‘Is it ok to take a gap year after my TC in a bid to find the perfect NQ role?’

By on

A trainee solicitor seeks advice

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, a rookie solicitor asks whether it is acceptable to have a gap after completing their training contract so that they can take the time to find the “perfect” NQ role for them.

“I am coming to the end of a really wonderful traineeship. It has been amazing but the organisation I work for has recently informed me, with very little time to go, that they will be unable to sustain my employment beyond my traineeship as they are downsizing.

Before being notified of this, I actually applied to a few other places in the hope of securing a better paying NQ role. I’ve had three interviews, all of which I’ve narrowly missed out on getting. My feedback centred on my lack of PQ experience and being unwilling to assign my traineeship over (I have a few cases in court that will conclude the month before I finish). However, as I thought I had my traineeship provider to fall back on, I was not worried.

Now, I am really struggling to find appropriate roles that compliment what I did in my traineeship and the areas of law I am interested in. Most roles I see that spark an interest are asking for significant PQ experience are just aren’t quite right for me. I also have a disability which prevents me from being able to drive, limiting me to NQ roles within commuting distance.

I am not looking to apply for any old NQ job just to have something to fall back on. That’s not me and that’s never going to be me. I would rather do a job adjacent to law until the perfect opportunity arises. I am also considering part-time study for a Masters, if I am afforded funding and the opportunity arises if I am unable to secure an NQ role by next summer.

I am wondering therefore if having a legal “gap” whilst I did other (related) work would be frowned upon? Is it possible to find work as a solicitor if you’ve only completed your two-year traineeship?”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at

For all the latest commercial awareness info, news and careers advice:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter






If you can justify the above during an interview, crack on. Just remember you’ll be up against others coming straight out their TC.


1 PQE at US firm

I imagine it is not the end of the world/a nail in the coffin of a legal career, however, given the three firms you’ve narrowly missed out on have said that lack of legal experience is an issue, I don’t quite see how a gap year solves this conundrum?

They have asked you for more legal experience and your response is to obtain *non*-legal work experience? Just seems a bit of a strange choice to me.

‘Any old NQ job’ will stand you in far better stead than taking a gap year… Might be worth thinking about sucking it up/gritting your teeth in the short term for a long term benefit even though ‘that is not you and never will be you’. If that quoted part genuinely is true, then why are you asking for advice? Sounds like you’ve already made up your mind.



Unfortunately, if you are looking at city firm level, a post-TC gap year will be frowned upon. More importantly, recruiters are unlikely to want to take a risk with you and they are arguably the main market gatekeepers.

I would recommend taking up an NQ role, which you are not as thrilled about but in the area that you enjoy and then moving later once you have PQ experience.


Career Advisor

Do you think the market for NQs is going to be better or worse in 12 months time? (Clue: There’s is a humdinger of a recession on the way)



I would suggest that you persist. The legal job market is drying up and the economic situation looks like it is only going to get worse. Masters degrees do not give you a competitive advantage over other NQs, who will be fresh from their traineeship.

You say you are looking for the right opportunity but you will have to be careful not to be too discerning. No-one is guaranteed an NQ role just because you completed a traineeship, and my instinct is that the longer the time away from legal work the more difficult it will be to secure a qualification spot. From what you have written it seems you are looking for the perfect role rather than the right one.

It might be better to bite the bullet and go for any NQ position you can get. You can always go to another firm or practice area early in your career, but if you wait too long you might never get back in.






No. No. And thrice no.



You have quali leave for this – if you want a full gap year you’re better taking it before the LPC or whatever they do now



Please god no



‘Assign my traineeship over’ – so you’re looking to leave even before your TC has been completed? If so, would definitely advise against this.


Scottish POV

By the words OP is using (e.g. traineeship) they might be Scottish. In Scotland, it is actually not unheard of for firms to request that NQs ‘transfer over’ the last few months of their TC if they were intending to join just after their TC finishes.

It isn’t super common, but when I talked to recruiters in Scotland when I was coming up to qualification they did ask if I would be willing to assign my TC over. This would mean you would get the start with the new firm a bit earlier – its not really that easy at larger firms (you’d be leaving a department without a trainee for a few months, potentially) but may be more common at smaller firms.



They’re called traineeships in Ireland too and they have to be assigned as well, I wonder if OP is based there. I had a similar issue, in the end I agreed a start date after my contract expired. I honestly think it would be foolish to be too picky, she can always move job again later. Whats the point doing a masters, just for the fun?

I do think the firm letting her go and then expecting her to finish up cases is a bit ridiculous, if you are going to leave someone unemployed it is to me unfair to say “finish these last few things in the very last month”! I feel they want it both ways, I wouldnt be loyal to an organisation throwing me out the door.



Meant to say I wasn’t going to be unemployed it was just a higher paying role and they didnt actually care if I was qualified as a solicitor (policy related law role) but as I am nearly qualified i didnt want to throw in the towel(!)



Potentially have a look into local authority legal jobs? They have good NQ opportunities, really varied work (depending on what you want to go into) and alot are open to remote working. Maybe not be as fantastically paid as big private law firms but relatively good and tend to promote good work life balance.


Russian POV



Properly Pedantic Partner

You may have more luck, and compliments, if you learned to spell “complement” correctly.


German POV



German POV



Scandinavian POV






Welsh POV

Oh noo, Boyo!


Northern Irish POV



French POV



American POV

You go for it girl! Believe in your dreams and they will manifest themselves. Don’t listen to any of that negativity.


Had been there

Go to the land Down Under, backpack and find a job after you had enough of the sunshine and beaches. MC/SC pay but nicer lifestyle, weather, good and people. Move back as a lateral after a year or two if you don’t like it there.



It’s very possible that NQ roles in 2023 seldom exist with the upcoming recession.

Firm’s are tightening the belt and the market conditions we’ve seen between 2020-22 are likely going to do a complete 180.

I’d be aggressively looking for a job right now if you are out of one and sitting very tight if you’re in one.


Comments are closed.

Related Stories