Craig Wilson: 2014 In-house Legal Update

Now that 2014 is almost over, and with the festive break close at hand, I decided to take some time out to write an overview of the in-house legal market this year.  I hope you will find the information and content of interest.

Below you will find a summary of the market in 2014, links to some recent In-house articles and blogs in our e-magazine ‘The Brief’, and some information and links related to our free in-house CPD Seminars.  There is also a small amount of self-publicity to highlight some of BCL Legal’s work in 2014 – as what we do can often go unnoticed unless we are specifically assisting you or your company.

The market in 2014

Although the economic crisis has abated somewhat, and the UK has generally been in a more positive place, 2014 has not been without its shocks, crises and uncertainties.  Flooding and bad weather last winter, the crisis in Ukraine, the Ebola epidemic, European monetary issues, Scotland’s vote for independence, terrorism and a falling oil price, amongst other matters, have contrived to put pressure on business confidence and economic development.

Despite the ongoing problems, things have generally been positive. 2014 has set a record for IPOs – company floatation’s –and most analysts agree that this was to do with investors looking to benefit from returning business confidence.  Companies that floated this year include: B&M, The AA, Jimmy Choo, Pets at Home, Poundland, Saga, TSB, and Virgin Money, whilst others such as Aldermore Bank and The BCA Group have shelved IPO plans for now – perhaps a sign of the slight slow down in the last third of this year (more on that later). 2014 has also seen some high profile mergers, acquisitions and disposals too.

So what has 2014 looked like from an in-house lawyers perspective?  Well, it’s been pretty good. As highlighted in our 2012 and 2013 Market Updates, the in-house legal sector has proved to be very resilient.  Much like last year, many companies have retained and grown their legal departments and in most cases this has led to the addition of junior commercial lawyers (solicitors and paralegals) and specialist lawyers – data protection, litigation, employment, property and compliance. The aim being to do more work in-house and to cut external legal spends.

As in any year, certain industry sectors have proved more buoyant than others, and this year the standout performer has been the TMT (Technology, Media and Telecoms) sector.  Companies new and old, and both home grown and from overseas, have been actively recruiting legal staff. Opportunities in this sector have come at every level - General Counsel down to Paralegal – and we have seen many employers recruiting their first in-house counsel, or first UK counsel.  Salaries and packages are generally at the top of the in-house pay bandings, and the in-house lawyers who work in the TMT sector are very much in demand.

In other sectors we see a more mixed situation for in-house lawyers.  The Pharmaceutical sector has been in consolidation mode again, with a number of acquisitions and potential acquisitions on the cards – e.g. Consort Medicals acquisition of Aesica Pharmaceuticals, Pfizers bid for AstraZeneca and Abbvie’s bid for Shire. This has created some uncertainty for staff but has not stopped recruitment. Pharma still remains a good sector for in-house lawyers and the pay and benefits remains at the top of the in-house pay bandings. Career development is also good and job security is generally decent.

The construction, engineering and infrastructure sectors have been a mixed bag in 2014. Amec and Foster Wheeler merged, Carillion and Balfour Beatty discussed merging, and companies like Siemens have undergone a significant restructure.  The result has been a slight reduction in the volume of legal recruitment in these sectors compared to 2013.  This has been exacerbated by the slight slow down that took place following some of the economic and political issues mentioned earlier.

The Finance sector has proved buoyant in 2014 however legal recruitment activity is still far behind peak years.  From a legal recruitment perspective, growth in the finance sector has often come from companies that are only now being regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority).  This has often translated into specialist roles for FCA Compliance Managers or mixed Legal & Compliance roles.

As always, the demand for high-calibre junior Commercial Solicitors (2-6 years’ PQE) remains the mainstay the commercial legal recruitment market.  Both our in-house and private practice clients are actively recruiting at this PQE level and the result is a massive shortfall in supply.  This is creating some upward momentum in terms of salaries, particularly for the best candidates, and it is impacting on the length of time it takes to recruit.  It is also negatively affecting staff retention, as employees are tempted away by better offers, and it is causing some job offers to fall through as candidates are enticed to stay by their current employer.  This should be borne in mind when planning your recruitment strategy for 2015.

