woman entering a building wearing a face mask during the pandemic

Legal careers in the pandemic

 

I started writing this blog after a very successful online seminar that we ran with the Merseyside JLD 3 weeks ago. The event was the first of a programme of Chadwick Nott events discussing the market conditions and opportunities available for lawyers of all levels. The event was billed as ‘Life after lockdown’ which is a title that very unfortunately will be updated for forthcoming events, as we are all of course experiencing some form of return to lockdown restrictions. However life is continuing in these very testing times and many law firms are busy and are actively looking for good lawyers.

The effect of the pandemic on the legal market

Many of our Chadwick Nott team have continued to work through the pandemic and lockdown liaising with law firms, big and small, right across the UK. Due to our very long-standing client relationships, we can say the market has never been dead, but has fluctuated and we are currently seeing a very steady weekly rise in firms with active roles that they are looking to fill.

The North West market including Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool

As I said the last few months have been a rollercoaster and it is constantly changing. Over the last few months many junior roles were put on hold but senior roles were filled quickly – some applicants were out of work or knew they were at risk of redundancy in the near future so they were keen to grab the opportunity.

We have seen the fee share model law firms were able to continue to recruit and on-board new staff, and in fact capitalize on the situation by taking on people they may not have attracted before as lawyers were coming on to the market due to potential instability at their own firms.

Here’s a summary of the North West region:

  • Conveyancing – we saw volume redundancies at first in May but the housing market re-opened in July and the introduction of the stamp duty holiday has really kick started business. Some well-known NW firms and national property specialists are on the look-out.
  • Family – quiet during lockdown but when the full lockdown was lifted work started to flow again and the predicted surge started to happen (with divorce enquiries increasing), as the strain of spending weeks together, along with financial pressures, become too much. This has seen an increase in family roles, particularly at a senior level.
  • Employment - a few NQ roles have been filled but mainly senior, 4 years PQE plus roles have been appearing. As expected in these times of increasing redundancies etc, employment lawyers have seen a surge in enquiries from both employers and employees over the last few weeks.
  • Corporate and commercial – Initially there was increased activity as clients pushed to complete transactions before matters worsened and this continued as clients sought to use the ‘force majeure’ clause in contracts. However, when the lockdown measures were introduced, many firms reported a significant drop in new enquiries and pausing of instructions and we have seen some redundancies. Slow market right now and not many roles unless you are senior with a following.
  • Commercial Real Estate/Construction – have remained quiet with some departments reporting that they have been working at 60% capacity at this time so no roles coming in for real estate. Construction now getting busier but mainly senior roles.
  • Private Client – Understandably this is one area that has thrived, with some firms reporting a four-fold increase in enquiries and instructions, especially around wills, power of attorney, trusts and tax planning.  The likelihood is that increased probate instructions are also sadly likely to continue. We are definitely busy now with some particular demand at 2+ PQE level.
  • Litigation, Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence – These cases tend to be long running and are therefore largely unaffected for now, although matters have slowed as response times from the other side, insurance companies etc slow down as everyone adapts to home working. Also Court redress is potentially removed/delayed. The market has been quiet with a small number of vacancies. Most insurance firms froze recruitment entirely in volume PI and there were some redundancies especially at junior level. With fewer accidents due to the restrictions on people’s movements, vacancies in personal injury have not been as buoyant as usual, however we have seen a small increase in vacancies in the last few weeks. Clinical Negligence is picking up once again. There is likely to be an increase in Covid related matters in the near future.
  • Regulatory – This area had been very steady prior to Covid and we expect it will return to normal recruitment levels in coming weeks.

Junior Lawyers and Paralegals

There has been few paralegal jobs as remote training and supervision can be tough at this level, but some vacation schemes were completed remotely. Some firms have declared that they will ignore 2020 A level results in training contract applications. Overall there have not been enough local NQ roles, although many firms have had quite high retention rates this year.

Not all doom & gloom

Britain’s economy shrank by a record 20.4% in the first full month of lockdown. We are obviously going to continue to go through tough times as the UK economy is set to shrink by 8% this year and will take a number of years to recover. 

However there is the flip side – it is exciting that the legal profession is changing and is likely never to be the same again and is moving away from some old fashioned ways. Remote working, remote training with good support from The Law Society could become the norm. The legal sector has survived, many law firms have adapted and are set to grow again.

Law firms have quickly learnt to interview and recruit online using various forms of video conferencing and even detailed on-boarding programmes have been put in place. Life has not stopped and it is an exciting time to enter a law career. The industry is facing an overturn much like most of the world and law students will be a part of a new legal industry.

Mental health

Law can be a stressful profession in ‘normal’ times and the current unprecedented times are constantly shifting, which can be very destabilising for anyone. It’s so important for lawyers to actively stay in regular touch with friends and colleagues to keep motivation up and stress down.

The Law Society website https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/wellbeing/ has useful tips which can help dealing with depression and low-self-esteem as well as isolation in the current climate. It has a whole host of pointers and useful contacts for anyone needing advice on mental health and welfare issues. In addition, there are tips on the website including ways to boost your productivity. These include a 'super to-do list' and optimising your working environment to include such things as daylight lighting, comfortable temperature, mood enhancing colours and indoor plants.

The JLD also has information on its website about what it is doing at this time to represent junior lawyers and links to the wellbeing page. https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/junior-lawyers/coronavirus-covid-19-supporting-junior-lawyers

Our team

At Chadwick Nott we have had representatives from all our teams working throughout lockdown keeping in regular contact with our clients and lawyer candidates alike. The full team are now back from furlough working from our offices or remotely. It’s been great to see the familiar faces and we are confident that we will have a busy 4 months to finish the year.

For more information on the North West legal market please contact myself or my colleague Iona Kobbekaduwe. We are experienced legal recruitment consultants with over 20 years between us.

helenveitch@chadwicknott.co.uk | 0161 507 7267 | 0744 305 6776

iona.kobbekaduwe@chadwicknott.co.uk | 0161 828 5415 | 0750 081 5923

 

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