Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year for 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR FOR 2010 - We hope that you all have a prosperous and peaceful New Year and look forward to working with you in 2010. Best Wishes from the Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment Team (Hannah, Pete, Sara, Jonathan, Pearl and Clare).

I hope to update the blog more often in 2010, and plan to add sections both to the blog and also to the website in 2010, with toolkits for CV preparation and checks, marketing and speculative search plans, interview guidance including online interview practice tools.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas Presents for Lawyers

Christmas is almost upon us, and I take the opportunity to provide a list of possible Christmas presents for lawyers and recruitment consultants, as well as shamelessly plug our own Christmas present ideas for solicitors, barristers, paralegals and anyone else.

Firstly, www.ten-percent.co.uk/cv.html
Gift Vouchers for Careers & CV Writing Services, ranging from £25 to £500. What could be a better present than one that could last a lifetime...

www.cafepress.co.uk - lots of interesting T Shirts and cups and things - including a baby outfit with "my mummys a lawyer" - would anyone really be brave enough to send their child off to nursery in this?

http://www.carbolicsmokeball.com/catalog/287/Large_Carbolic_Smoke_Ball_Advert_(Unframed_Print)/
This is by far the best present I have seen - a large poster sized version of the Smoke Ball advert - I bet this gets sold to loads of 1st year law students every year.. A bargain at £20.00.

(incidentally we dont get any commission for these links!).
Also from the same site - 'Non Illegitimi Carborundum' woven diagonally, with lion motifs in the pattern. A tie with the famous motive on - isnt this the motive on the watch sent to Asil Nadir by a Tory MP before he legged it to Northern Cyprus many years ago?

Jonathan Fagan, MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment - www.ten-percent.co.uk

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What Role do Recruitment Agencies have in a post-recession world?

This Article ought to be subtitled “permanent recruitment” as opposed to “temporary recruitment” because as far as I can see the temporary recruitment side of the business is very unlikely to suffer many effects under the recession.

Permanent recruitment has always been the more risky end of the business in relation to effects of recession. I can remember starting my consultancy Ten Percent Legal Recruitment back in April 2000 and speaking to an educated lady who was working as a police station visitor at the time, who when I said that I had set up a recruitment agency replied “you had better hope there is not a recession if you are doing permanent recruitment”.

At the time I did not think much of this as we had just about finished the Dot.com bubble burst and things were on the up, but I have always remembered her words and wondered if they would ever come to fruition. Of course in the recent recession they clearly have.

Permanent recruitment dropped off dramatically as soon as the recession hit and redundancies started to get announced in the legal profession. I can remember going to a training course back in April 2008 and the course leader asking everybody in the room who had suffered any effects of the recession. Everybody in the room said how the recession had presented them with new possibilities and challenges and they were being very positive about it, but I think I was the only one to say that my business had been badly hit at the time and we were really struggling to cope with the effects, but as soon as I said it I could see everybody in the room immediately start to nod and that all the comments about seeing challenges and opportunities was possibly true but they were similarly struggling.

During the recession I have spoken to a number of other recruitment consultants who have pointed out some new and interesting methods of recruitment that appear to have sprung up with larger numbers than before.

Firstly there are other companies who send the job specification out to 30 agencies and inform them that they are only paying a set percentage fee and that they will not look at candidates being sent through at a higher fee.

Secondly there are companies who send the vacancy out to agencies but at the same time advertise directly on the various job boards such as Monster and Totaljobs.com. When CV’s are sent in they invariably say that they have already seen the CV on Monster and do not want to take it further forward with the agency. Having used Monster it may be that they are waiting to see who the agency gets and then contact the person themselves as they then know that person is particularly looking for a job as a number of the CV’s on Monster are from people who are passively looking as opposed to actively looking.

The third trend are the companies and Government organisations using managed vendor suppliers or mass vendor supplier such as Matrix, SGM or Commensura, both of whom have set rates, post vacancies to any agencies who are signed up with them and send the said number through to their customers. This means that every time you go for a vacancy you are up against a number of other agencies all trying to post their CV into the same vacancy as quickly as possible to get the customer to look at it.

So where does the role of the recruitment agent come into this?

Firstly there is only a role for recruitment agencies where there is a shortfall of particular types of candidates as no employer is going to bother using an agency unless it is through habit or ease of use or loyalty unless they actually need to. If a company know they can advertise a vacancy in a trade journal or online and get a hundred applications with a couple of very useful CV’s, there is no point spending lots of money on an agency candidate.

We are already starting to see the end of the recession and this is partly why this blog is being updated again(!) and I’ve had more vacancies in the last three or four weeks than we’ve had in the previous 6 months which is very healthy. Not only this but we have also seen interviews from quality firms and genuine candidates which makes a refreshing change to some of the interviews we have arranged in the last 6 months.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and writes regularly on Legal Recruitment and on career coaching via this website, www.legalrecruitment.blogspot.com, the Legal Recruitment News websites – www.legal-recruitment.co.uk and www.jbfagan.co.uk for career coaching advice.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Uncompromising & Unrealistic Demands: Candidates - A Strange Phenomenon in the Recession

A recent phenomenon has emerged in the world of recruitment and it relates to candidates looking for work. In the last four weeks we have had a number of vacancies in and a number of interviews set up, but we have also had a number of candidates not attend interviews or decide that they do not wish to proceed. The percentage of these is extremely high at present, and very unusual compared with our normal ratio of failure in this area.

