Legal Job Market Report September 2023
in Legal Job Market Reports

Legal Job Market Report September 2023

Here is our summary of the current state of the UK legal job market.

Locum Recruitment – Quiet

August has been a quiet month for locum assignments and the numbers demonstrate this. In August 2022 we registered 60 locum assignments across all fields of law (it was very busy last year with residential conveyancing work and in house commercial roles), but this year we only saw 16 new roles lodged with us. There are a host of possible reasons for the drop – August bad weather so no last minute annual leave cover, locum cover booked earlier, firms prepared for their short term cover requirements this year, the housing market quietening down – but the decline in bookings remains noticeable.

Locum assignment updates here: https://www.interimlawyers.co.uk/category/locum-solicitor-updates/

Permanent Recruitment

Permanent roles are still being posted with us – and the lack of available candidates remains one of the key reasons partners of smaller law firms in their late 60s get in touch to talk about selling their firms. We are seeing an increasing number of professional locums indicate that they are happy to consider permanent roles due to market conditions, but as ever there is a reluctance to recruit anyone with extensive locum work on their CV. In house counsel roles are still proving difficult to get across the line – and this again is a good test of the market – how long the various departments within a company prevaricate for when considering a new potential hire!

Permanent vacancies can be viewed here: https://www.ten-percent.co.uk/vacancies/

New Candidate Registrations

Candidate registrations are a very good indicator for market conditions. As indicated in the last few newsletters, increasing numbers of candidates register with us when the market is going down, and drop when the market is on the up. Numbers remain up, but only slightly. New locums have increased in number (we have noticed a large number of locums registering in the first week of September).

Law Firms for Sale – Busy

The law firm merger, sale and acquisition market remains busy.

Law firm sales remain busy, with plenty of enquiries, meetings, offers, counteroffers and new firms enquiring about selling or merging. We are in a busy cycle of work at the moment that usually remains until mid-November. Renewing PII tends to focus minds of law firm owners thinking of a sale, merger or disposal as the premiums seem to continue to rise for most firms, particularly with exposure to conveyancing.

We have recently launched an enhanced buyer service, which enables buyers to consult with us at the outset, obtain verified buyer status, a featured listing on our buyer databases, early access to new listings and access to our content online. We also assist with referrals to external experts, for example helpful PII advisers. For details please click here. NB: all our articles from these newsletters can still be read on the Legal Recruitment News website.

Full details of firms currently for sale on our website – list updated daily. For valuations, exit planning or a confidential discussion about a potential sale or acquisition generally please ring 01824 780937 and speak to Jonathan Fagan or email jf@jonathanfagan.co.uk

Ten Percent Group statistics for August 2023 (August 2022 in brackets)

New locum roles added – 16 (60)
New permanent roles added – 20 (37)
New candidates added – 39 (37)

KPMG & REC Report on Jobs UK – September 2023

Steepest drop in permanent placements for over three years
Temp billings decline for first time since July 2020
Pay pressures remain sharp, despite upturn in candidate supply

Commentary from Claire Warnes, Head of Education, Skills and Productivity at KPMG UK
“The August summer break has seen little change in the ongoing tight labour market conditions. If you’re looking for a new role – the market remains in your favour, as starting pay continues to be driven up by inflationary pressures and a high demand for candidates with
specific skills across many sectors. For recruiters, the picture is still complex. Despite an
increasing pool of candidates this month, the economic outlook is keeping businesses cautious. Many employers aren’t ready to commit to permanent roles, and those who are indicate they cannot find candidates with the right skills, causing these placements to fall at a rapid pace during August – the sharpest for three years. Temporary billings slipped for the first time since July 2020, as squeezed budgets mean there’s little room to bring on short-term staff.”

Commentary from Neil Carberry REC CEO
“August is always a slower month for new permanent roles, but this has been exacerbated in 2023 by the lack of confidence to start the new hiring we saw among firms in the Spring. As inflation begins to drop, it is likely that firms will return to the market later in the year – employer surveys suggest confidence may be returning. But for now, the labour market has more slack than it has since the heights of the first lockdown. Firms continue to use temps to fill any short-run needs, with the small drop in August representing little change from the past few months.
Recruiters routinely describe this sober overall picture as harder, but not necessarily bad. Vacancies are still in a strong position. There are huge variations between sectors, too. Hospitality, Accounting, Logistics, Manufacturing, Engineering and Healthcare continue to
grow strongly for both permanent and temporary roles, meaning employers are still experiencing shortages. Demand for permanent healthcare staff has now risen for 37 months, for instance. With demand weakening, we see the drivers for rising pay being more to do with companies’ pay settlements for existing staff, rather than market demand. Those finding new jobs are benefitting from rises that many firms put in place for their teams earlier in the year. That said, data shows pay pressures remain sharp for permanent workers in some sectors driven by ongoing shortages.”

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 20 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.ten-percent.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk