Catherine Henry, manager in BCL Legal’s Yorkshire & North West team...
What have been the main trends/ developments in your region/ sector over the past 12 months?
2013 has been a year of massive change within the legal sector; some positive and some not so, but despite all of this we have had a hugely successful and busy year across the Yorkshire and North East region. Mergers and takeovers have been increasingly common.
What have been the key stories that have dominated your region/ sector?
DWF taking over Cobbetts at the beginning of the year in a pre-pack deal was big news, with the acquisition of its financial litigation team by Walker Morris and Incasso going to HL Legal & Collections Solicitors. A big firm like Cobbetts going into administration understandably caused a bit of uncertainty in the market and raised awareness that even the larger firms aren’t safe in uncertain economic times. This saw many firms being particularly careful about their recruitment and lateral hires are still extremely prominent. We’ve seen increased opportunities for candidates who can show a tangible client following and for those who can add strength to an existing team.
Yorkshire has certainly been ahead of the curve in reacting to the changing legal landscape with Leeds chosen as the home of Brilliant Law - the first pure-bred ABS law firm in the UK. Founded by a team of non-solicitors, the firm works on a corporate - rather than a partnership structure - and offers a fixed-fee service to small and medium sized businesses. Other big news on the ABS front was BGL Group’s acquisition in May of Minster Law - a UK Top 35 Yorkshire practice. This partnership has certainly proven to strengthen the firm’s standing in the PI market with the unveiling of its London office in November.
What have been the real growth areas and where has the demand been coming from?
The real growth area this year has been property. All of the leading commercial firms in the region have been hiring into commercial property and this is once again a viable option for many trainee solicitors. Residential property has seen growth, initially with the large conveyancing firms recruiting en masse, followed by a rapid demand in many high street practices across the region. Given the shortage of skills in this area, many firms are creating in-house training academies and for those with residential property experience, salaries are certainly on the up. The NQ market was particularly busy this year; many firms have certainly been more flexible and opted to train more junior lawyers internally across practice areas such as commercial property and corporate/commercial.
What are your predictions for your region/ sector for 2014?
We certainly expect recruitment needs to continue to increase as we move into 2014. Demand will remain high across the commercial disciplines; in particular in transactional practice areas such as banking and corporate, whilst residential property will almost certainly continue to see rapid growth. All in all, we anticipate more of the same: mergers, acquisitions and with each closure, a new entrant will emerge; as the saying goes ‘as one door closes, another door opens.’
How would you sum up 2013 in one sentence?
In an ever changing legal landscape, it’s been a busy year with a healthy amount of recruitment across multiple disciplines.