay their mortgages and in the current climate, on the high street are simply unable to recruit staff on salaries on the whole.

It is certainly something to consider if you are someone needing to work, and struggling to find anything at all. If you think you may be able to generate some work simply by joining a firm and touting for business in the local area, it is certainly a possibility to consider. It also means that you continue to work in the downturn in the market and when are looking for work, you will not have gaps on your CV. For employers, it is something to consider if wanting to expand but worried about the possibility of committing to more salaries, if the market stays down and business does not pick up. The disadvantage of using commission only staff is that it takes a certain sort of person to do that work and it may be that at some point the member of staff decides to leave and set up on their own and take all the profits from their work as opposed to giving you any.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment, online specialists for legal recruitment for solicitors in the commercial and high street sectors. You can contact Jonathan Fagan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or visit the website.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Conveyancing in the current job market

We have written articles before on the state of the conveyancing market at present, but I thought a quick update on the current position may help (although the news is not particularly optimistic).

In 2007 nearly every single week, we received a new conveyancing job, if not two, three or even five to ten on some occasions. At the start of this year, we had almost 700 conveyancing posts registered with us and pretty much all of them were live (some firms fill the posts and do not tell us or alternatively put them on hold).

We have gone from 700 vacancies down to ten, if that. No-one is currently recruiting for conveyancing. The market is dead in the water, and it is not clear how long it will take before it picks up again. Almost every firm in the UK with more than two or three solicitors has made redundancies and while some of these are clearly attempts to get rid of dead wood or cut salaries, there is certainly an underlying trend going through that the markets are changing and conveyancing is going on the back burner for a lot of firms.

The sheer number of lawyers looking for conveyancing work means that it is unlikely that agencies will be inundated with new conveyancing jobs for quite some considerable time.

There are still some opportunities out there, but usually for solicitors with a following or alternatively those who are prepared to work on a commission only basis.

For example, in the second week of September we took a new post in from a Leicester firm who were quite interested in talking to conveyancing solicitors either with a following or prepared to work on a commission only basis. It is a different form of legal recruitment, namely going back to almost a sales base if you are working on a commission only basis, but it is certainly something to consider if there is nothing else out there and you want to stop in the field.

In summary, the conveyancing market is not good, and it is not anticipated to improve for at least the next three to six months. The recent survey on this blog found that most people found it would pick up within six months.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and can be contacted at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or telephone 0207 127 4343.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What do you do if you do not know the answer to a question in interview?

This is a very difficult piece of advice to give. Firstly there is no real correct answer, because if you do not know the answer to a question, either because you lack the requisite knowledge, the interviewer has asked the most ridiculous question or you are so nervous about the interview your brain has fried and are panicking.

The first instance, if you do not the answer because you do not have the knowledge to answer the question, it is often best to take a little bit of time to think about whether you can come up with an answer that perhaps is somewhat vague or bluffed, and a good way of doing this is to ask for a glass of water. Have a sip of the water whilst you think about it. If nothing is forthcoming afterwards, you then have to move on to plan B.

You can also consider simply saying, I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that, and if it is a question that would require knowledge of some sort, you could perhaps say, if I was in practice or if I was in a work environment, I would tell the client I was unable to give them the advice and go and research it before getting back to them with the answer.

This is what you would do in reality, and it may be something that you could get away with. That could indicate that you lack the knowledge to do the job and there is no real way round this.

If the question is so ridiculous, it does not really have an answer, and these can occur and perhaps where the interviewer has asked a really clever question, but is so clever it does not actually have an answer and he cannot remember himself what his question was. If this happens, it is very hard to know what to say really, except, could you repeat the question, please, and perhaps get them to elaborate on the second part or perhaps to say, I’m sorry, I did not quite catch the second part of that question, could you repeat it? You may pick up some clues from this and this may assist you with your answer. You have to be careful interview about asking for the repeat of the question because it almost comes across that you are trying to bide time and it can infuriate the interviewer who then has to go back and think of the question again and may in fact struggle to do so.

If you are panicking about a question and therefore cannot answer because you are so nervous, the glass of water is perhaps your saviour. Even this will only give you a little bit of time to buy thinking space. As I said at the start of this article, there is no right or wrong solution to this. If you do not know the answer to a question and are unable to bluff your way through, there is very little that you can in fact do to avoid the negative aspect of your response.