BCL Legal in 2014

2014 has been BCL Legal’s most successful year ever.  We have seen significant business growth across both our In-house and Private Practice team’s, and we have increased our own staff headcount by over 25% to meet client demand.  With over 50 members of staff, we are comfortably the biggest dedicated legal recruitment consultancy headquartered outside of London.

In the South-East, our London office has gone from strength to strength. We now have six dedicated consultants and we have established relationships with many of London’s leading Magic Circle, Silver Circle and leading national and international law firms. We have also strengthened our in-house presence in the South-East, helping cement existing client relationships and allowing us to foster new relationships with UK and international companies in London and the Home Counties, and also overseas.

In response to increased demand from the in-house community we have had the privilege to work with some fantastic legal teams/companies this year.  Clients we have assisted include:

Advanced Computer Software Group, AstraZeneca, Avaya, BAE Systems, BUPA, Bright Horizons, Circle, Compass Group, Dematic, Drax Power, First Utility, Impellam Group, Juniper Networks, Lafarge Tarmac, Mid-Counties Cooperative, Molins, National Grid, Nissan, Norbert Dentressangle, Pegasystems, Randstad, Rolls-Royce,, Satellite Information Services (SIS), Siemens, Sports Direct, TNT, Tyco, Wolseley and Yum! Restaurants.

The Brief

BCL Legal’s e-magazine 'The Brief' now has a monthly readership in excess of 70,000 and it features exclusive comment and interviews from leading in-house and private practice legal professionals. It also features Blogs by our very own consultants.  A very small selection of this years’ content can be found below:

Client Content

Hans Albers, Senior Director & Associate General Counsel EMEA - Juniper Networks
Matt Barnes, Legal & Governance Manager - British Cycling
Paul Boyle, General Counsel - Airwave
Sue Albion, Chief Legal Officer - Molson Coors Europe
Louise Fishwick, General Counsel & Company Secretary -
Chantal Thomas, Legal Counsel - Autoglass
Chris Kenny, Chief Executive - Legal Services Board

Consultant Blogs

How has the job search landscape changed over the past two decades?
When companies pay too much!
The evolving role of the General Counsel!
Have you considered your career aspirations recently? I did and look where I ended up!

CPD Seminars

As well assisting clients with their recruitment needs, BCL Legal has also been busy with our regular CPD Seminar schedule.  You may already be aware of the free CPD Seminars that we organise and run however it is worth pointing out that nationally we have helped provide seminar delegates with over 2,000 CPD points this year.

This year we ran events with Addleshaw Goddard, Boyes Turner, Browne Jacobson, DLA Piper, Shoosmiths, Pannone, Pinsent Masons, and directly with the Commerce & Industry Group. Seminars were held in Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Nottingham and Reading.

The seminars are hugely popular and are strictly run on a first come first serve basis.  Invites are sent to our client base before an event and we always post upcoming seminars on our website.  If you wish to attend a seminar, or are interested in previous seminar topics, please follow this link


2014 has been a year of two halves in many ways.  The first nine months saw a substantial increase in legal recruitment, whilst the final three months were generally slower but still busy.  The TMT sector is by far and away the star performer and we expect 2015 will be no different.

However, with the General Election approaching and with the ongoing economic and political problems, we expect 2015 to be similar to 2014 rather than significantly better.  That may sound negative but actually it is quite the opposite.  2014 was a very good year and if 2015 is similar then we will see further growth of the in-house legal sector and plenty of in-house legal opportunities.  Salaries however are likely to remain relatively static outside of the TMT sector.

As a specialist in-house legal recruitment consultancy, BCL Legal is well placed to assist any size of business with its in-house legal recruitment needs.  If you have plans to recruit in the New Year, please do keep us in mind.  We are dedicated to the in-house legal sector and we have a proven track record of success.

If you would like any further information and/or you wish to discuss how BCL Legal can help you, please do not hesitate to get in touch.  My contact details are as follows Email: or Telephone: 0845 241 5622.

All that remains is to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  From everybody at BCL Legal, we hope you have an enjoyable festive break and a successful 2015.