The legal jobs market is picking up. But beware of time-wasters.

He is 14 years’ PQE and still hasn’t heard back from the firm that interviewed him six weeks ago.

He had to take a day’s annual leave just to attend the interview, but it was a senior position and nothing ventured, nothing gained, was his thought.

He gave it a few days and then chased the recruitment agent, who in turn chased the firm.

But it seems that this well-known and much respected south-east England firm is a ‘wheel-kicker’ – that’s an employer who may, just may deign to offer someone a job, but in the meantime is happy to sniff the wind, poke a toe in the water and generally waste candidates’ time and money.

Shame on it – but then the firm obviously has more money than sense. After all, it squandered its own partners’ time on the interview, too.

The Gazette next spoke to a woman lawyer, who we’ll call Ms WL, with 15 years’ PQE on top of 12 years as a legal executive. She set herself three months in which to find a new position – and succeeded with days to spare.

‘I was offered several interviews,’ says Ms WL, ‘but got the impression that because many of the jobs advertised were new positions, firms were in no hurry to appoint. So I had disappointments, too, where I had psyched myself up for an interview, thought it had gone well and then heard nothing.

‘There were other low points, too. One firm decided it was too far for me to travel, which was thoughtful of them, although distance hadn’t seemed a consideration when they invited me for interview. I was also offered a public sector job, a locum position, but they were so laid-back about sending me an offer letter that I found another position in the private sector first.’

A mixture of good and bad then from Ms WL, but at least she found a job. Now surely - with all the good news about the recovering economy - something positive can be said about what is happening in the job market for solicitors?

Jeannie Bushell, recruitment advertising manager for the Gazette, obliges by saying that ‘confidence has returned’ to the market and that the newspaper is now carrying more vacancies online and in the print issues than it has for some years.

However, it’s not all roses in the garden. ‘There has been a surge in jobs for residential and commercial property, for instance, but firms are struggling to find strong candidates because so many practitioners left the sector during the economic downturn,’ Bushell says. ‘Otherwise things are looking promising.’

Senior recruitment consultant Jude Cornelli of G2 Legal says: ‘We had our best ever week a couple of months ago. There are fewer criminal litigation, family and legal aid jobs around, as you would expect, but generally things are very buoyant.

‘Our last 12 months were an infinite improvement on 18 months ago.’

Recruiter company Robert Walters is also upbeat, reporting that the volume of legal jobs advertised in the first quarter of 2014 has grown by over one-third compared to the same period in 2013. The increase has been seen not just in London, but also in the Midlands and the north-west of England.

Legal recruitment director Colin Loth says: ‘This increase in legal hires is being driven by a number of key influences, with the healing economy, greater access to debt financing and a returning appetite for corporate deal-making all having an impact.’

Ms WL has the final word. ‘Beware phantom recruitment agents. These people post details online of nice-sounding jobs and invite you to submit your CV. But when you try and telephone them, you only get through to voicemail and nobody ever gets back to you.

‘It seems the jobs don’t exist and they are just collecting CVs. Are agents not regulated?

‘But the good news, especially for someone at the senior end of the profession, is that firms are not trying to recruit newly-qualified youngsters to do a grown-up job. I was approached three times to replace equity partners.’

Jonathan Rayner is Gazette staff writer

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