In summary, you need to make sure that you have a glass of water to provide you with thinking space, be prepared to say that you do not know the answer but you would go and research your response if you were in practice and being consulted by a client and controlling your nerves so that you do not panic in an interview environment. Do not be put off by the response of the interviewer who may roll their eyes or mark their paper with a cross. You can always redeem the interview by providing other good answers that make the interviewer forget the response that you have given.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New start up firm – reality or dreams?

Recently Ten Percent Legal Recruitment (www.ten-percent.co.uk) has been involved with two start up firms who have requested CVs for a range of candidates to set up law firms at a time when the market may not actually be ideal.

The first of these was a non-qualified lawyer looking to invest her own money and a backer’s into a new firm with between two and six solicitors working in a range of law, including family law, corporate immigration and corporate commercial. We received paperwork through to show what the firm’s intentions were and how they intended to proceed, and also information about the sort of candidate they were after. We contacted candidates, advising them as per usual that this was a start up firm and could never make it into reality and got a good response, particularly in the current market with the number of vacancies being fairly reduced.

After numerous meetings and interview, an offer was made to a family solicitor and fairly senior level, with good media exposure to date for £55,000, starting when the firm was incorporated and covered by the law society. Other candidates were in the pipeline as well and offers were made at £45,000 and £50,000 to two other fairly senior but towards the high street end solicitors. We held numerous discussions with a number of candidates and constantly warned of the possibility that this was just fantasy on the part of the person considering the start up.

We have discovered that, yes, indeed, was potentially either an academic study or someone playing at trying to be a solicitor. The solicitors involved have been absolutely horrified, I think, by the sheer ignorance of the person who has set this up as they have had no consideration at all for the careers or circumstances of the lawyers they were looking to recruit.

So how can you avoid this?

Firstly, there is little that you can do if going to speak to start up firms and indeed a lot of solicitors refuse to have anything to do with them precisely for this reason. You may find yourself speaking and negotiating for quite some time before discovering that in actual fact, the firm had no intention of employing you and the whole thing has been shelved. It is one thing to discuss a potential job and another entirely to get a firm up and running and making money.

A second start up has also occurred this summer and again, Ten Percent has been involved with this with the usual caveats that nothing may happen and the whole thing may just be a complete waste of everyone’s time, but at present, it looks like the firm may actually be going ahead, but will they open their doors and start taking clients?

Over the years, we have tried to avoid dealing with most start ups because of these problems as candidates then come back to us and think that we have in some way been involved in the whole thing and partly responsible. We find that some start ups are very genuine and clearly have a good intention and many take on staff and have a good business plan in place that will work, whereas other start ups have no intention at all of doing anything other than seeing who is out there and how much they will cost.

If you do intend to apply for a start up firm, you need to have in the back of your mind that nothing may happen and the money being offered maybe a fantasy on the part of the person interviewing you.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. You can reach him for careers advice, coaching and consultations at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or visit the website at www.ten-percent.co.uk

Monday, September 15, 2008

If you had a million, how would you spend or invest it?

This question was asked by a City firm recently and I have heard of it before on numerous occasions. It requires you to think carefully from a financial side and also to have a good grasp of financial terminology and an understanding of more general concepts that are effecting the financial markets at the time of the interview.

If somebody asked me that question, I would have an answer in my head because I think about where to invest £1 million if I ever had it all the time. I think my answer would be as follows:

If I suddenly received £1 million, I would immediately put it all in a savings account whilst I considered what to do with the money. I would be looking for at least 4.5 percent and I would start consulting financial advisors as to where would be the best places to invest. My interest would be particularly in looking to invest or purchase companies to expand my businesses rather than simply to invest in products or savings vehicles. I would be particularly interested in investing in something diverse from my current business interests. They include the purchase of a couple of companies with their own freeholds and existing operations all intact.

Whilst this may not sound the most interesting of answers, this is the genuine answer I would give if anyone asked me this in a discussion. I am very interested in investing money in other companies and enterprises, if I ever had any to invest, as you can sit back and watch your money grow with a more minimal input than if you were running your own company. You also have a say and/or control over what happens to your money. So for example, if you purchased a café, you would be in a position to change the menu or increase that advertising if your revenue dropped. This would not be the case if you invested in a pension or bonds or unit trusts.

