High demand for Lawyers in the UK has been driven by political uncertainty

Morgan McKinley 08.10.2019

Amid political turmoil, the demand for sound Legal advice has been telling, resulting in an abundance of vacancies at law firms and in-house roles across sectors.

Overview of Legal recruitment

Whilst many disciplines experienced a slowdown of hiring, the permanent Legal market has been buoyant throughout summer. Law firms continued hiring in large volumes and equally there has been an abundance of in-house roles across sectors. A crescendo of roles at US law firms for junior banking and finance lawyers has been seen, specifically across leveraged and structured finance. Numerous New York headquartered firms have sought these candidates to join their London offices. In UK firms, there have been broader commercial and specialist vacancies, such as real estate and regulatory roles - displaying a continued desire to hire due to more instructions from clients.

The temporary Legal market has been similar to what has been seen across Compliance and a number of other disciplines - organisations are waiting to see what happens with Brexit. Senior level lawyers, counsels and regulator SMEs are all waiting to see which decision is made; whatever the outcome, opportunities are likely. In other parts of the market, it has remained fairly stable with a number of document review, negotiation and drafting vacancies available. A significant number of roles have highlighted how applicants require payments experience - this is due to the increase in new online retail banking firms.

The most prominent roles seen in past months

Lawyers employed within banking and finance on a permanent basis who possess regulatory and specific financial experience have been in high demand. Recently, there has been a noticeable influx of professionals looking to move from Investment Banks to buy-side Asset Managers and Hedge Funds - those looking to make this change must have experience of MiFID and EMIR reporting. However, the most crucial overall trait is a strong level of commerciality and stakeholder management; as an in-house lawyer, it is of utmost importance that you can convincingly manage senior leadership and build beneficial relationships that can make challenging discussions easier. The importance of this is magnified significantly in smaller environments, such as at asset management companies.

Legal recruitment facts from summer 2019

Document review and negotiation have remained the busiest areas of temporary Legal recruitment due to the high level of investigations at firms and the need for staff in the documentation space. In the past, document work was primarily paper based, but now the scope has changed to include e-discovery as electronic data is now subject to discovery. This particular area requires specialist knowledge and skills including:

  • Legal knowledge - An understanding of the litigation process
  • EDRM skills - Knowledge of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model for gathering and assimilating electronic data
  • Computer skills - Proficiency with document review tools

Workplace wellness: An influential trend in the Legal sector

Wellbeing has become enormously important in the Legal space over recent years. An article written by the Law Society Gazette claims that Legal professionals are the second most stressed after those working in HR. This has brought about the inception of firms such as LawCare, an organisation which supports the mental health of employees in the Legal sector. As for the general day-to-day wellbeing available at firms, it isn’t an industry, by nature of the work, which offers particularly great wellbeing in regards to flexible working.

On the subject of wellbeing and diversity, a recent study revealed the number of female trainees now resembles the actual number of women entering law school, and the percentage of female partners hit a record 36% at non-City London firms and 27% across the country. ‘The 30% Club’ – a group of major firms that set the goal of reaching 30% women partners by 2020 – are still some way off hitting their target. The large majority will miss the 30% mark, which indicates the goal was too aspirational, but at least they’re taking action to make change.

For the remainder of 2019…

We expect the availability of Legal roles to grow across both Law firms and within businesses. Whilst the political landscape is on tenterhooks, it is positively affecting the requirement for sound legal advice. 

Any Legal professionals looking to secure a new role on the regulatory side of the sector should act sooner rather than later and make their recruiter aware of their intentions. This means that when the need for new UK regulations comes, or the freeze on regulatory projects is lifted, they are at the forefront of the recruiter’s mind.

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