The first one of these candidates was a specialist solicitor who had expressed a keen interests in a role, sent us a detailed explanation as to why she fitted the bill and when we finally managed to arrange an interview for her decided that it was going to be too difficult to take time off in the short term, and she would only be able to attend an interview in the medium term. Unsurprisingly the firm had a number of applicants and did not bother interviewing her.

The second candidate was an experienced commercial solicitor who expressed an interest in a job in the Northeast and when the firm shortlisted her and requested an interview, she emailed us back to say she had no plans to relocate and did not want to attend an interview. She lived in the Southeast of England.

The third candidate went along to an interview in Yorkshire and informed the firm that he was not looking for work and was only attending the interview because we had approached him and asked him to. The firm decided he was unsuitable for their position.

The final candidate went for an interview with a firm in Yorkshire and his feedback was as they had targets and wanted him to meet these this was not a suitable job for him, as he did not think targets were the right way of doing business and he had never heard of them before in his line of work.

As recruiters we can almost tear our hair out at each of these because waiting behind these candidates are other candidates who are extremely keen to get interviews and jobs, and would attend an interview at a moment’s notice, relocate as required and certainly not have delusions of grandeur or be under any false illusions as to the current state of the market and the need for billable hours.

We go to extraordinary lengths to get these vacancies in and persuade the firms to interview, and then to have candidates doing this can quite frankly make us want to cry at times. Why these people even bother applying for the posts when it is clear from their emails that they have absolutely no interest in moving is beyond me and especially in the current climate when there are so many solicitors out of work and desperate to get back in. You can almost guarantee if as a recruiter you send through five CVs, of which four will be nice, fairly desperate candidates in dire need of work, the firm will always opt to interview the one candidate you think is going to be the one who either fails to attend the interview or simply isn’t that bothered.

Perhaps this will end with the end of the recession, as it is not a phenomenon I have come across before very often, and most of the time candidates attend interviews, firms interview and if firms are interested they make offers which the candidates consider, and we do not have these ridiculous actions going on that affect both our reputation as an agency but also wastes everybody's time.

These are no isolated incidents and it has been the same pattern over the last six to nine months. I have started to identify some of these candidates and now do not bother to spend any time on them, if I get the slightest inkling that it may be that they are not going to attend an interview or they are going to mess us or the firm about.

I hope anyone reading this does not think that we have turned into a bunch of crazy, desperate recruitment consultants as I suspect that this could be seen as somewhat bitter, and there may be very good reasons for each of these people to fail to attend their interviews or to not bother proceeding as indicated. Feel free to comment on this blog entry and I will be interested to hear your thoughts.

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Boycott Recruitment Agencies?

A Forum recently had a post on entitled "Boycott Recruitment Agencies and Greedy Bosses!!"

The post reads "Recruitment Agencies are cherry picking their clients & have no courtesy to reply back to your messages unless you call them!! They say they have hundreds of applications to review but by the time they have looked at your CV it’s too late - the dream job you desire is long gone."

As a recruitment consultant I have to say that this probably appears to be the perception at present (we cherry pick the best solicitors and ignore the rest including most NQs). The truth is that we are being hit very badly by the recession as businesses. Think about it - there have probably been over 15,000 redundancies amongst solicitors in England & Wales since April 2008. This is just less than 10% of the workforce. There are no conveyancing jobs at all anywhere. There are no wills & probate jobs anywhere. Crime jobs are disappearing at a rate of knots as firms close the boltholes ready for the best value tendering that is going to wipe a further load of firms off the map (after the Carter review destroyed a load a few years ago). Corporate firms are halting their graduate training programmes and asking trainees to defer a year and actually paying for the privilege to do this. Does anyone seriously think that recruitment agencies have some sort of bypass switch that allows us to ignore all of the above and find jobs for NQ solicitors in this climate?You will start to see a large number of agencies disappearing in the next 3-4 months I think. Already most have stopped advertising in the Gazette, and the ones that are left tend to have the same jobs in every week that usually require a following or some particular specialism. To give you an example of how hard it is to do recruitment at present, one recent job was for a commercial litigation solicitor. Looked easy to start with - we had 3-4 interested candidates with 2 years experience. The firm then wanted a French speaking commercial litigation solicitor, which made it considerably harder. We found one. They then got back to say that they wanted a French speaking commercial litigation solicitor with at least 12 months worth of high court experience. Obviously at this point we started to realise that like the Little Britain character that the goalposts were going to shift again even if a miracle occurred and we found the above - we were expecting to be told they needed a Belgian French speaking commercial litigation solicitor with high court experience. Similarly we have had firms asking for CVs - we have sent them through and heard nothing for weeks on end, despite telephoning, emailing etc.. etc.. Some firms seem to be collecting CVs for a hobby without committing to interview. We have also come across a lot of trainee solicitors being offered £16,500 to qualify by their firms and calling us either very angry or in tears. The legal profession is not in a healthy state at present, but it is affecting everyone at once - from senior partners through to suppliers of services to the profession. NQs unfortunately are right in the firing line, and are going to be badly affected.

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Assessment Days - Recent Experience (May 2009)

A training contract applicant has very kindly given us a detailed description of an assessment day that recently took place in the North West. It gives a flavour of the typical sort of day you will get in most medium and large law firms..

Here's what happened at the (North West Firm) assessment day.

Introductions - we had to write a few facts about ourselves on a side of a4 paper, screw it in to a ball and throw it in the centre of the room, we all then had to go grab a ball and discover who it was and then use that to introduce the person to the group.

We then had a group exercise. We were a group of four hikers, lost in a snow storm - in a tent -and had to decide on how many people should look for - and then from a list of 19 items decide which ten should be taken by the people who went for help and what items should remain for the people staying in the tent.

