Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New start up firm – reality or dreams?

Recently Ten Percent Legal Recruitment ( 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 or visit the website at

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