Gishan Abeyratne
Gishan Abeyratne
Senior Associate: Private Practice

Articles From the Team

Should I move to London?

Yes.

No.

Maybe?

It depends on the situation, surely?!

I grew up in Derbyshire, it was wonderfully quaint and leafy but not somewhere I wanted to stay beyond 18 if I could avoid it. It was too quiet, I wanted some excitement! I went to University in Birmingham and stayed for a year after my undergraduate and post-graduate studies. The second city seemed like a good place to start my own personal metropolitan journey through life, but I had always had ambitions of living in London. At the time, in my early twenties, my thoughts on living in London could be summed up very simply: bright lights, big city, lots of money, glamourous lifestyle.

When the opportunity arose in early 2010 I took a leap of faith and moved to London for a few years where I cut my teeth in the City and Canary Wharf. At the time it made perfect sense, and to this day I am glad that I made the move; even more so, I am glad that I made the move at that time.

I love London. It is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, full of history and culture and in whatever way you seek it, it is a place full of opportunity. I had an opportunity and I took it. But what if that opportunity had been somewhere else?

For me the answer is no. The opportunities I sought were (at the time) only in London. Since then the world has changed, the country has changed, my life has changed, my priorities have changed. So, hypothetically speaking, if I were now presented with an opportunity to move to London having established a career as a legal recruiter in the Midlands and South West I wouldn’t feel compelled to do so. Not least of all because I am very happy in my job, but I don’t need to be in London to be successful as a legal recruiter.

How does this translate? Well, I work with lawyers. I work with lawyers of all shapes and sizes, of all disciplines, of all ages, of all ambitions. Many of you, so very many of you, seem to see London as the brass ring to aim for in the UK, but could you be mistaken? Let’s take Bristol as an example, with a sample of questions I have been asked by budding non-Bristolian lawyers in recent months.

“Is the quality of work at national and regional firms in Bristol as good as London?” Yes. The trend we have observed in the legal market over recent years are London firms with regional offices, or perhaps better put national practices with offices in multiple locations including London, are increasingly moving work out of London to their regional offices due to this being more cost effective. Although we have beaten the recession, the international financial markets haven’t been kind to the pound and there is pressure on the big firms to reduce costs.

“Would I be able to move to a London firm from Bristol if I wanted to?” Yes, but you might be missing the point…

“Are there city firms recruiting in Bristol?” Yes. The likes of Simmons & Simmons, RPC, CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang are merely the icing on the Bristol cake. Let us not forget Burges Salmon, Osborne Clarke and TLT; I could go on to mention Bond Dickinson, DAC Beachcroft, Veale Wasbrough Vizards, Clarke Willmott, Bevan Brittan, Ashfords, Thrings etc. While they may not all be considered to be “City” law firms, they are all top 200 and they are all competing, providing lawyers with an excellent quality of work, client exposure and career progression.

Are these firms undertaking the same level and quality of work as their London counterparts? Yes. See above and the first question. The work is already there, it is increasingly there.

“Do the firms in Bristol pay as much as London firms?” No. However as a legal centre in the UK outside of London, Bristol firms do pay higher salaries compared to the likes of Birmingham and Manchester.

There is much more I could say about this, but ultimately it comes down to preference and circumstance. It might be that London is where you grew up and you’re homeward bound. I absolutely understand this, anybody would. It might be that you simply see London as the most socially active city in the UK. You might be right, but you might also be pleasantly surprised at the social life you could find elsewhere. You might feel that the work you want to do is only being done in London, in which case you are almost certainly wrong. Yes there are more opportunities, due to a greater number of law firms, but that means there is also a lot more competition and you may find yourself compromising on something that you wouldn’t have to compromise on elsewhere. Ultimately it depends what you’re looking for and it would have to be a far more detailed discussion than a 1000 word blog; one that my colleagues and I would be more than happy to have with you!

I moved to London with a soul full of ambition and hope, and I achieved what I wanted to achieve in the time I was there. I then moved back to the Midlands to be closer to my family. You might want to move to London due to similar ambition but please don’t think that once you’re there you will only ever achieve what you want to achieve in London. The legal market in the UK is thriving, and cities such as Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester are looking at their big brother London and saying, with some ferocity, we’re coming for you.

For more information contact Gishan Abeyratne at BCL Legal.

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