Kelly-Anne Willis, Senior Associate, discusses the South West private practice market in 2022 and market predictions for 2023...

From Kelly-Anne Willis

As an agency, it is no secret that over the past couple of years we have been instructed on a record number of new vacancies. The competition to attract the best talent has been fierce and while the level of new vacancies has dipped slightly during this last quarter of the year, we remain in a candidate-short market.

As a direct result of this firms across the UK aggressively increased their salary offerings in order to both retain and attract the most talented lawyers, and Bristol based firms were no exception.

As most of us know, NQ rates spiked massively at the start of the year, with some Bristol based NQ’s now taking home a staggering £70k. These salary increases didn’t just happen at NQ level either but also for those more senior lawyers.

On the whole, 2022 has brought substantial growth for most firms and a significant number of high profile mergers. All areas of the law have remained busy, with corporate, banking, real estate and construction being the most noticeable teams to continue to add to their already established offerings. With hiring levels being at such a record high, there has also been a shift this year in terms of what firms are focusing on when recruiting. There has been a big push on D&I initiatives, with firms looking to increase their awareness of equality in the workplace whether this be social mobility, race or age related.

Work life balance will inevitably continue to play a key part of firms' strategies to attract new talent in the coming months (just as it has done for the entirety of 2022). Fully remote roles will continue to feature in the legal market (although maybe not as heavily as in 2022) and hybrid working remains something that is very appealing to lawyers across the board. Those leading firms have realised that offering such flexible working patterns allows them to attract the best talent from across the UK rather than limiting their fishing pool!

Looking to the future and at 2023, we are expecting much of the same. Growth roles will continue to be a focus for many firms, particularly at the mid to senior level. Senior hires have proved the most difficult for many firms over the past 18 months so there will be huge demand for those 3-8 PQE lawyers moving in to the New Year. Saying this, with international firms in particular, many speculative hires have been put on hold. Unlike the start of 2022, we expect that 2023 will be slightly more structured in terms of how firms spend their hiring budget!

All in all, I think 2023 will bring a lot more stability to the legal market with many firms using what they have learnt in 2022 to build a better and ultimately a more empowering culture for lawyers moving forwards.

Connect with Kelly-Anne Willis via LinkedIn

Also read BCL's 2022 salary round-up for: