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Relocating to the Midlands - is there life outside London for solicitors?

The legal market is booming! Well, perhaps an overly-optimistic statement, but the market has not only shown great signs of recovery but also significant growth in certain areas. It is also fair to say that this is the case across the UK and not just in London.
In the Midlands, Michael Page Legal has seen a massive spike in recruitment activity at all levels and the recruitment needs of Midlands law firms have increased dramatically over the past four years.
The Midlands market is full of great solicitors but it is candidate short at certain levels of PQE and in certain disciplines. Areas that are continuing to grow include real estate, corporate and banking, commercial and IT/IP as well as across certain niche sectors such as energy and healthcare.
So what can the Midlands offer you as a solicitor? Here are a few questions that we are often asked from solicitors considering relocating or moving back to the Midlands.

1. I don’t want to compromise on the quality of my work – will this be affected by a move out of London?

Because clients are becoming increasingly cost conscious, law firms in the regions are benefiting from an increase in London quality work. Corporate teams are running high profile, often international corporate M&A work out of their Midlands offices for leading international companies. These are not deals that are being half-serviced out of Birmingham but deals that are led by Midlands partners and driven by Midlands teams alone.
Cutting edge, real estate development and investment work is being managed and delivered from Birmingham. Just a few examples are the £600m redevelopment of New Street Station, the £187m new Library of Birmingham and the current £50m revamp of The Mailbox (and that’s just in Birmingham).
The Midlands is home to a number of international law firms including:
  • Pinsent Masons
  • Eversheds Sunderland
  • Squire Patton Boggs
  • Gowling WLG
  • DLA Piper
We also boast a number of leading national law firms such as Shoosmiths, Browne Jacobson, DWF, Capsticks and Bevan Brittan.

2. I have re-evaluated my work/life balance priorities – will I definitely be able to keep a good balance in the regions?

For the record, lawyers in the regions work very hard. Moving out of London should not just be seen as an opportunity to push down on the brakes because our clients are still looking for lawyers with ambition, drive and motivation.
However, it is certainly a chance to reclaim a work/life balance. There is such a variety of law firms in the area that you can make the move whatever you want it to be. Ultimately, you don’t have to be chained to your desk – unless you want to be, of course!

3. I am ambitious and am facing a ceiling in terms of promotion – what are my prospects in the Midlands?

Teams tend to be smaller in the Midlands than in London and therefore the right people can progress through the ranks to partnership faster.
The elusive client following that lawyers so often need to make an external move at a mid to senior level is not as much of an issue. We work with law firms in the Midlands who are more open-minded about finding the right skillset and person.
In certain disciplines, there is more opportunity to move at a senior level for an outstanding lawyer. There are many junior lawyers in the area who are holding senior positions, as many firms will reward high achievers and promote through a meritocracy rather than fixating on PQE.

4. Will I have to take a massive pay cut?

London firms pay London wages. Nothing can change this but law firms will be competitive for the right candidates and very competitive for the best candidates.
Equally, the cost of house prices and living in the Midlands is significantly less, as helpfully set out in this article, published late last year which sets out everything you need to know about Birmingham and the surrounding areas.

5. Finally, would Midlands law firms be interested in me?

The standard of lawyers in the Midlands is excellent and there are plenty of great candidates here. However, our clients will always be interested in and will recruit solicitors from outside of the region. Excellent solicitors from particular disciplines (real estate, corporate, tax and banking and commercial, IP/IT) will almost always spark immediate interest but the overall message is that if you are a driven and ambitious solicitor at any level and considering a move to the Midlands, then both my clients and I would like to hear from you.
Prior to joining Michael Page in 2012, Conor worked for four years at international law firm Squire Patton Boggs in Birmingham as a Corporate Finance solicitor having trained and then qualified at the firm in 2010. He recruits solicitors into private practice from NQ to Partner level across the West and East Midlands. The team also have a specialist in-house function, recruiting for a range of companies and organisations in the region.
For a confidential discussion about Midlands opportunities contact Conor Farrell, Manager at Michael Page Legal in Birmingham.
T: 0121 634 8800