Louisa Phillips
Louisa Phillips
Associate Director: Private Practice

Articles From the Team

I’m an overworked lawyer…get me out of here!

The transactional legal market has remained consistently busy over recent years.  Transactional lawyers, including corporate, banking and real estate lawyers working at all sizes of firms, from top tier/national to small boutique practices have been busy with quality work across the board, but why is there never a happy medium?  In the depths of the recession the very same lawyers were facing a black hole in terms of pipeline of transactions and prospects ahead, yet now it seems with a high level of instructions many lawyers (particularly in the large national firms) don’t often see the light of day.  So are there options?  Or should transactional lawyers simply accept that by qualifying into these areas they are buying into work highs and lows and a sacrifice in work-life balance often comes with that?

Candidates at national firms operate in a bubble that’s for sure.  Often facing long hours and completions into the night, they struggle to see the wider picture and cannot see an alternative lifestyle.  The question is, can a balance be struck between quality transactional work and time outside the office?  Well hopefully it can.  The accountants for sure are trying to change the perception of the relentless lifestyle corporate lawyer’s face.  KPMG, PwC and EY now all have corporate legal teams in Manchester.  Headed by ex top tier partners, they offer the attraction of a huge client base to tap into and excellent quality corporate work from the backing of a global brand.  Tempting candidates away from the top tier and national firms with chunky financial packages, they also promise greater flexibility and an ability to work in a more mature way – hot desking and working from home more autonomously.  Right now they are the new alternative and paving the way for legal services to be delivered from an alternative environment, you no longer need to be in a law firm to be a lawyer, which is refreshing thought for many.

We are also more frequently speaking to candidates about moving to smaller firms, or exploring opportunities out of town.  Whilst some lawyers are initially reluctant to move out of the city centre, after further research smaller boutique firms or practices out of the city can offer excellent work and better prospects.  Smaller firms generally have smaller teams, and can offer lawyers the opportunity to take on a more hands on client-facing role.  A common concern from top/mid tier lawyers is that they are one person in a large team, with little autonomy or client contact.  At smaller firms and those outside of the city, lawyers will have greater responsibility, good quality work, and have the ability to take on a much wider role in terms of networking and business development.  Not only that, progression prospects are generally better with there being fewer hurdles to reach the associate/partner level.

If these ideas don’t appeal, there is then the lure of in-house.  Working for an organisation and being fully immersed in the commercial decision making within that business is very different to operating as a transactional lawyer within a law firm, but can be appealing.  With greater flexibility and attractive remuneration packages, in-house can offer both commercial contracts lawyers and corporate lawyers looking for an alternative environment a way out.  So options are available.  Given that bubble though, never forget that the grass may not always be greener.  If you can stomach the irregular hours and demands of a large national firm, after all the quality of work is often excellent and in a busy transactional market there may be options on your doorstep you would be foolish to ignore.

For more information contact Louisa Phillips at BCL Legal.

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