Obviously for the purposes of the question, you need to understand what the terminology is and to have a think about how you would invest the money before you went to interview or you do run the risk of umming and erring a lot instead of just giving a straight response. Again this is a question without a right or wrong answer. It is simply a response that you have to give to the firm for them to consider.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. You can contact him at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or visit the website at www.ten-percent.co.uk.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Interview techniques for employers

This article is a discussion of interview techniques for employers and in particular how to get the most out of your interviews and to avoid the common pitfalls.

The first thing you must do when interviewing for a position is to decide actually what you are looking for and what is important to achieve out of employing that particular candidate. One thing we often find with employers is that they have very unreasonable expectations as to what exactly they are looking for in their employee. For example, a central London company like to recruit professionals from a City background with impeccable academics. This sounds great but the salary they are offering is less than a secretary would get for a post in a central London firm. This means that if they do find anyone with the background they are looking for, the chances are they will be completely unfit for any employment and probably in copious amounts of debt or alcoholics.

There are other firms similarly who try to recruit very junior members of staff for what really ought to be very senior posts. The idea is that this saves them the cost of the salary and the effect it will have on their overheads. Again this is a false economy. A junior member of staff will require a lot of training and support whereas if they were paying more money for somebody more senior, that person would not need the support and would get on immediately with the task of generating income.

Another problem or issue comes up with marketing and sales. If there is any marketing and sales involved in a post then the employer needs to think carefully about how important this is. Sales and marketing are two particular skills that a lot of employees lack as it takes a certain sort of person to be able to cold call someone and convert this into sales or to network and generate income out of contacts they find there. If sales and marketing are a particularly important part of a post, it is vital that the employer looks at the sales and marketing background of the person they are interviewing. Experience and academic ability will play absolutely no part in this particular element of the role.

So how do you find all of this out?

The first thing is to speak to the recruitment agents involved and specify exactly what you are looking for from the outset. There is nothing more frustrating as a recruitment consultant than being given a brief job specification from an employer who then decided to completely change it when he gets the candidates in for interview. It’s not only embarrassing for the recruitment consultant, it is also a complete waste of everybody’s time including the employers because those particular candidates will be there to be interviewed for the post they have been told about and not a new one. A worse case scenario was an incident my company had some years ago where a number of interviews were arranged with a salary bracket and a particular job and when the candidates arrived for the interview, they were informed it was a completely different field and the salary was half that, that had been indicated. Needless to say, nearly all of them walked out of the interview after a few minutes.

Although that employer might have thought he had been clever in getting them in to see him and then hoping he could persuade one of them to stop, in actual fact, he probably wasted about two to three hours of fee earning time which cost him in the region of about £500.

It is very important to make sure that the information you provide to your recruiters is accurate and reflects exactly what your organisation is looking for.

The Interview

Make sure that your reception area or waiting room or general foyer is clean and tidy and warn your staff in advance that someone is coming through to you.

We hear horror stories every year of firms and companies who have people waiting interview whilst the secretaries are having a fight in the back and arguing and telling each other how awful each of the various directors or employees is. We have also had stories of secretaries and receptionists who have been very rude to the person being interviewed and in one case, so much so that the interviewee walked out before the interview on the basis that she did not want to work the firm. In fact, your staff can help you because they are warned that the person is coming and they can perhaps strike up a conversation with them and provide you with an extra pair of ears and a set of opinions as to what they thought. This can be very important because if your staff do not like them, they are not going to last with your organisation. In fact, it could even pay to have somebody sit in reception in the waiting area with the person. You can see if they impress a new client. You could even ask them to play devil’s advocate and test them out to see if they will react positively to a negative situation and ask the person who is sitting with them to criticise your organisation and see what the interviewee does.

Before the interview, make sure the room you are interviewing in is clean and tidy and there is plenty of space. Remove all the files off your desk if there are any and make sure the room is cleaned.

If there are other people who will be working with the interviewee, make sure they are in the building so that they can meet the person as well and assess them themselves. It may be that they have very positive or negative views of that person and this will help you decide whether you would want to employ them.

If you are meeting someone at very senior level, it is probably worth having the first meeting in a separate location to your offices. A neutral venue is often a good idea because it could mean that the person could simply discuss the role with you without any predefined conceptions of your offices or staff.

Interview Style

There are lots of don’ts related to this, one of these is don’t talk too much about yourself and not have questions planned before you start the interview. Download 100 questions off the legal recruitment website before you start firing questions at the interviewee. Have some technical questions ready to ask as well, and in particular, have a file or process ready to test the interviewee with as this is why you are employing them. If they are unable to do that particular task or know anything about the action you wish them to take, it is very unlikely that you would want to employ them. Be nice to the person you are interviewing. Do not try the “we don’t have a job, but we may be able to help you in the future” approach. This never works but simply infuriates the candidate who may well have taken time off work or gone to quite an extreme to get to see you on that particular day.

More about interview styles in the next article.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. He regular interviews and gives guidance on interviewing via the website at www.ten-percent.co.uk and also coaches graduates and professionals at all levels of their career. Details of the coaching service can be found at www.jbfagan.co.uk .

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Interview question - overcoming a hurdle

Interview question – Describe a situation where you have been involved in a team and had to overcome a hurdle to achieve your aims.

This sort of question is probably every interviewees’ worst question. People who have been interviewed more than once or who have practiced interviews before attending any will have a stock answer ready and prepared for exactly this sort of question whether it be this sort of thing or something along the lines of describing a situation where you have had to achieve a result and overcome problems within the team etcetera.

The first thing to say is that you need to think of something that is actually in a team. You must listen to the question carefully because if the question requires you to describe a situation where you have to overcome a hurdle, you also need a hurdle to overcome.

One of the main let downs with this question amongst interviewees is that they don’t listen to the question and just hear the words team and situation. You must listen to the question carefully and tailor your answer to it, even if the answer is a stock one that you have already prepared.

The next thing to say is that the situation should ideally be work related unless you have a very interesting scenario from some interest or activity that you have. An example would be if you had competed in the Olympics or Paralympics and there were some interesting story you could tell. If not, I usually suggest avoiding stories about school or stories about any activities such as scouts or guides, or stories involving work places where you job has been casual such as working in a hotel as a waiter unless there is something particularly interesting.

I think the situation should also be something where there has been a genuine hurdle. Too many times I have heard answers to the question that have involved an interesting scenario at work, but there has been no hurdle to overcome. If there is no hurdle to overcome then you have not answered the question regardless of how interesting your scenario is.

One of the best things about taking commercial work placements is that there are almost always situations where you have been part of a team and you can give examples. Most work placements in the larger commercial practices involve team work exercises and similar so you have plenty of opportunities to give examples. If you have no legal work experience you will have to think of another work situation in a different environment to give an example from, but you will struggle with this as it does really need to be something work related and in order for it to be interesting to lawyers it ideally needs some legal element to it. Without this it will be quite awkward to answer the question.

I’m not sure what the interviewer gets out of this question. I think it is just the idea of putting the interviewee under a bit of stress to see how they deal with the question and whether they answer both elements of it. I don’t recall ever listening that closely to anybody’s answer without feeling extremely bored as not that interesting question and most answers tend to be fairly waffly and about scenarios that not very interesting.

In summary you need a situation or a scenario and a hurdle that you overcame. The situation needs to be ideally legally related and something from a work environment, and the hurdle needs to be a genuine one. Keep the answer as to the point as possible although it does not need to be extremely short and the object of the question is to allow you a bit of time to formulate a fairly detailed answer.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. You can contact him by email on cv@ten-percent.co.uk or by telephone on 0207 127 4343.

Monday, September 08, 2008

BVC Student Applications.

We have had a spate of calls in recent weeks from BVC students and graduates phoning up to inform me that they are looking for temporary work and can we help them.

I usually refer such telephone callers to our blog as I have written about this countless times on different issues for different graduates and law students but for some reasons BVC students and graduates seem to think that they are a cut above all the other students and graduates for some reason known only to themselves.

I even had one yesterday who when I said we were unable to assist said, “You are a legal recruitment agency, aren’t you?” I find such attitudes amazing, when someone is phoning me to get a favour and yet phones up and speaks to me as if I should be grateful that I am talking to them. It also seems to be a common failing that amongst graduates and students to realise that such approach just does not work in the legal profession and that firms and chambers do not look for aggression, but rather for someone who appears able to hold their own, appear confident but also be polite.

I reiterate Ten Percent’s position here which is that we are very unlikely to be able to assist anyone who is a BVC or LPC student or graduate to find a training contract, work experience placement, paralegal placement or mini puplip. I am afraid that you are on your own with this, there is no assistance that can be given to you. Ten Percent do run a legal work experience scheme and you can sign up for that on our website. We can’t take telephone calls from people enquiring about temporary work if they have no experience at their academic qualification. You will probably be wasting your time with the vast majority of agencies as very few will be able to assist if any. I say this every time on the telephone but there are some large London agencies who might be able to assist you with temporary work, but you need to be aware that in the summer months they will be inundated with applicants who have finished their courses and are looking for work. You really create your own luck in the legal profession, and if you are a student or graduate, the best piece of advice I can give you is if you have not yet got a training contract or career planned out, you need to go and get as much experience as you can as this opens doors for you. Doors only open if you put your foot in them, and it is no use expecting someone else to do the running or work for you. You need to be phoning firms, writing to them, identifying places to get in touch with for experience, and then using that experience to find yourself a job.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment, consultants for solicitors and legal executives. Although we are very unlikely to be able to assist students and graduates, we do offer career coaching and a legal work experience scheme and details of both are available on our website at www.ten-percent.co.uk

Thursday, September 04, 2008

MoneySupermarket.com enter the legal market

"In university they don't tell you that the greater part of the law is learning to tolerate fools." Doris Lessing, 1919.

It has been reported today that MoneySupermarket.com are going to enter the legal market with comparison prices for conveyancing, personal injury and wills & probate. The Law Society Gazette wheeled in the usual experts to profess the end of the solicitors profession as we see it, and to warn of the need to get on board or wilter away.

In fact, it serves as an opportunity to increase your business. If you go onto moneysupermarket.com and do a search in any of the categories for a service, you will usually not find companies like Tescos or the Coop as producing the cheapest. If you shop at Tescos and compare their prices to a much smaller enterprise for groceries for example, Tescos is usually not very cheap. From personal experience, our local organic store is actually cheaper than Tescos on the vast majority of vegetables and fruit. The same will apply to legal services. A writer to the Gazette this week talks about the Cooperative Legal Services quoting a price of about £8,000 to undertake probate. The reason they can try and charge so much is because they can sometimes get away with it. On Moneysupermarket.com you cannot get away with it. Often solicitors firms on the high street will be cheaper than the bigger players, and in all likelihood the quotations for conveyancing, personal injury and wills & probate will be cheaper from smaller specialists who get listed on the Moneysupermarket.com website.

I have come across financial advisers with estate planning departments this week quoting £800 upwards for basic will writing services that are probably worth up to about £300 in a solicitors firm. It is perhaps a good example of a market that has no larger players being carved up by firms playing on the ignorance of their clients and charging fees that do not reflect a healthy profit or any work involved. Again, another reason why moneysupermarket.com may be a good option to consider joining.

Disabled students and the legal profession

We received an email from a disabled student yesterday asking what to do about revealing her disability to potential law firms. She explained that she was concerned that people would consider the practical and not want to employ her or interview her as it would be too costly for the law firm. She wondered whether it was appropriate to tell firms that she had a disability and to explain what it was from the date she first made contact. My advice would be to consider each firm carefully. If you are applying to a large London practice or regional commercial firm, you would probably find they would actively encourage you to apply formally as most are very well equipped to cover access in wheelchairs. I have been in quite a few of the London firms and regional firms. I have to say that most have lifts and disabled access. There are also quite a lot of disabled lawyers. I think for example of a barrister who was in a wheelchair and regularly was in court dealing with cases with no problems at all. I also think of solicitors I have seen over the years in wheelchairs or blind or deaf. It does not follow that the disability should prevent you from practicing as a solicitor but there are a couple of issues you may want to consider on the practical side.