I then had a competency based interview. First question 'what is your unique selling point' (i nearly fell off my chair) - other questions included examples of being commercially aware, greatest non academic achievement etc..

The comprehension exercise was in a vein of a spelling test. There was a sentence or two with words missing an you had to choose which went where. affect/effect advise/advice were the simple ones i can remember there were some very tricky ones which definitely threw me. There were 40 to do in 20 minutes (plenty of time however).

Hope this assists anyone looking for advice on assessment days... Let us know your experiences and we can add them to this bank of knowledge.

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

Friday, May 01, 2009

Jobsearch Support for Newly Unemployed Professionals

The DWP have awarded Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited a 2 year contract to provide jobsearch support for newly unemployed professionals. At present, the scheme is very much in its infancy, but we have already provided the service to professionals based in the West Midlands and the North West. The scheme works by the Jobcentre Plus Adviser referring their clients through to us, and within 24 hours we arrange an appointment, usually over the telephone as the service is nationwide.

This appointment is about 45 mins long, and we cover a whole range of topics, concentrating as required on particular areas. At the end of the consultation we provide an action plan to the job centre and the client, and continue to provide support as required by email.

If you want to take advantage of this service, you need to be unemployed, and also speak to your adviser rather than ourselves as the referral has to come from them.

Jonathan Fagan is MD of http://www.ten-percent.co.uk/ and senior career coach at http://www.jbfagan.co.uk/
You can call him on 0207 127 4343. Our contract number is AAA271601 if you want to refer us to your adviser.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Budget 2009 - any effect on the legal market?

Budget is out again, and lots of things relevant to lawyers and law firms:

Most important first.....
CIGARETTES, ALCOHOL AND FUEL
• Alcohol taxes to go up 2% from midnight - putting the price of the average pint up 1p (arrghhh).

CAR SCRAPPAGE SCHEME (does this mean someone could start buying up 10 years old cars and sell them on at a profit? Anyone using this idea, please ensure you pay me a fair commission!)
• From next month until March 2010 motorists to get £2,000 discount on new cars if they trade in cars older than 10 years
• The government will provide £1,000 with the industry expected to provide the other half
TAX
• Income tax for those earning more than £150,000 to rise to 50% from April 2010
• Tax relief on pensions to be reduced for people on more than £150,000 a year from April 2011

UK ECONOMY
• Growth expected to pick up in 2010, expanding by 1.25%.
• Economy to grow by 3.5% annually from 2011

JOBS AND TRAINING
• All long-term unemployed under 25s to be offered job or training (May become relevant for conveyancers?)

HOUSING
• Scheme to guarantee mortgage backed securities to boost lending
• Stamp duty holiday for homes up to £175,000 to be extended to end of year
• Extra £80m for shared equity mortgage scheme
• £500m to kickstart stalled housing projects - including £100m for local authorities to build energy efficient homes

Not sure what difference much of this will make to the current state of the market - the mortgage market needs a big kick and cant see much of one here...

HELP FOR BUSINESS
• Help for loss-making companies extended - they will be able to reclaim more taxes paid in the last three years until November 2010
• Businesses' main capital allowance rate doubled to 40%

PENSIONERS
• Grandparents of working age who care for their grandchildren will see that work count towards their entitlement for the basic state pension.

We have looked at this before - it used to be that the grandparents had to be registered with social services, but the only way to get registered was to look after other children from different families which of course most grandparents do not do.

Hard to say what difference the budget will have to law firms - I suspect nothing much will make a difference until people get back into the habit of purchasing houses again...

Jonathan Fagan,
http://www.ten-percent.co.uk/

Friday, April 17, 2009

Consumer Credit - an Insiders Tale

We keep hearing reports of this area of law ('get your loan written off'', 'cancel my loan if over £7,000 and under £25,000 and before 2007', 'reduce my debt', 'clear my debt for life' etc.. etc..), being the new potentially big money spinner for a lot of law firms, and have been keeping track of recent developments. A candidate has recently sent us the following feedback from working for one of the operators in this field..."I had been working for x Solicitors who are linked to a claims management firm. As I worked there it became increasingly obvious that there was a lack of independence for us to advise our clients as to the strengths and weaknesses of their claims. Many files did not have claims at all but we were actively discouraged from telling clients upfront that there was no defect in the agreement. Management asked us to advise clients whose files had weak or very poor legal arguments that their files were being sent for further investigation. This delayed refunding clients who had already waited for long periods of time for their files to be addressed.

One day in particular a couple of weeks ago I had a client on the phone screaming at me because I felt I could not tell her she was due for a refund as there was no real prospects of success. I told her it was being further reviewed. She screamed 'you're my solicitor why can't you update me'.? She was perfectly correct.

Many of the difficulties stem from the fact that the representatives tell customers that agreements can be written off or deemed unenforceable and build up false hopes. Many files come through with very poor legal basis for claims.

One argument apparently is being appealed at Court of Appeal later this year. However we were actively encouraged to pursue claims based on a case hopefully being overturned in CA.

This was a firm with poor working practices and sullies the image or profile of those firms who operate in a correct and professional way. There are genuine issues under the Consumer Credit Act but they need to be tackled professionally in order to maintain the public's trust."

Monday, April 06, 2009

US Job Market for Lawyers Collapses

Recently it has been reported that the law firms in the USA are being badly affected by the global credit crisis. There have been reports in the US of the larger law firms making sudden redundancies, but the reports in the various logs and articles in the US legal news indicate that the actual reality is much worse. Apparently there are teams of lawyers being laid off, firms closing down right across the USA and very little work coming in to keep the remaining firms open and trading.

