My team and I focus on placing interim lawyers to law firms in London, so we cover a large geography and we are exposed to the full spectrum of law firms which range from sole practitioners to international and Magic Circle law firms. The markets that this disparate collection of law firms operate in is vast and different at every level of the legal ecosystem.
In recent years the City of London, which is home to many of the leading law firms of the world, has seen an increase in commercial activity. The areas that almost ground to a halt due to the financial crash in 2008, namely corporate, banking and commercial property, have gathered a pace and now are not far off the pre-recession levels. As recently reported in the Lawyer Barclays (who instructs a panel of law firms) spent £2.5bn in Q1 of 2015 on forex litigation alone. But how has the rest of the London market, in particular the firms outside of the Square Mile and West End, fared in comparison?
Speaking purely from an interim recruiter’s point of view the waves of optimism have certainly cascaded through to the many smaller law firms within the 32 boroughs of London. Whilst we place many lawyers to the large, multi-national firms of the City we have had an equal number of instructions from the law firms on the high streets.
With the London housing market still as hot as ever it is no surprise that many firms have hired interim residential property lawyers; our instructions emanate from many circumstances ranging from spikes in work to maternity or holiday cover. What has been apparent in the last two years or so is the number of high street firms who have been in need of recruiting lawyers with both a residential and commercial property focus.
We have also seen a rise in instructions from high street firms for company commercial lawyers. The client base of these firms tends to be much more aligned with Owner Managed Businesses and Small to Medium Sized Enterprises who by their nature are often very entrepreneurial so as confidence in the economy has risen so too have instructions to law firms.
Unfortunately the positive trends do not extend to all high street disciplines; family lawyers have been in short demand as have criminal lawyers. With significant changes to funding in these two areas I think this trend will continue.
So how does the legal recruitment landscape look from my desk? Whilst the large commercial firms of the City and West End dominate the headlines and will always have the lion’s share of the corporate markets the smaller firms within London and in the regions will continue to grow; they can offer a viable and more cost effective alternative to the City players and are often closely aligned to their clients’ values and entrepreneurialism. The London legal market is vast and operates on many levels; with the continued growth of the economy and London’s role within the global legal landscape I expect 2015 to outperform 2014.