Given that there has now been time for some dust to settle following the referendum, we have a brief update on the London legal recruitment market.
Unsurprisingly, it was clear in the immediate aftermath of the vote that most of our clients were shocked by the result – things are somewhat calmer ten days on.
We have seen some roles, including a few at late stages that we had been expecting to go to offer, put on hold. These roles have all been in transactional areas (mainly corporate, real estate and commercial) and the message has been very much that they are on hold over the summer until firms have a clearer idea of what is going to happen following the vote, rather than pulled altogether – caution rather than panic. Even before the referendum, our feeling was that the corporate and real estate markets had slowed a little in comparison to the previous two years. The majority of banking roles have remained open although, whilst busier than corporate, there has not been the surge in demand for banking lawyers during the first half of 2016 that there was in 2015.
There seems to have been no change in areas such as insurance, pensions, employment and IP – areas that have been buoyant throughout 2016. Real estate was already relatively quiet coming into 2016 compared to the activity levels we witnessed in 2013 and 2014. However, we have received conflicting messages from clients in this practice area - there are some who feel this is where the most significant dip could take place, and others who feel there is now plenty of room for opportunity.
One or two of our clients have advised that they feel it unlikely they will recruit additional fee earners until next year, unless they need to source a replacement. These clients have been smaller, with more of a focus on domestic as opposed to international work. Again, however, the message seems to be one of caution rather than doom.
Most importantly, offers have been made and accepted since the vote and we have received new instructions – across a number of practice areas (bar real estate). Several clients have requested that we send details of good data protection lawyers and are anticipating this practice area to become even busier than it already is. There are signs that demand may also increase for environmental and competition lawyers, and we have already seen an increase in business immigration recruitment. Clients have also advised that they expect financial services to continue to be busy and there is likely to be an upturn in litigation. Candidates have maintained a healthy interest in hearing about roles and the market.
It is of course difficult to predict with any certainty what will happen over the coming months, but at this stage it seems unlikely that we will see significant recruitment activity in corporate, banking or real estate in the short term and possibly for the rest of the year. Areas such as employment, pensions, IP and insurance should remain steady while we anticipate spikes of increased activity in specific areas such as data protection, business immigration, competition, litigation and financial services.