Despite Bank Of England Governor Mark Carney’s worst case scenario statistics on Brexit announced recently, the only fear of Chief Vitalstatistix (the almost completely fearless albeit slightly flawed chief of Asterix) is still yet to come true: the sky has not yet fallen on our heads.
Whether it still will or not is of course a point for infinite debate given the immense amount of uncertainty surrounding Brexit right now. As of today however, through the lens of Chadwick Nott, a legal recruitment agency with a presence in all the major UK legal centres and an international offshore client base, the legal sector appears to be still well and truly open for business as we approach 2019.
Property, Property, Property
Across the country in all major legal centres including Bristol, Reading, Birmingham, London and Manchester the demand for real estate solicitors continues to grow. Our clients are seeing no slowdown in demand and in fact, we are seeing extremely strong counter-offers to persuade solicitors to remain with their current employers while offering firms are moving quickly, reducing their interview-to-offer time and implementing creative solutions to make their offerings more attractive including sign-on bonuses, flexible working and progression guarantees.
While property lawyers appear to be leading the “What Brexit?” brigade marching into 2019, close on its heels are the equally defiant practice areas of litigation, corporate, commercial, construction, IT and data protection (including new GDPR work). Insurance is also proving resilient despite numerous legislative changes, with Bristol and Manchester in particular seeing fierce competition for insurance solicitor and paralegal talent from the key national insurance practices. The offshore market has also held strong after its controversial year in 2017 with corporate, funds and litigation all remaining buoyant with no sign of Brexit affecting this stability.
Linked to the shortage of legal talent, salaries in most UK legal centres have continued to rise in both the private and public sector. Bristol is now close to breaking the £50,000 mark for newly qualified solicitors while firms in the South East are introducing more performance based salary systems to reward their top talent. London continued to see seismic salary movements from US law firms with the top NQ level now at the £140,000 mark which has forced larger London practices to also push up their remuneration packages to compete. In-house commercial vacancies have also been indirectly challenged by these salary increases which have made it more difficult to lure top talent out of private practice into in-house roles.
Birmingham and Manchester are the two notable exceptions in the regions with law firms holding the line on salaries with no marked increase across salary bandings despite acute demand in many areas.
While AI has made more inroads particularly into the interim and document review sphere in 2018, this has not necessarily reduced the demand for document review specialists but rather changed the way many are working. Over 2018 we have seen a higher number of projects, but they are taking a shorter period of time to be completed thanks to the aid of new technology. Rather than reduce the amount of jobs available, these improvements have seen interim and doc review specialists still remain busy through the year, but with a more varied diet of work.
Safer, Fairer, Better
While "business as usual" may be the theme of the year in terms of work flows, the legal industry as a professional community has been pushing hard for change in 2018 to make a career in law safer and fairer for everyone irrespective of gender, race or sexuality. More flexible working options, unconscious bias avoidance techniques, LGBT awareness activities and alternative career paths are being implemented within law firms across the UK with increased urgency thanks to the global #metoo movement. There has been strong action taken to reduce harassment in the workplace with a number of high profile partner dismissals being well publicised in the legal press, showcasing the legal industry’s commitment to eradicating this type of behaviour. All of these steps together can only help to make 'the law' a safer and more positive industry to be part of for all in 2019.
Nothing to fear?
So in summary, as it stands today from our vantage point, the legal industry across the UK is exuding an encouraging air of confidence, resilience and commitment to positive change that leaves us with very little to fear in 2019... except of course, for the sky falling on our heads.
This blog is only a brief snapshot of our legal market in 2018. In order to get a more detailed picture of what is happening in your specific area for 2019 please contact a relevant member of our team. We have specialists across the country with expertise in private practice, in-house, international, interim, document review, paralegals, alternative careers and the public sector ready to help.
Photo credit: "Asterix and The Falling Sky" by Albert Uderzo.
Penciller- Albert Uderzo, Inker- Frederic Mebarki, Colorist- Theirry Mebarki. September 2005.