The South West saw a sharp increase in legal property work in the second half of 2012. Domestic conveyancing and commercial property was busy, despite the economy strongly suggesting that it would be otherwise. This was in part due to the mass culling of property lawyers immediately following the recession, fewer solicitors qualifying into property over the last three years and a few less competitors in the market.
The personal injury industry will be hit hard by the Jackson Reforms in the spring, with a squeeze on how much solicitors can recoup from successful claims. This has not yet equated into a slowing down of recruitment in the sector, especially in the South West, which has been traditionally strong in this area. However, opportunities abound for this industry into spring and summer next year.
Non-contentious areas (commercial and commercial property) picked up with regards to recruitment in the second half of 2012, while contentious areas (litigation and employment) remained steady on the recruitment front.
The Thames Valley (Reading and Oxford) and Hampshire private practice market was steady and growing in certain areas in 2012. Again, the main areas of expansion were the recession hit areas of 2008 and 2009. So, we saw more jobs in real estate and residential property. Private practice firms noted that residential development and high network property is coming back and will continue to grow. Candidates in demand were those at the two year NQ level for real estate and the mid-level and more senior end for residential property.
There was an increased need for commercial (general) and more specialist sector specialisms like IT, insurance and financial services. Corporate transactional work also saw some increase but firms have been cautious in recruitment.
On the contentious side, commercial litigation and injury litigation saw growth at the more senior end, with smaller firms either wanting to diversify the services they offer or with the need to replace now that the litigation market experienced some growth and movement.
Top tier and national firms continued to grow in key areas and have strategic plans in place to grow in niche and specialist areas. We should see more lateral hires and maybe an increased need for junior lawyers as a result.
Smaller firms in need of change are either merging or being taken over, with the entrepreneurial ones growing by diversifying into new markets. Areas that did not see much growth in 2012 are family, wills and probate.
The South East had a year of two halves. The first few months saw a large amount of contract manager roles but this tailed off towards the end of the year and we are now seeing many more legal counsel roles and more senior qualified positions. Sector wise, the focus was mainly on IT/software.
In terms of what’s in demand, the in-house counsel market is highly competitive. Employers want top tier qualified lawyers (2-7 years PQE) and are willing to pay well for them so are attracting people out of top London firms.
The South West was again dominated by the financial services companies who continued to recruit due to legislative changes. However, the second half of 2012 delivered an increase in permanent vacancies from a wide variety of sources with software and retail being the most prevalent. Hourly paid roles reduced or were replaced by a significant increase in fixed term contracts as customers looked to seek value in the market as well as attempting to lure out of work permanent candidates in to the contract market.
Although job numbers were down, a large number of roles available were for £70k or more. Commercial contracts managers were the order of the day in Q4 with software, business services and facilities management companies seeking support from both perm and temp staff.
Good commercial candidates were in short supply and astute employers make hiring processes shorter, but many continued to wait for what they saw as the right candidate.
Since the economic and banking crises hit in 2009, increasing numbers of surveys have evidenced the decrease in the general public’s trust in UK organisations, some describing it as a ‘trust deficit’ which businesses are keen to try and rectify.
The role of the company secretary has been crucial in this and there is no doubt that there has been a rise in the importance of the role of the company secretary. Providing an important link between the board and the management, the current climate has resulted in company secretaries being key to the improvement of corporate governance and therefore the rebuilding of public trust.
Competition continued to be fierce at the junior level, both for candidates and for companies trying to ensure they secure the best talent. More and more candidates hold qualifications, so hiring managers are more likely to look closely at experience and whether it’s relevant to their organisation and the sector in which they operate. At the senior end it’s important that candidates have the technical skills, but companies are also looking for someone with the right interpersonal skills; their perception by the board is key to how much value they can really add.