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April 8 2021

Why PQE doesn't matter when hiring interim legal professionals

Industry Insights

Louise Anderson

Louise Anderson

A man peers at you through red tinted binoculars, as you search for interim legal professionals

The interim legal recruitment market works entirely differently to the conventional legal recruitment market. To get the best results from hiring flexible lawyers and paralegals, you’ve got to approach them on those different terms.

In the legal industry, PQE is often heralded as the holy grail of determining a lawyer’s capability and affordability. We often hear from our clients that they’re after the complete trifecta of quality, cost, and value: the 5 year PQE Solicitor. However, finding this fabled 5 year PQE Solicitor is a bit like hunting bigfoot. Sure, you’ve heard the rumours and perhaps even seen the grainy footage - but do they actually exist? Even if they do exist, are they even worth looking for? Are they really the best value solution to your interim legal needs?

At Flex, we would strongly encourage you to forget PQE when it comes to interim legal professionals. Instead, approach your interim legal recruitment by asking these two simple questions:

  1. What budget do I have to complete my task?
  2. What experience is required to complete the task?

Asking these two questions, we promise you, will offer you much better guarantees of cost, quality, and value than using the blunt-force metric of PQE. Here is why:

5 year PQE lawyers are high in demand and low in supply 

You could easily spend a lot of time searching unsuccessfully for an interim 5 year PQE solicitor, and still not have any results. Step back, and consider the objective reality of who enters the interim legal market, and the high demand for the perceived “ideal” mid level interim solicitor.

Although lawyers approach to their careers are changing, qualified lawyers rarely join the interim market early in their careers. More often than not, they would rather stay in a law firm where there is more stability and predictability whilst they accrue experience. Those that do choose to make an early career transition to interim work are always swiftly snatched up. 

5 year PQE solicitors know this. They’re like a rogue Sasquatch at a Bigfoot Hunting Festival - they’re hot property and everybody wants a piece of them. They’re hard to come across, hard to hire, and those that do exist can charge high rates for their abilities.

Interim charge rates don’t always directly correlate with experience 

The interim legal recruitment market works differently to the conventional legal market. Legal professionals are more empowered to set their own rates, which is often determined in terms of demand.

You can, and should, get better results for your budget by looking for professionals outside the conventional PQE metric. You could instead find someone just as good who is more committed and willing to work to your budget - perhaps even under it. Consider how helpful it might be to hire a good value senior lawyer looking to re-enter the legal profession after a career break, or a recent retiree seeking out interesting work over income, or a foreign qualified lawyer looking to enter the UK legal market.

There is an entire ocean of talented and experienced professionals out there, who are more than willing to help you meet your objectives, and your budget. All you have to do to access them is shift your mindset away from the interim Bigfoot.

The number of years someone has worked isn’t a great quality indicator 

Let’s get real - years worked does not necessarily reflect talent and ability. If it did, the pensioner legal workforce would be booming. Years worked post-qualification is another blunt metric, and if you keep using substandard mechanisms for measuring the capabilities of your interim legal professionals, you’re going to get substandard results. 

The legal industry is not standardised. Everyone has completely unique training and experiences, and training fluctuates wildly between firms and organisations. Some solicitors qualify, and then spend 10 years doing a highly limited, narrow, range of work. The 10 years they’ve been doing it for do not equate to quality, and if you’re hiring on those terms you might be disappointed. 

There are far more important metrics to consider, and we would highly encourage you to do so. Think about elements such as previous company culture, interpersonal behaviours, personal values and work ethic. Asking for specific experiences or evidence of tasks completed can be a great way to open the door to illuminating conversations.

So there you have it - a definitive rundown of why PQE doesn’t matter when hiring interim legal professionals. There's a lot of new things to consider, but fortunately the Flex Legal platform is designed to do the hard work for you. By asking the two questions listed at the start, you will help our platform match you with the professionals that suit your needs and your budget, not default to a 5 year PQE solicitor Bigfoot who is in short supply and high-demand. If you’d like to know more about hiring legal professionals through our platform, we’d strongly encourage you to look at these pages:

  • Vodafone and Flex Legal - learn more about how Flex helped Vodafone with their interim paralegal needs, and how interim lawyers helped increased overall team productivity.
  • Hire Flex Lawyers - interested in learning more about hiring interim legal professionals through Flex? Look through our hire page to learn more about this process and how it works.
  • Why Flex Legal - see how we stack up against other interim legal service providers.