Mark Levine, Managing Director, discusses the in-house market in 2023 and shares his predictions for the coming year

From Mark Levine

2023 was another incredibly busy year for the in-house recruitment team at BCL Legal.

Overall, the market for in-house lawyers remained resilient throughout 2023. The start of the year was slower, with general uncertainty in the market as companies responded to high inflation and increasing interest rates, but the first green shoots appeared in spring, and demand for in-house lawyers has trended upwards ever since.

Who we worked with

We helped a similar number of organisations to recruit for in-house positions as we did the previous year. We are currently at 110 companies, with projects still completing.

We have seen strong activity in a whole range of sectors, helping companies from Newcastle down to London and pretty much everywhere in-between.

Companies that we have been proud to assist include: Aviva, BAE systems, Banyan Software, Bet 365, BT, BUPA, Castore, Coventy Building Society, Co-op Bank, Deloitte, DHL, GXO Logistics, Gymshark, Handelsbanken, Mercedes-Benz,, Nissan, On The Beach, PWC, Scania, Travis Perkins, TUI and Wolseley.

Senior Counsel in demand

As ever, there has been a variety of recruitment going on from General Counsel level down to Legal Counsel. Last year the team saw the largest appetite for recruitment at the c1-4 PQE mark. This year it has felt stronger at the Senior Counsel level (c5-8 years’ PQE).

This is likely to have resulted from legal teams having hired junior lawyers over the past couple of years and starting to on-board graduates via the SQE route, who need more hands-on support and supervision. Others may be focusing on getting “more bang for your buck”, with budgets being reduced while the need for competent legal advice continues to increase.

Looking at the list of placements it is also clear to see that “first in-house appointments” also featured highly in 2023. As doing business gets more complex it is great to see the knowledge and level head of a senior lawyer being increasingly called upon by the C-Suite.

The SQE revolution

Returning to the SQE route, I learnt a lot more about the changes coming into effect in the coming years to the qualification route to becoming a lawyer. Out with the LPC and very much in with the SQE (Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam). In fact the SQE is now the only route to qualification for new graduates.

I see it as an absolute game-changer for bringing in new and varied talent into legal. I also believe it is a fantastic opportunity for in-house counsels to ‘train their own’.

To learn more, please do have a listen to this podcast recorded at a seminar run with Boyes Turner in London. You will hear from the inspirational Holly Moore who is doing the SQE via ITV and Lucie Allen of Barbr.

If this has inspired you to consider bringing in a trainee, BCL Legal is proud to have teamed up with Lucie and the team at Barbri. If you would like to learn more, and ask any questions (there is no such thing as a stupid question!), please do let me know and I will introduce you.

Driving diversity and inclusion

I have also been inspired by the effect large businesses/legal teams can have on diversity and inclusion. At another seminar I attended whilst in conversation with BT I learnt that one way of getting a “bye” on to their panel in 2024 was to show as a law firm how your D&I policy was working. In this case Addleshaw Goddard had won in that category, but what every GC in the room realised was what a force for good/change the in-house community could be.

In 2023 BCL Legal ran 19 seminars/webinars which saw 2700 in-house lawyers come together and learn from a range of Private Practice firms. Our thanks go to all the law firms that we partner with.

So, with that, the year is over – and what an inspirational year it was.

Thank you to all you in-house lawyers – at whatever level. You inspire us to work hard on your behalf.

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