Mary Nowell
Mary Nowell
Managing Director: Private Practice

Articles From the Team

London private practice review - 2021

The legal recruitment landscape in London can be summed up in one word; competitive!

2021 started as 2020 ended, incredibly busy with firms recruiting across a range of transactional and contentious disciplines at a variety of levels. With a sharp post pandemic recovery demand has outstripped supply and so firms have had to focus on a range of measures aimed at retaining existing staff and attracting a new wave of talent to the firm to service increased workloads.

There is no doubt that as the war for talent has heated up we have seen significant salary inflation.

Numerous firms announced an increase in their trainee and newly qualified salaries with candidates being able to secure strong pay increases further up the PQE spectrum. Earlier on in 2021 we saw a variety of firms announce ‘Covid bonuses’ (Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance,  Linklaters, as well as a host of other major City players) aimed at saying ‘thank you’ for performance during the pandemic. Conversations around performance related bonuses and salary reviews will be high on the agenda as more firms try to position themselves favourably in an ever more competitive market (at the time of writing Freshfields announce a £20,000 hike in pay for Associates).

In addition to the financials we have seen firms embracing increasing levels of flexibility. Many firms have adopted a hybrid model allowing 2/3 days homeworking and this has served to provide much needed flexibility to working parents, those with caring responsibilities, and lawyers looking to achieve a better work life balance...

It has also allowed candidate pools to become larger and we have certainly seen talent from the regions being lured to the city by the promise of larger salaries with minimal requirements to be physically present in the office.

In contrast, firms with both city and regional offices have certainly focused on recruitment in the regions to avoid the hefty price tag that comes with recruitment in the city. This trend looks set to continue and will certainly exert further pressure to already stretched regional talent pools.

As the UK enters a new phase of the pandemic with the emergence of Omicrom, it will be interesting to see how lawyers and firms respond. Though with ever increasing workloads and a developed vaccination programme it seems inconceivable that firms will put a pause on recruitment.

I suspect that passive job searchers may approach the market with caution at the start of 2022, but those who are more active should take confidence from the fact that firms are now well adapted to recruitment and induction during a pandemic.

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