January is a bleak month by any standards! The excitement and merriment of Christmas now just a distant memory, that beloved Michael Bublé album (you know the one) collecting dust on the shelf, and newly-naked Christmas trees rotting on roadsides. And for most of us lucky employed folk, January brings the inevitable return to routine and a semblance of structure, as late nights and lie-ins give way to the familiar pressures of work or home life: squeezed-in gym classes, manic school runs, homework (unlike the 80s, no longer a solo mission it seems), house-keeping or even house-hunting…it’s enough to make you want a holiday!
But, with February now upon us, there’s a definite spring in my step. Routines feel almost reassuring, the days lighter and the tired brown bulbs I planted back in 2019 have finally produced their first green shoots - a veritable demonstration of growth!
And so just as we shake off our post-Christmas blues, so too the legal job market is reignited, especially one that is fired up by the new certainty (perhaps of more uncertainty, but certainty all the same) around Brexit. January has been one of the busiest Januaries we can remember in recent years, for both lawyers contacting us on the job hunt and clients contacting us with new vacancies.
One of the most positive signs of confidence in the legal profession is recruitment, and not just law firms filling their seats, but notably adding to their partnerships and in turn their bottom line. I’ve taken instructions in January from a whole host of firms in the wider South West region looking to recruit at Partner level. From commercial and property litigation roles in Bath and Bristol, to private client and employment in beautiful Bournemouth, real estate roles in the rolling hills of North Devon, and regulatory roles rolling in “almost everywhere”.
Bristol remains one of the most popular cities (bar none) in the country and as the commercial centre of the wider South West region, needs little introduction. With its enviable location (access via M4 and 5 to London, Wales, the Midlands and West Country), commitment to buoyant legal sectors like media, construction and financial services and its rich cultural diversity and social scene, it’s easy to see why. All this and I’ve failed to mention this is the birthplace of Wallace and Gromit and a genuinely great place to live and work.
There has never been a better time to move to Bristol! City (Bristol City FC that is for non-Bristolians) are holding their own at Ashton Gate, Bristol rugby fans await the arrival of Kyle Sinckler alongside “Brizzle the Bear”, and April sees the return of Wurzel mania (the band, not the Gummage, for those old enough to have nightmares about either or both) to that Bristol music venue and institution, The Fleece.
Across the bridge to Cardiff and beyond, there is a real upturn of recruitment at all levels and across a variety of areas from private client and family work, through to corporate and dispute resolution partner roles. With remuneration lower than in Bristol, Cardiff has traditionally found talent acquisition within the legal sector more difficult than its neighbouring city. However, with the recent removal of the toll from the Cardiff side of the Severn Bridge and increased confidence within the business sector, candidates in commercial disciplines at least are feeling they have a real choice around which side of the bridge to live and work.
Another busy pocket of senior-level recruitment is within Dorset. The last few months have seen many vacancies emerge in Bournemouth where senior-level lawyers inevitably face the same work pressures as others, but with 7 miles of sandy beaches just a short stroll from many of the city’s key law firms, I can see the demands may be more palatable. I currently have roles on in this beautiful city in employment, property and private client. With a micro-climate to boot and a wide array of eateries and drinkeries, this is a superb lifestyle option for someone looking to refresh or reinvent their career after perhaps becoming exhausted by the pace of London life.
Speaking of London, the metaphoric train westwards from London to Devon and Cornwall, whilst moving slower than pre-recession days of 2008, has definitely found another gear. I’ve seen a real upturn in high-calibre London lawyers in varying disciplines (but particularly within commercial litigation and related areas of finance and regulatory), looking to put their time in Devon and Cornwall on a more permanent platform. Whilst Exeter remains indisputably the commercial centre of the region, cities like Plymouth have transformed in recent years and with profitable Legal 500 firms with offices in the region, (Torquay is an obvious example), there are many more options for lawyers looking to combine high-quality work with a good work-life balance.
So that was just a mini snapshot of some of the pockets of senior-level recruitment within the South West region. If you are considering a move or would just value the opportunity to pick my brains on the market/ your career to date, please get in touch with me to arrange a convenient time to speak. I would be happy to advise you.
Jannica Seccombe is a Senior Associate with Chadwick Nott and has 12 years’ experience of legal recruitment, having previously worked in Bristol as a solicitor. She is based in our Bristol office and can be contacted on 0117 9171875 (or 07553 228694) or via e-mail email@example.com