The situation is fairly similar in the UK, except probably not as bad as that.

In the last few weeks we have seen a large number of candidates register due to recent redundancies, but I have to say that most of the candidates I have seen coming through have been fairly high earning mid-level solicitors, and probably the sort that could be replaced by a firm with somebody more junior, and with a bit of investment, time and training could probably generate similar fee levels to a more senior solicitor on a higher salary.

This probably sounds very callous, but it is usually the harsh reality of fee-earning, and also generating a profit from legal services.

It will certainly be a similar scenario to when some of the bigger players outside of the profession get their hands on some of the market. Paralegals and junior lawyers will see their salaries increase when they join the big players, but then discover after a while that they are surplus to requirements.

This will be something that carries on for quite some time maybe in the legal profession, and I do not envisage the redundancies stopping until the market picks up. I cannot see the market picking up though until well after the summer as there will not be the usual spate of recruitment in May that there usually is.

However, one of the problems with this recession is that quite a lot of the actual scenario is down to people talking themselves into a recession and deciding not to do certain things. We have seen a number of firms in recent times tell us they have vacancies and when we find very good candidates for reasonable amounts of money and send them for an interview, the firm decides to put the vacancy on hold, having spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to recruit and then deciding they just don’t want to anymore when they are halfway through. This unusually has nothing to do with the recession, but more to do with firms looking at the newspapers and thinking that they are exposing themselves to too much risk by considering recruitment at this time.

As soon as this changes, I think the market will pick up again.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director at Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or telephone 0207 1274343.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Law Firms v Law Centres - training contract choices

Law centres v. Law Firms

Is there any difference between doing a training contract at a law centre or working for a part of your career at a law centre, than working in a law firm?

This question obviously relates to anyone about to progress or currently in a high street legal career as opposed to a city firm or commercial practice. Is there any difference between work you would do at a law centre or the training there or a local or small high street practice?

In terms of a career move, you will probably find that if you work in a law centre, you will get greater exposure and depth to a range of legal issues than you would working in a high street practice. It is also possible that the work you would do would be slightly more interesting than the work in a high street practice as law centres are more likely to pick up more interesting cases. However, the types of law you would deal with in a law centre are dramatically different to those you would expect to be covering on a daily basis in a law firm. Firstly, law centres tend to specialise in social welfare work, namely housing, welfare benefits, debts, employment and some family law.

High street practices on the other hand tend to avoid social welfare law as much as they can and focus more on the legal aid fields of crime, family and mental health.

The other factor to take into consideration is that the high street firms will also do non-legal aid fields so you would expect part of your training contract to include some form of conveyancing, wills and probate, commercial property, company commercial or similar. This will not happen with a law centre training contract or with law centre experience.

The other factor to bear in mind is that although both entities are dependent on generating income to keep going, the pressure in a high street firm to bill and bill well is much higher than the pressure in a law centre where there is still an environment that you are there predominantly to help the clients who are coming to see you, whereas in the high street, that is just not possible as they are very dependent on you billing a certain number of hours each day and if that helps the people you are seeing, great, but if not you are still justifying your existence.

The final point is the money. Law centres do on the whole pay better salaries to more junior members of staff than high street law firms. High street law firms sometimes think they pay well but in actual fact, don’t put it into context and forget that a salary of £16,000 is very unlikely to buy you any sort of mortgage or lifestyle that you could comfortably live off and then are surprised when somebody hands in their notice after six months. Law centres are more linked to local authority levels (although more senior salaries tend to be quite restrictive) and so have a more reasonable expectation of what you will need to live on and how long you will stop in a post if you are paid that sort of money.

In summary, in terms of career progression, you may be better off focusing on high street training contracts as opposed to law centre contracts as the law centre contract is likely to expose you to a much narrower area of law, and will restrict your movement in future years and also your salary level should you decide to move into private practice.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and can be contacted at cv@ten-percent.co.uk for any careers advice or recruitment needs.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What do I do if my training contract is cancelled?

What do I do if my training contract is terminated?

This started to happen a few years ago when some crime firms were struggling following new reforms by the Legal Services Commission. When a firm got into difficulties or thought they were about to the first thing they did was to terminate training contracts.

Another scenario is when firms in recent times have trainee Solicitors due to start 12 months or 24 months in the future and then realise that their finances are not going to permit it. Training contracts are withdrawn and suddenly someone who had made a firm decision to join one particular firm and turned down others finds that they no longer have any training contracts to choose from at all.

The first thing to do is not to panic if this happens to you, quite a lot of the time over the years we have seen Trainee Solicitors who have training contracts terminated walk into another post within a few months. Other firms who are still in business or not struggling financially see the benefit of having someone part of the way through their term as it saves them the time of training them up and also the length of time it will take before they qualify.

It is a very stressful time as everyone who is striving to be a Solicitor struggles incessantly to get a training contract and then has to spend two years in what are usually fairly undignified circumstances being bossed about by everybody only to find out halfway through that it could be that they have to start again or find someone else prepared to take them on.

If you are informed by your firm that this is likely to happen the first port of call must be the Law Society, as far as I can remember the Law Society are the only ones who can agree to the ending of a training contract.

Obviously they are not going to insist that a firm pay you to keep you on if the firm have no money or are about to cease trading, but they may ask for documentary evidence from the firm that this is indeed the case.

