Alison McKee

Alison McKee


We talk to our in-house team’s newest recruit

Alison, can you describe the in-house recruitment market as it currently stands?
We’re seeing continuing growth in existing legal teams combined with more businesses recruiting their first in-house counsel. Organisations increasingly see the commercial and financial benefits of bringing legal work in-house and lawyers are seen as ‘enablers’ to strategic change rather than the person who advises on risk alone. The challenge is the availability of candidates who fit the most popular briefs.

How is BCL Legal dealing with that challenge?
The key is to approach candidate attraction from a number of angles. Recent research in the US found that only 20% of people are ‘actively’ seeking a new role. This is borne out by LinkedIn's belief that 18.9% of their members are active in the job market. These individuals will be aware of advertising, monitoring company websites and keeping in contact with their recruiters. A further 30% are passively open to hearing about new roles but won’t spend time seeking opportunities out. This is where an existing network built over 15 years becomes very useful- there are many lawyers who simply won’t respond to direct advertising. Many of the best lawyers are busy AND able to ‘wait for the call’.

Where is the current demand?
The demand for two to five years’ PQE commercial lawyers is always high, either from industry backgrounds or moving for the first time from private practice. More senior commercial roles in-house exist in smaller numbers and these roles are extremely competitive. GDPR and increasing focus on compliance has seen an upturn in this type of role and we’re also seeing more appetite to bring other areas of law in-house such as property and employment.

What can in-house teams do to increase their chances of finding the right hire?
Flexibility is key. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a list of important requirements but open mindedness will enable a faster and smoother process. Attracting the right candidates means giving access to good quality work and the ability to develop. Considering part-time candidates at a higher PQE level has also been very successful for a number of businesses recently. This can give a team extra experience under the same budgetary parameters. Realism when setting a budget is also important, if the market dictates that the salary you can pay doesn’t justify a certain PQE then something has to give.

What are your predictions for 2018?
We’re seeing increasing instructions and placements of lawyers into in-house roles and greater variety. At the moment, alongside a high number of commercial positions we’re also acting for clients who are focusing on compliance roles. There is also an upturn in company secretarial roles as more listed businesses settle in the north. There are opportunities at present for litigators, regulatory lawyers, trust lawyers and those with third sector experience.