Articles From the Team
Midlands private practice review - 2021
Without a doubt 2021 is the busiest we've ever seen the legal recruitment market (certainly in the decade that I've worked at BCL Legal).
I work alongside all of the national, international and regional firms in Birmingham handling vacancies at all levels from newly qualified solicitors through to partner level appointments across real estate, construction and commercial and vacancies at all levels have been at record highs in all of these practice areas.
Following a huge slump in vacancy levels from March – Sept 2020, we saw the early signs of this swift recovery during Q4 of 2020 but at that point we had no idea just how busy 2021 would be.
Confidence in the market following strong performances from most firms (despite the pandemic) manifested itself in a huge increase in vacancies during the whole of 2021. Firms came to realise that in most practice areas both Covid-19 and Brexit actually resulted in increased legal work. During 2020 firms were reluctant to recruit so the knock on effect to 2021 has been that we have been dealing with both growth and replacement roles for a two year period in one!
My prediction for 2022 is that this level of activity will settle somewhat however we are seeing no signs of that as yet and we’ll still have record levels of unfilled legal vacancies moving into 2022.
Geography has become of less importance to law firms and more roles than ever are open to candidates nationally with many of the larger firms operating national teams to a far truer extent than ever before. Firms have finally embraced technology allowing employees to interact with peers and clients remotely. The result of this is that good lawyers in the regions can now access the London market and there is less separation between London and regional teams.
The war for talent and blurred location requirements has impacted salary levels positively in the regions during 2021; it will be interesting to see if this upward trajectory continues as firms formalise remote working policies and move towards a hybrid model requiring employees to be within easy commuting distance of their local office.
For the most part, firms are operating a 50/50 home/office blended working week and there are fewer fully remote roles available than what we might have anticipated at the beginning of the year.
Covid has certainly accelerated change that was long overdue in the legal market and the 20’s will be marked as the time that we departed from our traditional working models.
The buoyancy of the market means that firms have far more flexibility than they would do normally and they are far more open to looking outside of the usual box in terms of candidate requirements. This means that there is a real opportunity for those looking to move from smaller practices into national/international firms where they will be able to access exceptional quality work and benefit from good salary increases. It has also opened up more opportunity for retrains into different areas of law, usually areas where there is some overlap; residential conveyancing into commercial property or property damage into contentious construction for example.
Firms also seem to be making a genuine effort with their equality, diversity and inclusion strategies. It is more important than ever to unlock the power and potential of all talent available to them.
Gradually the behaviours and mindsets of law firms, and senior partners in particular, seem to be changing for the better. For example, they are more alive to the fact that someone’s economic background can massively impact academic results so whereas 10 years ago, clients would always ask for excellent academics, there has been a noticeable softening towards this in the fight for social mobility.
Although on the face of it, the legal profession is more diverse than ever, there is still a lot of work to be done to eliminate discrimination on matters concerning gender, race, age, disability, sexual orientation and so on, particularly at the larger firms where many groups are still underrepresented, particularly at partner level.
It is positive to see that slowly the playing field is being levelled and we at BCL Legal have made a commitment to make this a key focus for us this coming year too.
BCL Legal Birmingham will continue to support events with various lawyer groups throughout the year and will hold Birmingham and the West Midlands’ largest NQ Solicitors event again on 1 March 2022.