There are a lot of high street firms who will not be able to accommodate a wheelchair, and regardless of the rights or wrongs of whether they ought to make an effort, the fact remains that if you are a high street practice with, for example, a training contract to offer, and you are on the first floor of an office block with no lift access, it is very unlikely that a, you would be able to employ a wheelchair bound trainee solicitor or b, the wheelchair bound trainee solicitor would actually want to work at the firm as there would be very little mobility in such a building for them. It is a matter really of considering the firm in question. If they are only a small practice, they are not going to want to spend a lot of money enabling you to have access to their offices. Therefore, if they have 100 applications and the other 99 are not disabled, it is very likely that the partners would consider the other 99 before they would consider a disabled applicant. I do not say this to actively encourage employers to ignore the disabled applicants as each applicant ought to be taken on an equal footing, but I realize the practical issues affecting a small business owner and whether it would be feasible for a firm to either change offices to accommodate a disabled lawyer or install equipment.

There is no reason why the applicant can not consider where they are applying and targeting their approaches accordingly, I haven’t even mentioned local authorities or government institutions who are very well set up to deal with disabled applicants, and to make sure that access to a particular firm is going to be possible.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment, international recruitment consultants for lawyers and legal executives. You can contact the company at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or telephone 0207 127 4343.

Monday, September 01, 2008

How to handle negotiations for job offers

In the current market, job offers are issued in a somewhat nervous manner at times. Recently we have experienced a firm getting very nervous about negotiation and withdrawing completely from a job offer.

A solicitor was offered a post in a small to medium firm in the south east. At three years qualified, the salary was very good and was in line with figures you would expect to see in a good firm across the UK. The candidate accepted the offer immediately and a contract was sent out. Upon receipt of the contract, the candidate decided that there were points in it that needed to be negotiated and discussed further, so they got back in touch with the firm with a list of requests.

The firm considered these and within about two hours had withdrawn the offer.

So what had the candidate done wrong? Firstly, in the current market, firms are very nervous about everything. Whether this is recruitment or purchase of new equipment or just business in general, they are terrified that something is going to go wrong, or they are going to find themselves in financial difficulties. This particular offer had been made and the contract negotiation had made the firm very nervous, so rather than negotiate further, they had simply withdrawn.

The candidate had wanted to negotiate overtime as well as extended holidays and also requesting confirmation of payment of practicing certificate and CPD costs.

I think the point that had worried the firm the most was the query about overtime. The candidate had noted in the contract that the firm had indicated overtime was expected and that they would require the candidate to work as necessary. The contract did stipulate that any time worked out of hours could be taken off the following day if it was for events such as business breakfasts or networking in the evening. However, the candidate wanted paid overtime for any hours worked after ordinary office hours, and this terrified the firm as they naturally expected their solicitors to work after hours as necessary to get the job done. I think this point above all others was the one that resulted in the job withdrawal as in the circumstances of a recession, work getting harder to source, it could be said that one has to put in more hours to get the same returns as in a good market. It is all a question of reasonableness and this has to be from both sides, employer and employee.

The final nail in the coffin was the request for more than three weeks off in any three month period that may occur. From a recruitment angle, this is unheard of. I have not come across any contracting employments that provides for employees to take more than three weeks off in any three month period and have even come across clauses that prevent anyone from taking more than two weeks off in a period of employment at all, unless in special circumstances and approved by the partnership or board.

The problem is of course, that if you take three weeks off in any one period, you then have no holiday for the remainder of the year which can result in people needing to take unpaid leave or phone up and take sickness, as for their appointments during office hours, they would simply be unable to attend them.

What lessons can be learned on negotiating a job contract in the current market? Firstly, if you have gone through an agency to get a job, don’t forget to use the agency to do your negotiating for you. Consultants spend a good proportion of time negotiating contracts and are usually very experienced at it. They can also frame things in a way that does not appear too worrying for law firms, so for example, for this particular candidate, we could have enquired about a specific event requiring three weeks off in a three month period – perhaps a honeymoon or a house move etcetera. We also could have advised the candidate on the issue of overtime and the fact that this is not paid in any law firm unless in particular circumstances where perhaps a contract was needed to be completed over a weekend.

We could also have applied on the payment of a practicing certificate and CPD points, because I suspect the firm in this instance felt slightly demeaned by the request for this to be confirmed as every respectable law firm pay for these and it goes without saying that they are included. Again, a recruitment consultant can put this in a better way than an employee can.

