Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

June Newsletter for Candidates

June Newsletter 2008 for Candidates
"A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns." Don Corleone, The Godfather

"Welcome to the June Newsletter for Candidates. I hope you find it interesting."
Jonathan Fagan LLM Solicitor (non-practising), MREC, CertRP
Managing Director, Limited.

Equal Rights for Agency Workers

The government has announced this morning that agency workers will have the same employment rights as permanent staff after 12 weeks. This means that in some cases, locums not only get the benefit of good working conditions (ie being able to leave when they realise the senior partner is completely mad), but also gain equal pay to permanent staff. Tom Hadley, Director of External Relations for the Recruitment & Employment Confederation said: “ regulations will impact on the viability of temp and contract work in the UK, especially at such a delicate time in the UK labour market. It is also a frustration for recruiters that the debate on agency work regulation has not been based on real evidence." In reality this is not going to impact at all on the work of locums and solicitors working on a contractual basis. This is because most if not all such contractors actually get paid more than the permanent staff at the same firm.. I wonder whether in the weeks to come a permanent member of staff is going to put in a claim to get the same conditions that a temporary worker enjoys in the legal profession...

"The Firm looked more like a brothel" - the recent experiences of a candidate

This week we have experienced a phenomenon that I haven’t seen in place for quite some time. A law firm in the Midlands requested CVs for a number of candidates and it appeared they were selecting on a fairly tight set of criteria. Ten Percent Legal Recruitment booked the interviews which were to be held over three days and the candidates duly proceeded to attend.

We suspected something was not quite right with the firm after the first candidate had been and telephoned us to say that the law firm offices were above a kebab shop, looked like the entrance to a brothel, wasn’t quite sure how the person interviewing had passed themselves off as a solicitor as they certainly didn’t seem like one and gave the candidate a lecture for 20 minutes on why the firm couldn’t employ them. He explained that the law firm had then offered him a job paying £14,000 a year, that showed great opportunity and potential for him, but that he’d be expected to work the first three months free of charge. What’s more, he wanted the candidate’s mobile number so that he could avoid telling the agency (i.e. us) that the law firm had recruited the candidate. Fortunately the candidate found it all very amusing, and an interesting experience, but as a recruitment agency we were very embarrassed by this. The law firm have yet to comment on their actions and behaviour, or to explain why they were trying to interview and recruit candidates looking for considerably more than the measly amount they were offering as well as the free trial period.

How do you avoid such firms? Well, this is the first law firm I have come across since 2002 who have tried this out, and the last time a firm did something like this, they took three candidates, none of which we were aware of until we saw them on the Law Society Directory, and eventually we had to send bailiffs in to receive payment. The law firm was subsequently intervened, closed down and the principal struck off about a year later.

I suppose that this is one of the pitfalls of being a low cost operator in the recruitment world, and never meeting our clients except in exceptional circumstances. We do try and avoid such incidents from occurring, and get the facts from law firms before we send anyone for interview at the practices.

I must say that this sort of incident is about as interesting as the recruitment industry gets, as working as a recruitment consultant is never something that brings up many topics of conversation at the dinner table. I have to look back fondly on my days as a criminal defence solicitor when I could be discussing a murder over the table with my wife as we ate our dinner, and the various implications of it and any press involvement etc. These days I have to content myself with discussing business issues, and how many interviews I have arranged in a day.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. Ten Percent are specialist legal recruitment consultants covering the whole of the legal job market nationally and internationally including Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. You can contact Jonathan at

Conveyancing - where has it gone?

In the last three weeks, I have seen more conveyancing lawyers register with us than in the previous three months - we are currently experiencing a backlog of about 70-100 CVs and registration forms every week. There have been redundancies across London and the South East, and although the vast majority have been concentrated in these areas, we have also started to see redundancies in the North West, particularly in Manchester. Most other areas remain unaffected, and a lot of the redundancies also seem to be coming from firms who have expanded quite rapidly over the last 2 years or so and take referrals from other sources. If you find yourself in this position, the first thing is not to panic. There may well be an upturn in the market, and to be frank I cannot see this currently staying like this - I expect it to be lifting in the next two months. Keep an eye on our market reports for recruiting trends.

Interview question – where do you see yourself in five years?

We recently had a set of written responses to some of our 100 interview questions given to us by one of our candidates, who had used it to enhance her CV. We thought this was a good idea as it meant that firms could see what their responses were going to be to the interview questions before she went to the interview, and one of the answers was particularly interesting and amusing. The question was, where do you see yourself in five years time, and this is a standard question asked quite regularly by firms up and down the UK.

She answered, on a beach, sat in a bar being spoon fed olives by a waiter in a g-string. Underneath this she had written, but seriously… etcetera.

This made all the consultants laugh, but brings me to a point that we often discuss as consultants is, how much humour should you use in a job application; when is it appropriate and when should you avoid it.

If somebody said this to me in an interview, I would probably be relatively amused, it is a funny thing, quite a witty thing to have said, but also felt slightly uncomfortable at the use of this. I have to say that my advice to people over the years when it comes to interviews, CVs, covering letters and application forms, that humour should be avoided at all costs. You are able to impart your humour when you attend for interviews, this is a vital part of the interview process – i.e. making sure that you share a similar sense of humour with the person you are interviewing.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment ( He regularly comments and advises on the state of the legal recruitment market. He can be contacted at press comment or free careers advice.

