Mary Nowell, managing associate in the North West private practice team

What have been the main trends/ developments in your region/ sector over the past 12 months?
The North West has seen a real increase in recruitment across many disciplines during 2014. There has been huge demand in key transactional disciplines such as real estate and corporate but there has been increased activity across the board to include contentious areas. Niche discipline areas such as property litigation and construction litigation are seeing a return to previous levels of demand. Overall there is a real feeling of growth in the North West legal marketplace and generally a real buzz. We are constantly hearing about investment in the key northern cities: Manchester is testament to a booming, entrepreneurial legal market attracting new entrants such as BLP and Nabarro.

What have been the real growth areas and where has the demand been coming from?
Real estate and corporate are hugely busy and demand for talent in these disciplines continues apace. It’s easy to see why, given increased funding from the banks, a housing shortage prompting an upturn in development, a booming property market and an economy coming out of recession with businesses returning to profit ready to invest in people and infrastructure. In addition to this, the prior four years of recession meant there was minimal transactional work and as such newly qualified solicitors were not qualifying into corporate, real estate and spin off areas leading to a huge skills shortage at the junior level.

What have been the key stories that have dominated your region/ sector?
It’s been a year of growth, opportunity and candidate shortage! Notable new entrants to the Manchester legal scene include BLP and Nabarro but TLT (which opened in 2013) have grown hugely having attracted the commercial arm of Irwin Mitchell and it now boasts a near full service offering.

BLP opened its doors promising to create a real estate hub in Manchester allowing it to service household brands at a reduced cost without needing to compromise quality and service levels. Future plans are yet to be announced but you can be sure that it will lead to an increased profile across the North. 2014 has also been the year of the ABS with accountants KPMG and PwC launching legal teams in the city. KPMG now stand at eight having attracted some of the city’s top talent from corporate teams within international and national firms. PwC looks set to grow under the stewardship of Neal Shephard from AG. All in all, I suspect that longer term there will be an increased presence on the ground and a real alternative for the aspiring corporate lawyer.

What are your predictions for your region/ sector for 2015?
2015 looks set to be busy! I would think that the number of opportunities within real estate and corporate will start to level out at the junior end but good lawyers from quality backgrounds will undoubtedly be able to move for a competitive level. Rumour indicates that Nabarro looks set to continue to grow and I’m sure it will be on the lookout for strong lateral hires who can complement and bolster the current discipline offering. For senior lawyers with client relationships there will be opportunities to secure partnership. Likewise for juniors lawyers perhaps having trained at smaller firms but with a strong academic profile there will be opportunities to take a ‘step up’. You never know, we may even see the £40,000 newly qualified salary….!

How would you sum up 2014 in one sentence?
Growth, opportunity and a competitive legal landscape looking set to get even more competitive.