In general, if you receive a job offer from a firm in the current climate, you need to think carefully about how you deal with it. Make sure that you consider it carefully because there are not as many vacancies out there or sources of work and once you have considered it carefully, make sure that you approach negotiations with an open mind and do not try to push the firm into a corner on specific demands.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. He regularly writes and commentates on the state of the legal profession and legal recruitment in general. His website is www.ten-percent.co.uk and you can contact him at cv@ten-percent.co.uk

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Equal opportunities and recruitment agencies

Earlier in the summer Eversheds published a report or made a press statement to say that recruitment agents ought to be forced to promote diversity and equal opportunities and that the blame for failing to do so in law firms lay firmly at the doors of recruitment consultants. (If I have misrepresented Eversheds in any way with this, please accept my apologies and Eversheds, feel free to write to me).

I agree partly with Eversheds in this matter. There are very few recruitment agencies, including ourselves who measure equal opportunities and diversity when candidates register with agents on their websites or presumably by sending a CV by post.

In fact, the call from Eversheds has made me think twice about it and Ten Percent will shortly be adding a selection of equal opportunities questions at the bottom of every registration form so that we are able to quantify sex, ethnic origin and possibly age as well.

I have considered it before, but decided against it on the basis that some candidates may feel that the reasons we are asking the questions is to positively discriminate against them, particularly on the age or sex issue. Whilst this is usually obvious what somebody’s age is and also what sex they are, not so obvious as to what their ethnic origin is.

I was asked a few months ago by a candidate with an African name whether I thought firms were directly discriminating against her on the basis of this. She particularly asked about an incident where her CV had been rejected, yet the firm had wanted to interview another candidate. I did explain that the other person’s surname was similarly ‘foreign’ in sound and that that person was not white. However, a suspicion remains in the legal profession amongst ethnic minority background candidates that there is discrimination going on and that it is spread across the board. So whilst there are things that recruitment consultants can do, and I do intend to act upon the statement or press release by Eversheds to ensure that we know the make up of our candidate database, it is also incumbent on the firms themselves to ensure that no direct or indirect discrimination takes place.

It wasn’t that long ago that most firms would automatically reject anybody over a certain age for particular jobs, although I do have to say that in my experience, Eversheds have been quite proactive on age for a long, long time. I recall a selection day that I attended many years ago where half the potential candidates were easily over 35.

There are firms in the UK who seem to automatically reject any CV that has an African or Asian sounding name on it, and although there is no evidence that any racism is involved, there is the distinct possibility that this is the case.

It would be interesting for someone to do a study of some law firms and to make an application with an African sounding name, an Asian sounding name and a traditionally British sounding name such as Smith or Jones. I am pretty sure that there would be an element of discrimination evident somewhere at some firm if the comparison were made but it does not just follow that discrimination can be direct or indirect on the race side, as I have come across instances where we have sent CVs through for female solicitors between the ages of 25 and 35 and had a telephone call from the senior partner of that particular firm asking us whether we thought that that candidate would be having a family shortly and whether they were married. Whilst these questions could be perfectly harmless, it is clear what intention the senior partner has and what that particular law firm are trying to avoid – namely maternity leave and the need to appoint a locum for six to nine months or find a replacement if the candidate doesn’t come back. Whilst I can understand an employer having concerns like this, particularly when a small firm is involved, it is not acceptable. They should really be ashamed of themselves. It’s not equal opportunity or fair and appropriate behaviour for a law firm.

In summary, I agree partly with the Eversheds statement that agencies and consultants should be able to audit their candidate database to show that they are promoting diversity and equal opportunities, but at the end of the day it is the law firms themselves who recruit and if an agent sends through four candidates with three of them having overseas sounding names and the law firm only wish to interview the candidate without an overseas sounding name, there is little the recruitment consultancy can do as it is up to the law firm who decide whether they are discriminating against the three overseas sounding named solicitors.

Jonathan Fagan in Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment (www.ten-percent.co.uk). He regularly commentates and writes on the legal profession and the legal recruitment and job market in the UK and overseas. You can contact Ten Percent at cv@ten-percent.co.uk.