If your training contract is withdrawn by a firm before you were due to start (and this happened in quite a lot of city firms for example in 2000-2002) then start looking immediately regardless of how the firm who have indicated the withdrawal put it to you. Sometimes it is simply indicated that they may not be able to offer you a contract and they put you on notice. If this happens then I would strongly advise looking around for something else and that you are in a position to have a back-up plan should the first one go pear shaped. Again, speak to the Law Society and also to the Trainee Solicitors group, they’ll be able to give you advice.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and regularly commentates and writes on the state of the legal profession nationally and internationally. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or telephone 0207 127 4343.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Bullies in the Workplace - Guide for Employees

Dealing with Bullies in the Workplace - A Guide for Employed Lawyers

Bullying colleagues and employers can be an absolute nightmare for lawyers. The legal profession is rife with them, particularly as the pressure to achieve targets and billing levels gets higher and higher in difficult economic circumstances. One of the major issues we deal with from candidates and career coaching clients is how to handle bullying colleagues and employers:

Bullying is about power and control and the results can be absolutely devastating. At worst the target will eventually leave to work somewhere less unpleasant; at best they will stay; grit their teeth and get more and more miserable, and less and less productive.

It is estimated that workplace bullying affects 1 in 4 people at some point in their career.
Bullying is about actions that are deliberate, debilitating and repeated. The target will be bullied until they either leave the organization or is totally subjugated. And then the bully will find their next target.

Rule No 1 - never, ever confront a bully. Not in private and not in public.They have been playing their game for a long time; they are skilled at it. All confronting them will achieve, is to actually make your situation even worse.
Try never to be alone with them...
Keep notes – find a quiet place after an incident and jot down the key points of what just happened – what was said, what was threatened and what you said and did in response. This will also help you to calm your nerves.
Let someone know what is happening. Do be very careful who you choose to confide in – telling the wrong person can risk them letting the bully know you are making complaints, and then Rule No 1 comes back into play again with even greater force.
Start planning your exit – whether that is to another department or to another organization, it really doesn’t matter – the longer you stay the more stressed you will become and the worse the effects will be on your health and your self-esteem. Remember that bullies do not give up. Once they have selected you as a target, they will continue bullying you until you leave or are totally subjugated.
Be aware that this isn’t YOUR problem. You are not to blame in any way. It is their problem and the problem of the organization for not recognizing what is happening and for not dealing with the situation, because if the person has been with the organization a long time, you can guarantee that you will not be the first person they have done this to.
Laying a complaint about bullying is often one person’s word against another, and if the ‘other’ person is in a management position, the manager seems to be believed more than the employee.
66% of organizations have no bullying protocols
23% of bullies work alone
77% coerce others to bully alongside them
Only about 4% of bullies are ever punished
Women bullies target another woman 87% of the time
Male bullies choose women targets 71% of the time

www.evancarmichael.com/Franchises/687/Bullies-At-Work.html (the source of statistics and some of this article)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Bullying in the Workplace - comment from a solicitor

This comment was sent through by a reader. I should emphasise that it is a comment - I had problems with my blogspot software and hence have had to post it as a blog entry. The comment does not represent my experience or views. Jonathan Fagan, MD Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment.

"Very interesting article on bullying in the workplace. In the legal profession there is, in my experience, a higher proportion of female bullies than in other walks of life. that's not to say more women are bullies than men - just that a larger number of the women in the profession have bullying traits. Perhaps that is down to the nature of the job, perhaps it is because it can be harder for a woman to make her mark and feels she has to adopt certain tactics.

I experienced bullying from a female solicitor when I was an articled clerk in London; best thing in that case was to get out - which is what brought me up to Yorkshire (apart from my wife). Thereafter the bullies all tended to be men, not prevalent everywhere, but in firms with high targets, or newly amalgamated, a blame culture semed to bring it on more than anything else.

Strangely it was when I looked at being in a quasi-legal workplace that I encountered female bullying again; the employer that I was engaged by had a huge majority of female staff (although a male manager) and from day one I was targeted. Eventually things came to a head, I was unfairly dismissed and pursued a successful case in the tribunal (although settled before hearing - details to be kept under wraps).

Although I won my argument it was not the happiest of endings and one that I tend to disguise in my CV.

I have since found enjoyable and successful employment "in-house" at a large commercial organisation which works hard to maintain a cordial staff atmosphere despite the current difficult financial conditions. Just goes to show that things can work out well!"

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Dealing with Bullies in the Workplace - A Guide for Employers

Bullying colleagues and employers can be an absolute nightmare for lawyers. The legal profession is rife with the problem as far as we can see (we get a lot of calls to our career coaching service specifically on this subject), particularly as the pressure to achieve targets and billing levels gets higher and higher in difficult economic circumstances.

Bullying is about power and control and the results can be absolutely devastating. At worst the target will eventually leave to work somewhere less unpleasant; at best they will stay; grit their teeth and get more and more miserable, and less and less productive.

It is estimated that workplace bullying affects 1 in 4 people at some point in their career.
Bullying is about actions that are deliberate, debilitating and repeated. The target will be bullied until they either leave the organization or is totally subjugated. And then the bully will find their next target.

How to Identify and Deal with Bullying:
1. Understand what bullying is and the harm it can do your people and your organization.
2. Don’t confuse strong management with bullying – there is a whole world of difference.
3. Make sure you have a bullying policy in place and make sure that policy is communicated and enforced.
4. Make sure your managers and team leaders are trained in identifying and dealing with bullies.
5. Watch for the signs that a bully is at work – they are actually very obvious.

