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Legal Job Market Report December 2015

Legal Job Market Update

November has been a mixed month, with the usual locum assignments ending as work drops off for Christmas and permanent roles increasing. We have started to see the longer term locum roles coming through and some unexpected permanent recruitment – maternity leave cover and departing candidates contributing to this.

The demise of Blavo & Co and the sudden influx of candidates onto the market around London has been interesting, mainly because a lot of the solicitors out of work are from legal aid fields and the market is such a mess courtesy of government & LAA cuts and changes. Some candidates have experienced a reluctance by other firms to recruit them – presumably for fear of any future possible action arising from the closure – but others have found it relatively easy to get alternative work.

It will be interesting to see what happens to personal injury work with the new Small Claims limit proposals. We have seen a number of firms and companies close down in the last 6-12 months and I suspect this will continue.

Conveyancing locum work has now dropped off completely – which is quite normal – and other locum work is mainly litigation with a bit of wills & probate.

On the permanent side we have seen a few crime posts coming in as firms who have been awarded contracts are looking for supervisors (this is exactly the same pattern as occurred when the family contracts were awarded – basically a number of smaller firms who have not done much crime are now doing it and medium sized firms who were doing crime for many years are probably no longer doing it!). We have availability for conveyancing and commercial property locum work in most areas (short term easier to get than long term) but wills & probate remains difficult.

Conveyancing – still busy and difficult to source candidates for at the moment. Hopefully this will change next year, but unlikely. Salaries have still not gone up enough to lure candidates away from secure permanent roles. The Law Society have today released a report showing that the top 1,000 conveyancing firms have seen property transactions increase in the third quarter of 2015 by 20% – could this be related to pension releases and the right to buy schemes? Private Eye have compiled an interactive map of all overseas owned property in the UK – can be viewed here – http://www.private-eye.co.uk/registry – quite fascinating to look at – is it evidence of overseas investors driving the market or simply existing owners adjusting their ownership to be more tax efficient? Will the stamp duty changes on 2nd homes and buy to let properties slow the market down in 2016 or will it go completely mad in the first quarter as potential purchasers get in there quickly to avoid the additional charge?

The property market has certainly changed and now seems to operate with a London bubble at one set of prices (mostly unaffordable to anyone on an income of less than £200k) and the remainder of the country completely separate to this. In recent times we have spoken with a candidate who spends his time flying to Singapore and Shanghai to attend property investment seminars and sign up investors to purchase blocks of flats in London, with a solicitors firm linked to him undertaking the related conveyancing transactions. A good amount of work around London appears to have been with overseas investors purchasing properties and conveyancing undertaken at high speed to accomodate the demands of the investors.

Wills & Probate – still difficult to recruit for on the permanent side – salaries again are not doing enough to tempt candidates away from current roles – and locum rates are still high.

Commercial Property remains difficult although locum availability has increased. There still remains a gap between the salaries applicants seek and salaries being offered by law firms.

Family Law has been surprisingly busy on the locum side. Permanent roles not really cropping up.

Litigation – both civil and commercial still quiet but locum work has been surprisingly busy (although we have to say that some of the assignments have been poor in quality). In House roles quiet.

November 2015 – Summary:
* Permanent vacancies up
* Locum assignments up
* Conveyancing vacancies busy
* Commercial Property vacancies busy
* Wills & Probate vacancies – some
* Commercial and Civil Litigation vacancies – few
* Family vacancies – few
* Market outlook – rising (it has remained busier this year than it has been since 2006).

Statistics
Current live vacancies: 578
New permanent vacancies added in November: 46
New locum vacancies added in November: 42
New candidates registering: 100
Average ‘Job Strength Factor’ for new vacancies November: 3.5 (OK)

Ten-Percent 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. Traditionally our clients have been 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 usually also involves contacting recruitment agencies in the hope that they have candidates with their own following and not looking for a 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 is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and regularly writes for the Ten-Percent website and the Legal Recruitment blog, an award-winning selection of articles and features on legal recruitment and the legal profession. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or visit one of our websites.

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