Articles From the Team
Yorkshire private practice review - 2021
It’s been said before and I’ll say it again, what a strange 18 months we’ve had.
Clearly nobody predicted the global Covid pandemic and the widespread impact that it was going to have. As we entered lockdown one, there was a huge lack of confidence in the market as you’d expect, and opportunities across the board essentially fell off a cliff. Nobody was recruiting when we didn’t have a clue what the next few months would hold. It was all new, the first major pandemic in everyone’s lifetimes, it knocked everyone for six, and it was impossible to predict work pipelines so resourcing teams largely shut up shop. There were literally a handful of roles still moving forward.
That’s not to say that all lawyers suddenly had nothing to do. Sure, there were very few corporate deals or commercial transactions for a while, but employment lawyers and restructuring lawyers were kept very busy indeed for example, some of them whilst juggling home schooling without any help. It was a really exhausting and demanding time for many people.
The first genuine shoots of recovery started appearing in the summer once we all started to adjust to that most overused of expressions, ‘the new normal’ and the economy started to re-open.
Of course there was plenty of fallout, witness the flurry of major retailers hitting the skids or being bought out, and the numerous small businesses that have gone to the wall, but law firms started to believe that they could plan again for the future and we started to see more roles being released to the market.
It was slow & steady at first, but from the beginning of Quarter 4 last year, the floodgates slowly started to open.
From Quarter one of this year and onwards, it has truly felt as if someone has taken the stopper out of the bottle and the flow shows no sign of slowing. Why the dramatic bounce-back to role levels that far outstrip the pre-pandemic levels? A number of reasons, as we see it, for example -
2020 was a year of reflection for a lot of people, and a fair number of lawyers who had been ruminating on their careers decided that now was the time to leave and do something completely different, which left gaps.
For most of 2020, law firms had been sitting on their hands, not sure whether they could recruit, because they didn’t know what the future would hold for their clients, so in 2021 they wanted to get back to their growth plans with a vengeance as their clients ramped up their commercial activities again.
The stamp duty holiday, combined with a surge in the desire to move away from cramped city centres flats that felt even more cramped during a national lockdown, and the new work from home mandate encouraging those who’d been toying with the idea of relocating to make the move, delivered a boom in the conveyancing market.
We’re finding that the most buoyant areas of the market are Corporate, Real Estate, Construction & Projects, Conveyancing (although this has now slowed a little since the end of the stamp duty holiday), Employment, Commercial & Technology, Property Litigation (despite the moratorium on repossessions) and Data Privacy. Still also buoyant but not quite as busy are Family & Private client, Banking, Finance Litigation, Regulatory, Commercial Litigation and Professional Indemnity. Yorkshire is actually the fast growing region in the country for litigation roles (according to research done by Vacancysoft, a leading provider of labour market data and analytics).
Less busy are areas like Personal Injury and Insolvency & Restructuring (after a busy 2020 ahead of the Corporate Insolvency & Governance Act in October last year). Talking to people in the Restructuring market, they say it feels as if none of the major lenders want to the first to press the button now that temporary restrictions have been lifted, but once one of them does, they’ll all go. There are still some permanent measures in place though to move towards more of a business rescue culture that will damp down the numbers of formal insolvencies.
We’re also seeing a steep upturn in the number of Professional Support Lawyer opportunities across a number of practice areas, as firms look to find more ways to further support their hard working fee earners.
Looking ahead to 2022, our prediction is that the buoyant job market is going to continue. Firms are struggling to recruit for all these roles and their lawyers are extremely busy, some of them uncomfortably so, especially in Corporate and Real Estate. We also predict a renewed upturn in the Restructuring market; in fact we’re already seeing more roles being released in this area.
We’re also seeing some significant hikes in salaries that are on offer. Firms are all too aware that a decent lawyer who hands their notice in to a team that is busy is almost inevitably going to receive a counter-offer from their current firm, and they want to pre-empt that scenario.
Newly qualified salaries have also seen a hike this year, after the stagnation of 2020, with some firms in the region upping their NQ salaries by as much as £5,000 or £6,000, which then has a knock-on effect on the salaries of more experienced lawyers.
What does this all mean for the candidate marketplace? Well, I’ve been in recruitment since the mid 90s and this is the most buoyant job market I’ve ever seen.