Craig Wilson, senior associate in the Central & South in-house team

What have been the main trends/ developments in the Central & South in-house market over the past 12 months?
The TMT sector has been very buoyant whilst the finance sector is improving and we are seeing more legal & legal compliance roles - particularly as a result of the FCA taking over from the FSA. Engineering and manufacturing clients have been recruiting this year although many have seen a slow down since September. This is in line with more challenging economic factors.

The construction & engineering sector is slowly improving. However, there is a still a lot of uncertainty. Particularly notable was the failed merger between Carillion and Balfour Beatty and the confirmed merger between Amec and Foster Wheeler. The pharma sector has seen a number of acquisitions this year. Two headline catching deals, which ultimately did not take place, were: Pfizer’s bid for AstraZeneca and Abbvie’s bid for Shire.

The oil & gas sector has been impacted by a falling oil price, energy efficiency regulations and Ed Milliband’s plan for a capped energy price. We have also seen an increase in new energy providers into the England market increasing competition.

A large number of floatations took place in 2014. Most recruited additional legal resource including The AA, Saga and The Royal Mail. In general, the southern home counties have continued to be more buoyant than the northern home counties. This is a sign of the differing sector dynamics – the South is more TMT heavy.

What have been the real growth areas and where has the demand been coming from?
In the first three to six months we saw lots of specialist roles such as compliance, employment law, commercial property etc. In-house paralegal roles remain common, both on a temporary and permanent basis. General commercial contract lawyers, particularly at the two to six year PQE level, are in demand which is driving some salary growth and creating a supply shortfall. More and more clients are taking an interest in compliance and so we have seen a slight increase in legal compliance (particularly, data protection and competition) roles.

What have been the key stories that have dominated the in-house market?
The facilities management sector was hit by the scandals at G4S and Serco which were big news. The automotive trade in England has generally had a positive year which has meant that a number of the automotive companies and retailers have recruited additional staff. Tesco has been publicly investigated, whilst all the big food retailers are being impacted by the discounters, and cannibalisation of their own business due to their own local stores.

What are your predictions for the South/ Central in-house market for 2015?
I expect more of the same in 2015. In-house teams will continue to recruit new staff and replace existing staff and we won’t see significant redundancy programmes. Technology clients will continue to dominate the in-house legal recruitment scene in the SE. The General Election is likely to limit recruitment spend in the first quarter(s) whilst salaries will continue to remain static except in core or niche in-house legal disciplines i.e. general commercial, IT/IP and compliance.

How would you sum up 2014 in one sentence?
2014 was a year of two halves for the SE; with a busy first three to nine months and the final four months since September being more of a challenge.