Outlook for legal recruitment in 2015

2014 was a strong year for legal recruitment. Market sentiment in legal private practice is very positive. From Magic Circle through to mid-tier and boutique firms, the desire to increase headcount is strong - firms are choosing to invest in talent, expand teams and create new roles.
The in house market is less affected by small ebbs and flows in the market. A legal team in an organisation will not be affected significantly because the market sees some improvement. That said, the need for additional legal staff is becoming common and replacement people who leave is absolutely necessary. There has been a distinct improvement in some areas, most notably in the compliance and data protection fields. Where this role may have formed part of an in house lawyer’s role, the stakes are now high and many companies are investing in a dedicated resource.

Legal recruitment in 2014

In private practice, 2014 was a busy year, with all levels of the market active. Legal firms are making expansive hires and creating new roles and teams. The main issue faced by firms is the candidate driven nature of the market, with the best candidates being well looked after by the firms they work for. That said, firms still appear to be prepared to wait until they find the perfect candidate before hiring. 
The in house market is traditionally client driven, however the last year has seen a shift in this. While the number of candidates looking to move in house has remained constant, employer expectation have not altered in the last few years, especially in regards to what they may have to pay. 

Legal recruitment activity in 2015

The property sector, particularly in London, has been very strong so far and is likely to continue this way throughout 2015.  There has also been increased hiring in corporate and commercial areas, with litigation beginning to grow as well. 
This trend is mirrored in house with a good year last year in property and construction with continued strength in the consumer markets. In the first quarter of 2015, we are also seeing an improvement in the TMT sectors while legal recruitment into oil and gas is understandably conservative. .
Recently, we have seen at least two large accounting firms gain ABS licences, and enter into the legal market. These firms will be hiring heavily in 2015, looking for lawyers in all the key areas. This is likely to further add to the competition for the best candidates. In a similar vein, 2015 will bring several high profile office openings for international firms venturing into the UK market. 
With an increase in litigation, there has been an increase in demand for immediately available lawyers to support firms with large cases on a short term basis. This has also meant an increase in the number of outsourced legal support providers, essentially acting as agencies.

Top three tips for employers looking to attract candidates in 2015

  • Be as flexible as possible around package - you cannot expect to offer a candidate market rate and win them. They will already be on it and will be expecting an increase. Flexible working and working from home has become a common way for a business to distinguish itself outside of the package.  A company or firm failing to offer any flexibility may lose out on the best candidates who are finding it the norm elsewhere.
  • Recognise the need to sell the firm – In such a candidate driven market, it’s important to make your firm or company’s USPs throughout the interview process.
  • Make the recruitment process as smooth and quick as possible for the candidate – the process is the first thing any potential candidate sees of a business.

Are you looking to recruit at moment?

If so, please get in touch with Thomas Watson, associate director for in house queries or Tom Gowing, associate director for private practice queries.
Thomas Watson
T: +44 207 269 2499
Tom Gowing
T: +44 20 7269 2254