Not getting interviews

I work as a specialist in central government. I like it, and I like the people I work with but the money is appalling.


I've applied for a few in house roles and I'm not getting anywhere. 


Is it the case when you've worked for the gov for a few years, as I have, that you are basically stuffed and no-one wants to know ?


It's not a disaster if I have to stay but I have a fairly strong skillset which would suit an in house role, I'm not asking for the moon on a stick money wise. I've had my CV looked at by a rec con and they thought it was ok.  I have a decent degree from a good uni and have a good few years pqe.


Am I damaged goods ? Has anyone worked in central gov and managed to get out ?

quite a few of the really senior civil servants have dotted between the two so I say hellno you are not it is just a matter of finding the right gig

Id rather like to avoid being too specific but I have a lot of experience in both civil lit and employment. 

I've got 11 years pqe and I earn just over 50 grand. 

Grade 7s are on about £50k I think. Not much if (as I suspect) the work is eye-wateringly dull and your whole working life is wrapped up in red tape.

So you’re a litigation and/or employment lawyer?

In house litigation gigs can be tough to find outside the large institutions  probably depends a lot on the sort of lit you’re actually doing

Employment is easier to go in house at any level (especially right now as tribunal levels are through the roof) and gives a good opportunity to shunt sideways into HR and more cash. 

Would you go into PP first? You presumably come across other firms in what you do, ring the partners of the less khunty ones and ask to go for a coffee. If they’re not looking they might know someone who is and will be keen to place you at a client if they can as they’ll want to them mine you for repeat business. Don’t just wait for the chinnies, is suggest  


If you are as specialist as you say, you should know the companies (or firms) in that space and should contact them directly. 

I don't particularly want to work in private practice. I am more than happy to earn 60/70k and work in house, even if it's at a more junior level than my pqe would possibly demand.


I also appreciate that you should be careful what you wish for but the money is so crap here I sort of feel like I've not got much choice but to look elsewhere.

Find a recruiter, this is no easy task.

9/10 will be shite, so I would put aside a fair amount of time for finding a decent one that understands your experience and sector. 

You may need to speak to a fair number until you find one that takes the time to have a proper convo with you and can talk your language. 

The reason you could benefit from a recruiter is really one of translation and just as a reference point. If you are moving from one space into another you need someone who can explain why you are relevant to he business you are applying to. A CV arriving through the door is likely to create a number of question marks in HR/hiring managers mind and they simply will not invest the time to investigate these question marks. They will follow the line of least resistance which involves progressing the most straightforward CVs. A good recruiter will not only answer these question marks on your behalf and open a dialogue with the employer, but they should also pre-empt a large number of them.  


If you can let me know what sort of in-house experience you have I can maybe point you in-the right direction. 

I would imagine if you are in govt its not completely generalist, and you mention specialist. Did you train in-house? Have you ever worked in PP.

Do you work with lots of non-lawyers?

Are you involved in contract negotiation

policy review





As you’re probably getting it’s difficult to help without a bit more info about what you do or what value you could add. 

People are nervous of hiring from the public sector (generally) because they think public sector people are uncommercial. Your CV should be clear about the impact of what you’ve done and include numbers or metrics (e.g. £x million recovered, x number of tribunals won) that show you *get* working in private sector. 

Beware the advice of chinnies when it comes to CVs as well. 

should have gone for for ameh-ameh like in the Will Smith song

"Beware the advice of chinnies when it comes to CVs as well." 

I would agree on this too. If you don't trust a chinnie to represent you for a role then don't take their advice on your CV. 


The difficulty, as Zero says is that people make assumptions quickly and do so on job title alone. even if your CV is full of info that demonstrates a lot of commercial acumen you may well already have lost them before they read it properly. Again this is where a recruiter can step in and get on the phone to the hiring manager and make your case in a way that cannot be skimmed over. 



"should have gone for for ameh-ameh like in the Will Smith song"


Are you sure that's not the Muppets?

GnR would be "Take meh down to the paradise city" or "she's got a smile that seems to meh"

Thanks - I appreciate the replies. The point on beefing the cv up with actually figures is a good one and one I hadn't thought of. I've put reported / significant cases on it but didn't distill it to pounds Shillings and pence so I'll maybe work on that too. 


I appreciate the risks of hiring people from the public sector. There is dead wood here without a doubt. My worry is that I might start rotting too if I stay here much longer. It's actually a very civilised place to work, and my guvnor is a very , very nice person. I just can't see myself staying here for the money. They keep asking more and more of us and sending round these infuriating emails saying they want this to be a wonderful place to work, but the reality is they are doing nothing in real terms to address the pay morale issues. 


Anyway I have a lot of experience in judicial review, civil  and employment litigation in pretty much all jurisdictions, pension matters-   with areally dealing with any employment matter than can go before a tribunal or county court. 

I could stay here and try and get promoted but I loathe dealing with all the bs and red tape of civil service management. It's an entirely thankless task for another 500 quid a month and I just can't be bothered with it.

I think I need to be realistic though. If I don't manage to get out in a year or so then I suspect it won't happen. It's not a disaster by any means, and I don't dread going into work or anything like that. 

You sound a bit institutionalised. You know what you do but can you name the top 5 companies that operate in that space? Have you sat down and worked out exactly what you could offer them if you worked there - what value would you add?

The other point id make is that it seems a mixed bag, civil lit, employment lit, pensions etc. That’s good because it widens your opportunities but you need to tailor your cv each time. If I was recruiting an employment lawyer and got a cv with civil lit, pensions and reported (civil) cases it would go in the bin. Be specific about your relevant experience for that role. 

"I think I need to be realistic though. If I don't manage to get out in a year or so then I suspect it won't happen. It's not a disaster by any means, and I don't dread going into work or anything like that. "


Dont make this assumption - especially as it is not really based on anything other than a small data sample.These things can take time and there are a lot of factors to consider. 


some of the crucial questions here still need answering: 


Have you applied for any roles through a recruiter? Have you had any feedback on rejections? 

Did you train in PP?

Contract work? 

General commercial? 


whe I say contract work I mean are you involved in more transactional work at all? 

OP - are you fvcking nuts?

You're a civil servant - presumably quite high up and progressing - you're on the best gravy train in the world. The pay might seem a bit mediocre at the moment but it and the perks just get better and better and better. Crack on where you are on the rest of us.

You are a high-rate tax payer (this is my current life goal), you earn more than 85% of UK taxpayers, plus you get an amazing pension, and work life balance


What feedback are you getting from your internal applications?

make a list of firms , target them

If you can work in London, I think you should aim for 85k + , minimum

as you identified, you may have to make a sideways move in order to move up. many in house legal functions are somewhat reluctant to bring someone in to their legal team as a manager of other lawyers - preferring to promote internally

I'd be tempted to approach a few GCs at big firms directly. test the water on that approach. save them a recruitment fee

I've had my CV looked at by a rec con and they thought it was ok

This means literally nothing.

Why on earth do public sector jobs in the UK pay so badly?  Looking entry level public service jobs in Oz (for career-changers, so you're at the top of the entry-level band tbf - making about $10k difference), and you're talking close to $90k + super.  That's 50k sterling.  And by the time you've pushed a few pencils you're an EL2 before you can blink, on $170k.




Although tbf you'll be forced to live in Canberra...  

make a list of firms , target them

"If you can work in London, I think you should aim for 85k + , minimum"


1.OP has said they dont want to be in PP

2. without having a full idea of OP's experience, circumstances, longer term plans etc I think just plucking a number out of the air is pretty unhelpful.

Jump ship to one of your panel firms.

Come up with a more original name.


Yeah - whatever else you do, OP - change your username on here - not cool to Meh.

I'm not particularly high up and I'm not progressing, which is part of the issue. Progression means managing a larger team with all the civil service bs that goes with it- I can't think of anything I'd like to do less. There is basically no progression unless you get promoted. If I get promoted then in my eyes I'm not really a lawyer anymore.

meh-ameh - if you want to PM me I can see what I can do. I have directly and indirectly helped people in Civil Service previously. I am unlikely to be able to help myself in this instance but can point you in the right direction. 

So you don't want to go to pp and you don't want to move sideways / upwards in a managerial capacity - what do you want to do exactly?

That's very kind of you. I may well take you up on that kind offer shortly.

the same with more ££ by the looks of it.  nothing wrong with that, of course...

Go out to all the recruiters you can and be patient. You are a square peg trying to fit in a round hole so it will take time. 

I wouldn’t bother approaching GCs directly (if they have budget for headcount they will have a Rec Con instructed). 

Don’t piss about overly with favourite Rev Cons or letting anyone persuade you to send your CV in for a role advertised with someone else (you’re just lining up double fees for the GC and you’re clearly not going to be so good for a role, given the square peg bit, to make that look attractive). 

As others have mentioned, you need to calculate the value of your non-salary benefits, in particular the pension but also leave (inc. flexi-leave, pat/maternity leave, etc.), redundancy entitlement, other accrued contractual rights, etc.  A career average public sector pension might be worth up to a third on top of your salary, at least that is what an actuary once told me (about the old FS scheme though).  You might tot it all up and decide you're not so badly off after all - I did. 

I went from practice to public sector some years ago and it is difficult getting out.  I suspect many private sector employers view public sector workers as lazy, entitled and useless - I know I did!  TBF I saw precious little to disabuse me until my last but one job. Some of the top people I worked for and with were very good indeed.

You will never earn megabucks in the public sector, and you have both the Politics, as well as the usual politics you get in any organisation, to deal with. OTOH there are benefits to the public sector, as set out above. Working in-house in a large firm is liable to involve just as much red tape as the public sector, as well.      

What Zero said about tailoring your CV.  My base CV is quite long as it has lots of bits on so I don't forget about them but before applying for any job I read the spec and edit my CV to leave in the most appropriate bits of experience and highlight anything particularly salient.

Finally got an interview (after tinkering a little bit with the CV) for what looks like a pretty decent role. even if it doesn't work out I'm now feeling a bit better about things

 Thanks for everyone's help here - really appreciated.

Good luck and how nice for a RoF thread to be helpful. We should have it stuffed.