The signs are showing up in any department where there is:
  1. high absenteeism;
  2. high sickness rates;
  3. high turnover;
  4. high litigation costs

  • 66% of organizations have no bullying protocols
  • 23% of bullies work alone
  • 77% coerce others to bully alongside them
  • Only about 4% of bullies are ever punished
  • Women bullies target another woman 87% of the time
  • Male bullies choose women targets 71% of the time

Further Reading http://www.evancarmichael.com/Franchises/687/Bullies-At-Work.html
(the source of this article)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Changing Specialisms - are conversion courses a waste of money?

I would like to issue a challenge to all the CPD and legal course providers of the changing fields to a new area of law courses and diplomas that are currently doing the rounds in the legal profession:

Send me any examples you have of a course delegate in the last 6-9 months (ie since the credit crunch) who has managed to use their investment of £995-£1,500 to secure a paid post in the field they are looking to convert to.

I get a call on average once a week from a lawyer asking me for advice as to whether they ought to do these courses, and my advice has been to avoid them like the plague!! I can see no benefit at all from doing them - firms want practical experience, not academic study, and I simply cannot understand the merits of studying yet more law and paying 1-4 weeks salary in order to do so..

Am I being unfair? Do these courses have an effect? Get in touch, give me examples and I can then assist you in selling the courses to the legal profession... I await your response...

Jonathan Fagan, Managing Director, Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment

Monday, February 16, 2009

Redundancies caused by Outsourcing?

A Hertfordshire firm dealing with personal injury law work issued a press release recently to the Law Society Gazette to say that they are setting up a law firm in South Africa to handle personal injury cases at low cost. The Law Society Gazette talks about this new ground and almost hinting at it being the way for out sourcing in the future.

It’s amazing that this continues to be a story, as the firm in question have been peddling these ideas for years, and if you look back through the Law Society Gazette they have featured fairly regularly over the years for promoting outsourcing. Every time something else happens the Law Society jump on it and publish a story, which probably does not reflect the reality very much at all.

I suspect this is a case of the LSG being duped by PR into running a headline story...

I cannot see what the difference is and why this story has made particularly the front page of the Law Society Gazette as it appears to do nothing but advertise the firm of solicitors as opposed to being any particular news worthy item.

There are plenty of firms in the UK using low cost solutions with paralegals being the preferred operatives these days for any firm undertaking personal injury work. There have been few opportunities for personal injury solicitors for many years, and the market has slowly decreased downhill to being open pretty much for anyone with a law degree and a book. I am not sure how much difference a South African operation will make, and remain dubious that this is not going to be a particular successful venture that has in any way progressed the shape of the legal profession in the UK...

Outsourcing has been going on for many years with firms for example who have an operation centre in the UK, outsourcing a lot of the conveyancing work to Indian operatives. Indeed, conveyancers have gone to India to oversee the departments and set things up there.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and can be contacted at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or 02071274343.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Legal aid work goes up in a credit crunch

In the last few months we have seen a large rise in the number of Legal Service Commission funded posts. It seems that a lot of firms are looking to expand their legal aid departments and take on new staff and a number of practices have applied and been awarded LSC contracts in areas that until recently were avoided like the plague by solicitors firms!

We were recently approached by a firm who now have a contract in employment, welfare benefits, debt, housing, community care and mental health work and were on the look out for solicitors and paralegals to join and develop these areas of practice.

This has not happened for quite some time, as firms have been concentrating on getting out of legal aid work and do more high street matters such as conveyancing and wills and probate.

I think we are seeing a cycle return now with the collapse of the conveyancing market and firms are starting to go back into the legal aid areas.

If my memory serves me correctly, the firm who have registered the recent set of vacancies were only fairly recently looking to take on conveyancers and private client solicitors.

That has clearly now changed and it looks as if the firm are heading back to dealing with legal aid work.

It is very interesting from a recruiter perspective as only two to three years ago, we were finding large numbers of LSC funded fields were disappearing and departments closing down but there were a good number of redundancies, for example, of crime solicitors and it has only been recently that crime has again picked up in terms of recruitment. There are now quite a large number of firms recruiting duty solicitors, although matters have changed slightly in that a good number of them now want lawyers only, there are still vacancies there.

In fact, I did a quick straw poll in the Law Society Gazette last night and noted that 40 percent of the vacancies in the back of the Gazette were crime solicitors. Out of these, at least 70 percent of them were freelancer or people to be paid commission based on the work that they did and are in positions. I predicted about a year ago that this was the way to fight a falling revenue from LSC.

So although the areas of recruitment have changed, so have the ways of recruiting. Things are not the same anymore.

As the recession picks up it will be interesting to see how many firms ditch the LSC funded work again and go back to conveyancing and other fields that are so much more profitable when the economy is thriving..

In summary, as the economy picks up, so will the number of posts for non-LSC funded work.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and our website is www.ten-percent.co.uk

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What questions are asked in an Investors in People Assessment?

Recently Ten Percent Legal Recruitment was assessed for the investor in people accreditation. We worked very hard on this and spent some time as a company ensuring that all our procedures and policies were in place and that our staff were aware of the various requirements of the Investor in People process.

We wondered how the assessment would go and also what the questions were likely to be during the interviews.

The assessor was very friendly and explained from the outset what she was wanting to do and we were already aware that we would have thirty minute interviews with the directors and managers and twenty minute interviews with the staff. We also had the Investors in People programme so we were able to look and see what the actual questions would be based on, but there was nowhere to indicate what questions would be asked in the investor in people assessments.

So if this helps anyone else, here are the questions we were asked in our investors in people accreditation:

The assessor asked us what the division of the company was and spent some time querying this with us. She also asked us what evidence there was from when we set up, of how well we had achieved this and our vision and whether we were still on course to achieve the vision that we had in the first instance.

