From The Team
From The Team

Articles From the Team

North West private practice review - 2021

‘Unprecedented madness’ I thought summarised 2021 in a nutshell.

The pandemic has brought unprecedented levels of hiring into the legal sector over the last 12 months.  2020 clearly brought fear – the furlough scheme was utilised quickly by a large number of law firms, qualification for many was delayed, and even worse there were redundancies in certain areas as uncertainty hit.  However Q4 of 2020 started to bring optimism – not only was confidence in the North West legal market starting to increase, but there was enough work to justify in some cases additional hiring.  Areas such as employment started to see a recruitment drive, and this time last year the market was not quite as bleak as we might have expected.

Despite the new year bringing another lockdown and the dreaded balance of work and home schooling for many, the usual gradual ease into the new year seemed non existent and from January 1st there was a boom in recruitment across the market.

Whilst hiring into employment slowed down to an extent by the end of Q1 due to an early spike in recruitment, other areas picked up rapidly, with momentum continuing at pace throughout the course of the year. The litigation market has soared to new levels, with current data showing that recruitment into contentious roles hit record levels in 2021.  There is no doubt that issues brought about by COVID-19 have started to manifest into claims.  Failure to meet contractual obligations, financially distressed parties and non performing contracts have forced litigation to levels unseen pre-pandemic.  It’s clear that law firms both large and small have seen the impact and as a result geared up their dispute resolution teams to manage this busy period.

Transactional work is equally busy.  Corporate lawyers, from M&A to private equity specialists, have experienced levels of deal flow beyond their expectations, and all real estate areas are busy – from asset management/investment, to occupiers, development (both commercial and residential) and real estate finance.

Hiring levels in more specialised areas such construction, procurement and real estate litigation have also represented a significant rise compared to pre-pandemic levels.  With insolvency lawyers still gearing up for the expected boom, and employment lawyers booking up the Tribunals well into next year, there seems to be no cause for concern as we reflect on 2021 and predict the year ahead.  Law firms from the top tier international powerhouses, to mid market nationals and regional and boutique practices all seem to have experienced an upturn in work across practice groups, requiring additional resource across a range of experience levels.

With lawyers in demand and hiring activity still continuing to rise, the challenge continues to be meeting the demand.  Whilst the North West is undoubtedly busy, recruitment activity is equally high across the country, with geography largely having little impact on where work is placed.

The emphasis has shifted to finding the right people to hire to meet client demands – wherever they are based.  The national and international law firms have adopted a wide approach on geography and the majority of vacancies are now open to candidates within distance of any office location.  With it brings opportunity, and for lawyers working in smaller firms or living in more remote locations, there is opportunity more than ever to move into national/international firms to secure higher level work and an increased salary without the daily commute.  Who knows that lies ahead in 2022, but for the present there is a feeling of confidence in the market and we expect demand across practice areas to continue well into next year.

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