Estate Agents fuelling the media

Many years ago, my wife and myself put our house up for sale in Leicestershire. It was a small terraced house with two bedrooms and a small garden at the back. We had not sold a house before so we decided to call in three estate agents to see what price they would give us and how much it would cost to sell the house. The first estate agent gave us a price of £95,000 on the house but said we may have to drop it to £90,000. The second estate agent said that the house still needed some work, but we may be able to reach £105,000 for it, although we would probably have to accept £95,000. The third estate agent said he wasn’t quite sure what price it would get, but he was pretty sure we would get £90,000 for it.

We thought very hard about this advice and the valuations and decided to put the house on the market for £115,000. We believed that we knew the local market better than the estate agents, even though they were based about 200 yards from the house.

Sure enough, with two adverts in the local press and a for sale sign and right move place, with the Little House Company, and we sold the house in two weeks. The price we reached was the full asking price, less £1000 for the cost of new damp course proof in one of the rooms.

The sale went through with no hitch and we did not pay any estate agency fees apart from £100 to The Little House Company. The interesting thing with the valuations was that the estate agents actually had no idea what the price ought to have been. They were simply reaching a price based on their opinions of the general area, rather than the desirability or the potential sale value in one specific street. Their views were clouded by the need to keep sales turning over and cash flow coming in at their end, and a general lack of professional knowledge being used rather than simply guesswork.

As homeowners we knew what price we needed to get for the house, and it was more than the valuation the estate agent had given. We also guessed that if we put the house on at the valuation they made, offers would be made below that valuation rather than above it (obviously).

On our next house, I recognised that we may have to use an estate agent simply because it is a slightly better valued house, and the use of the estate agent will make a lot of difference to the viewing audience of the fact that we want to sell it.

How does this relate to trends in house prices being amiss? Well, if you look at who is providing the valuations for the houses, it is the surveyors and the estate agents. I heard this morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that surveyors have reported a ninth consecutive drop in valuations in the last year, and that this has not happened for some time. But who is providing the valuations? It is the surveyors and the estate agents. Therefore, if they decide that the market is struggling and they are unable to sell houses at the speed they need to keep the cash flow generating for their own businesses, they are obviously going to start providing lower valuations on houses and blame the credit crunch and poor housing market for the valuation.

It clearly becomes self perpetuating, because as this happens and valuations are lower, home owners start finding that offers are being made below the lower valuations and feel the need to accept if they have to sell because they have very little choice in the matter if they need to find a new house somewhere else or of a different size. This affects the legal profession slightly, as conveyancing work of the traditional kind (i.e. a homeowner selling their house and moving to another house) suddenly starts to be slightly curtailed as people decide not to sell until they see if the market has got better. Talking to family and friends it is clear that the media are having an effect on the market as some of the comments being made such as, “I wouldn’t sell your house at the moment, the market is terrible”. It’s clearly a general perception of the media reporting, which is almost like a dripping tap at times in the way that news is gathered and presented as evidence of a trend.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. He regularly writes and commentates on the state of the legal job market and the issues affecting legal recruitment agencies and consultancies. He can be reached for press comments on

Outsourcing Transcription Work

I was recently reading an article in The Guardian about outsourcing, and a lifestyle coach who stated that his opinion to try and outsource everything to someone else to do, whether this be a business or at home, and you will reap the rewards yourself in terms of time available and also cost in the long term.

One possibility for law firms is to outsource any transcription work that is not required instantaneously. Ten Percent Legal Recruitment uses a transcribing company, they specialise in analogue and digital transcription work. The way the service works is quite simple. You purchase an Olympus DSS recorder (I use the DS2300), dictate your letters, blog, articles or statements, plug your handheld recorder into your computer with a USB lead, and download your recordings. You then go into your file manager and click send to email. The recordings are sent to the company, who return them to you as soon as they are complete, which is usually within 24 hours for anything of a reasonable length. If you would like to try this service, simply email with a recording and see how you get on. I regularly use the service to dictate my blog, I have to say that the speed always impresses me. I know that a lot of law firms are looking into this technology as an option for cutting costs, and if it gives any indication, I estimate that by using the service, I am saving about 40 to 50 percent of the cost of employing a secretary to work out of our offices to do the same work.

It also means that you have very enthusiastic workers available at any time, when you use a service like because they have a bank of transcribers who are all available to do the work, and you do not need to worry about staff being off sick or unavailable or overloaded. The transcribers themselves are home workers on the whole are very grateful for the work that fits in with their lifestyles.

So the next time you have a piece of work and your secretary is unable to do it for you, give transcription companies a thought as it may be worth trying them out and seeing whether they save you money in the short, medium or long term.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. He is also a management consultant and regularly advises law firms on a whole range of business issues as well as recruitment. He can be contacted at or on 0845 644 3923.

About Us

Ten-Percent handle a wide range of assignments, from finding a newly qualified solicitor for a post in September through to assisting a partner with a following move from one firm to another. The company also deals with the whole spectrum of legal jobs, from support staff, paralegals, office managers and cashiers, through to NQ solicitors, FILEXexecutives and senior solicitors.

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