She asked a lot of questions about the background of the company and targeted them towards the general question of whether we had achieved what we set out to achieve or whether we were still working towards it.

Obviously we were careful to identify issues that related to the staffing side of things as we had we were aware that the Investors in People process meant it was to do with the people, but generally we answered the questions according to the company’s aims from the outset.

We also got asked a lot of questions about our training plans and policies and it was evident from the outset that although we had a staff handbook, the information contained within it did not give any information at all about our training policy which was an oversight on our part.

We also had no evaluation of our training policy which was another question that we were asked particularly closely about.

We set out details of our training which in our case is mostly in-house as our Managing Director (i.e., me) does a lot of training and study and is recognised in the industry as an expert on our sector.

I also had to explain all the different paths that the company went down which included alternative business ideas and entrepreneurial developments which for us are very important as we aim to move very quickly into other areas, as and when work drops off or when we identify a niche to go into.

Questions were also asked about how we identified our training needs, which seemed to be a fairly central focus to the interview and something that we found fairly hard to explain, being a very small company.

Our business development plan and training development plan which had been put together by our locally funded business adviser were not deemed satisfactory and a lot of further explanation was required on top.

As well as this, quite a lot of questions were asked about our equal opportunities and the enablement of every member of staff to have the same access to training.

We had been advised to be very careful that everyone in the company knew what attributes made a capable manager and everyone had been instructed to have a think about this and based on information provided to us by our business adviser.

The assessor took careful notes in this particular part and I got the impression that this was fairly important in terms of whether we reached the standard required.

The attributes that our company gave were in recognition of performance, the ability to provide constructive feedback, the ability to build teams, the ability to lead a team, good communication skills and recognition of good performance.

Interestingly during our feedback the assessor did indicate that as a manager in our company, some of these were not really applicable and she would have preferred it if we had thought of our own definitions and given these. We have taken that point on board and she probably was quite right.

Questions were also raised about evaluating training, and one thing we had not thought about doing was setting out the cost or time of our training and assessing whether it was any use to the company. In fact I got sent away during our assessment to have a think about this further so I was in a position to either give concrete evidence or to arrange for the assessment to take place again so we could discuss it. This would be something beneficial for any company to do before the IIP assessments, and it was certainly interesting to do it as it was an eye opener to see what training time I had spent in the previous week, which was over nine hours (without realising it!).

The investors in people assessments took considerably longer than I thought, and I think I was in for my interview for about an hour as opposed to thirty minutes. The difficulty for small companies appears to be that to gather the evidence together to pass the standards is difficult for the assessors, and they have to really think about examples to fit into their reports as there are much lower levels of staff to draw examples from.

Our staff found the interviews very interesting and thought the assessor was very friendly towards them and did not ask them any awkward questions which they were relieved about but also it was interesting to see the interesting questions were saved for the managers and that time was spent on the managers, concentrating on particularly awkward questions that the staff were not asked about.

There were also questions where the staff were asked about examples of training that they had undertaken and how useful this had been for them, whether they thought the managers did a good job and how the managers did a good job and what they thought about the company in general and the structure. The assessor also probed them for information on the company’s aims and values and the direction the company was taking and discussed issues with them on these points in more detail. They did also get asked their understanding of the definition of a capable manager and they were able to give these, but this was again interesting because it does mean that if you are trying to get a large business through the IIP, you would probably need to make sure your staff are fully aware of what their managers ought to be doing, which I guess is fair enough and something I had not really thought about before going through the IIP standard.

Once the assessment had finished I was called back in for further questioning before being asked to leave the room so the assessor could marshal her thoughts. We were informed that we had been recommended to receive the award and the company had met the standard. The next step is for the assessor to submit her report for this to be approved by a board, although it was indicated to us that the overwhelming majority of reports go straight through without any further issues and this is applicable to pretty much everybody.

So what does this mean for our company? Well, the fact that we will be investors in people accredited means that there are some companies and governmental bodies who will now take us more seriously, and recognise that we are a company they can do business with. The anecdotal evidence from business friends and acquaintances is that the investors in people standard can be very beneficial as it indicates a, that you have staff, b, that you recognise them and c, that your company has met an internationally regarded standard and has policies and procedures in place across the company.

I am pleased with everyone’s efforts within the company to achieve this status and I’m glad that we have managed to put it in to place (presuming the board let us through).

If anyone has any ideas or suggestion on how to recognise and reward staff for their efforts in going through the investors in people, I would be glad to know about them. A company our size flying to Florida for two weeks would be slightly excessive!

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent legal recruitment who are now investors in people accredited, I’m very proud of all my colleagues. You can contact Jonathan at www.ten-percent.co.uk or e-mail at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or telephone 02071274343.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Effective Credit Control for Business

Good debt management - our experiences and systems

As recruitment consultants, we have spent eight years trying to work out ways to get our clients to pay our invoices in good time, thus ensuring a decent cash flow for our company, but also ensuring that our terms and conditions are adhered to which then benefit the clients as they get generous rebate periods considerations if anything was to go wrong with a placement.

In the eight years that the company has been operating, I estimate that on three separate occasions we have had to send bailiffs into firms, and on at least ten occasions we have had to issue proceedings either in the county court or using the small claims procedure.

We have tried a whole raft of measures over the years with law firms to get payments made in good time, and this has become the following procedure:

When we issue an invoice, we ask the firm to choose their charity for our charitable donation (Ten Percent donates ten percent of annual profits to a charitable trust which subsequently distributes the money to various charities).

