2014 has so far been an interesting year for In-house Legal Recruitment in the South East, with more and more companies adding specialist lawyers to their in-house legal teams.
Following the upswing in economic activity and the renewal of business confidence, companies in the engineering, manufacturing, infrastructure, retail and finance sectors have been recruiting again in larger numbers. Interestingly however, alongside the usual requirement for 2-6 year PQE Commercial Solicitors we have seen an unusually high number of opportunities for specialist Employment, Commercial Property, Dispute Resolution and Compliance lawyers.
I see this subtle shift in recruitment activity as a positive indicator for the in-house legal community and the wider economy however its interesting to look at some of the reasons:
• Recruiting specialist lawyers indicates that companies are looking to retain more work in-house and that they are prepared to invest in their legal team. This is less positive for private practice law firms but it suggests the appetite for in-house legal remains strong.
• Generally the companies that are recruiting specialists are in industries that have had a tough time over the last six years. The investment in specialist lawyers indicates a loosening of the purse strings and more importantly a renewal in confidence.
• We are seeing companies recruiting lawyers into compliance roles, and generally growing their compliance offering. Companies are reacting to changes in legislation or regulatory guidelines and ensuring they are well protected. Think Bribery Act, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), Export/Trade Control regulations, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulations etc.
• We are seeing more and more companies recruiting dispute resolution and arbitration lawyers, particularly when they operate in industries with a relatively small pool of potential clients and/or suppliers. Industries such as Defence, Energy and Automotive, or those dealing with Government, are particularly keen to avoid litigation and thus preventative measures are increasingly important.
The growth in specialist lawyer roles has allowed candidate lawyers who hitherto would struggle to move in-house to have the opportunity to do so. It must be noted however that competition is still incredibly fierce and In-house Employment and Litigation roles regularly receive a significant volume of applicants. This puts the employer in a dominant position when it comes to salary negotiation and it means only the very best lawyers stand a chance of securing the role.