Clarity and certainty around Brexit that has come from the General Election result in December has caused an uptick in in-house legal vacancies.
So here we are. It’s finally 2020; the Space Age. Back to the Future Hoverboards have been and gone, tractor beams are a thing of the past and Alexa is pretty much Mother from Alien. But actually, nothing day-to-day has really changed. The weather is still rubbish in January, we are all still inflated from Christmas and New Year and there is a sign that the daffodils are coming up early.
It’s been raining…significantly. Both in real terms, with high rainfall in November and December resulting in floods across the UK, and also within the legal recruitment market.
2019 did not see a drop in roles available compared to 2018 and with circa 1800 advertised in-house legal roles within the M25 alone, it was a bumper year; even in the face of political uncertainty. Since the General Election in December, we have already witnessed an uptick in vacancies. Clarity and certainty has yielded roles within legal teams as businesses which were uncertain on hiring before have now taken the attitude that actually, the show must go on. Legal, as a support function to a business, can often be impacted by sales and growth, but the requirement of a lawyer is never more important than now; and many less established businesses have come to realise that.
For many businesses within the financial services sector, the minefield of regulation and untangling that will be taking place is significant. Most banks have had “Brexit” teams completing projects over the last 2 years and consequently are set to be able to leave Europe relatively smoothly. The non-regulated business sector, particularly across commerce and industry, has had similar projects and reviews. Those with physical products have had to consider their distribution and supply chains and have been beavering away in preparation for the break away. Professional services firms have been riding a small wave as an uptick in consulting has been required to examine the best methods of extricating the UK, but remaining in touch through business.
So why, if businesses have already carried out their legal Brexit work, are we set for a flood of roles in 2020? One of the factors is the movement of senior lawyers within the sector. Many General Counsels and Heads of Legal have sat tight, mainly through lack of opportunity and concern over moving during uncertain times. Having recently been appointed to recruit a General Counsel role for an SME, my inbox has been red hot with applications from senior lawyers, all of whom are looking for new roles.
This is a demonstration of the wider market and as some of those European businesses decide to take their central head office functions back to Germany or France, new businesses from outside of Europe are filling the gap. Therein lies the opportunities for senior lawyers and the creation of new legal teams. The SME market is where the majority of new roles will fall, but rest assured those moving to SMEs from larger corporates will also need their positions backfilled. It is envisaged that larger corporates, both within financial services and within the commerce and industry sectors, will be hiring multiple lawyers in 2020. The merry go round has started and the rain is falling.
Another major reason for requiring further legal support is due to restructuring. We have witnessed a number of large corporates split out their businesses and move away from a centralised legal function, providing legal support uniquely across business lines. This has created further roles within the existing umbrella company but also acute and direct advice can be provided day to day. Furthermore, lawyers are still required to defend or chase claims for a variety of reasons. Indeed there has been a marginal uplift in roles in-house where contentious lawyers are required. Whether the market is up, down or flat, claims for money through breaches of regulation, breaches of contract and non performance will always exist, and in some markets, claims become greater as the need for cash increases.
On Boxing day, Easter eggs were already in the supermarkets. I'm looking forward to the Easter break already as Q1 is going to be busy for hiring.
If you are a lawyer considering a move away from private practice or you are already working within an in-house legal team and are considering your options, we would be delighted to hear from you.