We also point out the benefit of payment within the period stipulated in the contract as a firm is then able to take the benefit of our rebate periods.

We issue a statement exactly 14 days after a candidate has joined a firm reminding the firm that payment is due within the 21 days to take the benefit of the rebate.

We issue another statement exactly 28 days after the invoice has been issued and the candidate has started work advising that the money is payable.

We issue a final letter requiring payment after exactly six weeks of the date of the invoice and after the candidate has joined the firm.

We send a credit control letter advising that interest and costs have been added in accordance with the statutory position (Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act 1998) setting out a timetable for action which involves giving the date the matter will be passed to external solicitors for them to recover the outstanding debt.

This final step takes place seven days after that letter and without further ado we send the debt off to our external solicitors (if not small claims court level) and ask them to proceed for us.

We provide the external solicitor with the full case, including all the evidence required to issue proceedings so they can speed up the process and have a brief discussion with our solicitor as to whether a statutory demand issued and bankruptcy proceedings taken or whether we issue proceedings in the county court or using the small claims track.

We sit back and let the external solicitors deal with the matter and see how long it takes us to get the money out of our clients!

The worst case to date was a central London firm who ignored everything sent to them including telephone calls, emails, faxes and letters, right up until a statutory demand was issued and bankruptcy proceedings started, at which point they disputed the contract, and we ended up in the country court approximately two years after the original invoice had been issued.

The firm eventually agreed to a consent order to pay the outstanding invoice plus all costs, by which time the costs were almost the same as invoice, and even then failed to pay within the time stipulated in the consent order.

We recovered our money from them, approximately two weeks later I noticed in the Law Society Gazette that the firm had closed down, we had been just in time with our proceedings.

I recall as a solicitor in pratice that a lot of firms are very poor at collecting outstanding debt especially from clients where they think there is the potential of further work and are worried about upsetting them. I think this then passes onto the solicitors' suppliers, as the solicitors think that their suppliers consider things in the same way.

My take on this is very different. Many years ago I worked for a small company in Leicester, with a senior partner who was a very good businessman and gave me two pieces of advice when I left the company. The first one was that a bird in the hand is worth infinitely more in the bush, and that one should never allow discounts or a lack of payment on the basis of future work promised. I have stuck rigidly to this in my time in business and have found time and again that when I have had to take action against firms to get payment, they have come back to me as clients regardless of how long it has taken to get the money out of them.

It’s a very interesting phenomenon because some of these firms have had the full works taken against them including court action, yet they almost respect this and come back to us to use the service again as they can see that not only are we good recruiters, we are cost efficient, fair and run a tight ship.

In summary, when dealing with debt collection, I would apply the same rule to all my clients uniformly, regardless of whether they are going to be good, poor or indifferent clients over the years, although important with any particularly good clients to ensure that you do not upset the apple cart too much when requiring payment! We have sued one of the largest public sector servicing companies in our time however...

Jonathan Fagan is MD and a recruitment consultant with Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. cv@ten-percent.co.uk or 0207 127 4343. www.ten-percent.co.uk

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Activities and Interests Section on a CV - surely not that important?

I recently ran a CV preparation course at a UK University for the Legal Practice Course students there.

One of the issues that arose during the seminars was the relevance & importance of activities and interests in a CV, and it was interesting that the vast majority of people there had very little to write down on their CVs. Some had put socialising with friends or going on to Facebook and others had put 'playing with my playstation' or 'reading a crime novel'.

Activities and interests are probably the third most important part of your CV. Firstly because when you go for a job interview, you need to have something to talk about with the person interviewing you, and if you have a set of activities and interests, an interviewer can discuss these with you and particularly so if they share something in common.

If you do not have anything in common it makes it very difficult to talk about much... I can think of plenty of interviews where I struggle to think of my next question without wanting to fire a harsh one at a candidate simply because I cannot get anything off the CV to discuss.

The other thing it does is to show that you are someone with a balanced lifestyle in that you are not just working on your academic studies or working in a working environment. The final thing it does is, with the person looking at your CV in the first place, enable the recruiter to be able to identify that the candidate is somebody that they would like to interview.

The activities and interests section basically makes you stand out as a person and although has very little relevance for the bench marking exercise of most firms when they first look at your CV’s and decide whether to proceed on the grounds of your academic background, location and general impression, it can catch the eye and mean that a firm will look again at your CV in more detail.

Your interests either need to stand out as something unique or as something that a partner would put value on.

The value can be either because the person looking at your CV does similar activities themselves or because they see the worth or value of doing that particular activity. Clearly no one has any excuse for not putting an activity down, that includes socialising, going out with friends, watching television and playing on the playstation, it does not take much effort to go and watch a few football matches at a football club or perhaps going to a local ski slope so that you can say that you are developing an interest in skiing.

If there is a five a side league for football in your local area, it can be beneficial to go and join that or if somebody in your family plays a sport, go and watch them doing that.

You do not have to suddenly decide that you are going to get your pilots license or take up kite surfing (although these would be very beneficial), though you do need to have something down on your CV.

From a law firm’s perspective there are a lot of solicitors out there who play five a side football, cricket, netball, running, squash, golf or simply walk the dog and spend time with the family. All of these open conversations (and doors) and if you develop one of these further, it would be very beneficial to your CV.

It would also help if you know what is the person you are going for the interview with likes - I’ve heard of trainee solicitors telephoning the secretary of the partner who is going to interview them and ask what his/her interests are at weekends, so then to be able to discuss this with him or her. Personally, this is slightly too enthusiastic!

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director at UK legal recruitment experts, Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. Contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk