Law Firm Recruitment and Internal Promotions: April – June 2014

2 Sep 2014

Introduction

Law is a people business. If firms want to grow they need to bring in more people. There is also a balance to be struck between the promotion of people within a business and importing talent from outside.

The amount of activity and the balance between internal promotions and lateral hires can tell us a lot about the state of the legal market. 

We plan to track hiring and promotion activity over time to build up and publish information and insight into the health and wealth of the legal market in the UK.

From April to June 2014 there were 865 promotions within law firms in England, Wales and Scotland and 563 lateral hires. 

Out of a total of 1428 roles filled 61% of them involved internal promotion and 39% lateral hire.

Promotions

Of the total promotions made in the quarter, 407 of them were reported in May, whilst only 269 and 189 promotions were reported in April and June respectively.

That reflects the traditional 1st May promotion round and probably means that the figure for promotions against hires for this quarter are artificially skewed towards promotions.

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Commercial property is the dominant area for promotions, with corporate and dispute resolution in second place. The growing economy is driving non contentious legal work and law firms are responding by promoting fee earners in those areas.

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Looking at promotions by region suggests that London is the most active place, followed by Scotland and the North West but if you adjust this to take into account the number of Solicitors in each region a different picture emerges.

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There were proportionately more promotions in the East Midlands, Yorkshire, Scotland and the South West.

Hires

The number of lateral hires each month remained relatively consistent. April saw 186 hires, May saw 197 hires and June saw 180 hires.

What is clear is the investment that law firms are making in their commercial property teams which supported the news regarding the resurgence of the economy and the property sector.

The numbers of recruits into residential property teams is surprisingly low but that could reflect a shortage of candidates and our anecdotal experience is that firms want to recruit but simply cannot find fee earners.

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It is interesting to see the relative strength of recruitment activity in corporate and in commercial which is again being driven buy the recovering economy.

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The geographical spread of the hires shows the most activity taking place in London, followed again by the North West.

Again, adjusting the numbers by taking into account the number of solicitors practicing in each region changes the picture.

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Proportionately, the South West and the North West have the strongest hiring activity.

Conclusions

  • During this period firms were more inclined to promote than to laterally hire either as an alternative growth strategy, as part of a scheme to reward successful individuals, or to fulfil positions that become available within their business. The next quarters figures will be interesting to compare because May is the traditional month for many law firms to make promotions.
  • High numbers of promotions and hires in commercial property suggests strong growth in work and a positive attitude to investment in that area by law firms which suggests the economy is recovering strongly. Corporate and commercial work are also showing strong growth as is litigation which again suggests recovery.
  • One exception to the above statement is Residential Conveyancing. Here we believe the market is growing strongly but are not seeing a lot of hires or promotions. The suggestion here is that there is a serious shortage of people with the requisite skills to either hire or promote.
  • Legal activity in London dominates over the other regions in the UK. This is due to it’s large solicitor population and the presence of many international businesses and law firms that have taken root in our capital city, leading to a much larger influx of business, legal work and therefore opportunities for lawyers based in London. Adjusting the figures for legal population shows strong growth there too.

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References

1. Daniel Morris. June 2014. “Abortive Conveyancing Transactions…is there a solution?” page 42 Modern Law Magazine. Published by Charlton Grant.

2. Catherine Baksi. 02/06/2014. “Conveyancers remain cautious on hiring.” page 4 Law Gazette.

3. Jonathan Ames. 23/06/2014. “Our friends in the East”. page 18 The Lawyer.

4. The Legal 500 – London. http://www.legal500.com/c/london/directory

5. 21/10/2013. “UK 200: executive summary in association with KPMG, metrics: turnover 2013.” pages 72-78. The Lawyer.

6. 21/10/2013. “Top 30 International Law Firms in the UK 2013.” page 52. The Lawyer.

7. Law Society – Solicitor Population in Different Regions.