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Legal Job Market Report 5th April 2017

Legal Job Market Update

Key points from 1st March to 4th April 2017 as follows:
* The demand for staff generally has increased.
* Permanent recruitment has increased.
* Locum recruitment has increased but hourly rates are still lower in some areas.
* Wills and Probate locum and permanent roles have dropped off but private client solicitors remain in demand. Vacancies remain unfilled.
* Conveyancing has picked up – both locum and permanent.
* Commercial Property roles have started to pick up. Vacancies remain unfilled.
* Litigation is still quiet.
* Family law roles are steady.
* London market is busier than it was in 2016.

Summary
March has been very busy indeed from start to finish. We have seen quite an increase in locum work and also in the number of permanent roles coming in. Following the Brexit announcement we have also seen an increase in enquiries about our unlimited recruitment service, which always gets more popular around any uncertainty that crops up! April will be quieter as the end of the financial year results in a drop-off in recruitment, before we get busy again from May onwards.

Locum assignment levels have increased by over 75% in March compared with February, which is an indication that we are approaching the busy annual leave cover season of May to October. Although hourly rates will inevitably get higher as the year goes on, we are still seeing a lot of competition for certain roles and geographical locations which are affecting levels. I had a quick look at a competitor’s website and noted that they are currently recruiting across the board for experienced conveyancing locum roles at rates of £25-28 per hour, which we have not seen in the market now since 2012. As our competitor charges an all inclusive hourly rate it may be they are sticking a huge uplift onto this, but our average conveyancing hourly rate across the UK tends to be £30 per hour plus locum fees, which makes a total of £35.40 with our 18% fee on top. Interestingly we have seen an increasing number of professional locums register with us and I suspect this is because other agencies are starting to drop the locum hourly rates whilst maintaining their own margins.

The CIPS UK Services report for March 2017 shows the following headlines:
* Business activity growth hits three-month high in March
* New work increases at a strong pace, but job creation slows
* Strongest rate of prices charged inflation since September 2008

March data pointed to a rebound in UK service sector growth, with business activity and incoming new work both rising at the strongest rates so far in 2017. Survey respondents also remained optimistic about the year-ahead business outlook, with almost half of the survey panel forecasting growth while only one-in-nine expect a fall in activity. However, intense cost pressures continued in March, which led to the fastest rise in prices charged by service sector firms since September 2008. Stronger activity growth was linked to supportive UK economic conditions and greater client demand. Some companies continued to cite Brexit-related uncertainty as a factor holding back investment decisions. However, there were also reports that exchange rate depreciation had led to new sales enquiries from abroad and improved demand from overseas clients (especially the US). Average prices charged by service sector companies increased at the fastest rate for eight-and-a-half years in March. This was overwhelmingly linked to higher input costs during recent months. Survey respondents also noted that resilient demand had provided scope to pass on some of their increased costs to clients. (this is the Purchasing Managers Index survey prepared by IHS Markit. We contribute to the survey and as a result get copies of the reports each month.

Out of the 119 new vacancies posted in March, 38 of them were in Greater London and 17 in the South East. 30 were in conveyancing and 13 were company commercial, commercial litigation and commercial property roles.

A summary of work we did in March is below (February figures in brackets).
March 2017 – Summary:
* Permanent vacancies up
* Locum assignments up
* London vacancies: 154 (151)
* South East: 346 (335)
* South West: 80 (82)
* Midlands: 61 (57)
* North West: 85 (81)
* North East: 42 (36)
* Wales: 22 (19)

Market outlook – vacancies have increased and although this is the standard annual recruitment cycle, the levels have been very high indeed.

Statistics
Current live vacancies: 792 (761)
New permanent vacancies added in March: 63 (40)
New locum vacancies added in March: 56 (33)
New candidates registering: 72 (68)
Average ‘Job Strength Factor’ for new vacancies: 4 (Very Good)

TP Legal Recruitment publishes the number of new vacancies, new candidates and indicate the increase or decrease from the previous month. We aim to assist the legal profession by showing the market from our perspective. Our clients tend to be high street law firms and smaller sized commercial practices.
The average job strength gives a good indication of the market because:
1. A poor Job Strength on vacancies indicates a struggling market. When trade is bad, employers seek options for increasing turnover which involve sourcing candidates with their own following and no salary.
2. A strong Job Strength on vacancies indicates a buoyant market, particularly if it is in connection with an increase in numbers of new vacancies.
Vacancies are each graded 1-5, with 5 being a very strong vacancy and 1 being a very weak vacancy.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk