Simon Chadwick of Espero Consulting shares the real data for associate and partner hires and leavers across the major European law firms in September 2016…

It appears to be true that many law firms in the UK and Europe have taken a more cautious route to hiring since the shock Brexit vote of June 23rd this year. Many firms talk of ‘over-hiring’ earlier in 2016 in the run up to the vote. It is true that some firms have ‘recruitment freezes’ and restructuring in place to lower staff cost.

The truth of the matter however makes compelling reading and the findings from research commissioned by Espero Consulting this month paint a different picture.

Espero’s figures show that the Top 100 law firms in Europe hired almost 600 new lawyers at partner or associate level in September 2016. This towers over the number they lost in September which is a figure of less than 50 people overall.

It is true that the ‘Brexit-effect’ has caused many firms to take a breath and, traditionally, recruitment dips a little at this time of the year. We also believe that some lawyers are biding their time and staying put whilst they themselves wait to see the real effects of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. It is certainly true that in these ‘candidate-driven’ times – when we are experiencing an acute shortage of good quality lawyers available to fill an ever-increasing number of roles – most law firms are working hard to retain their talent.

So why do the figures not back this up? Why has September seen such vigorous hiring numbers? Perhaps the true ‘Brexit-effect’ has not yet been seen, as many new September starters could have been resigning from roles and starting their notice period prior to June 23rd. Or maybe many of the larger law firms have decided to carry on regardless, knowing the true state of the market they are in means a lack of talent. The low number of leavers could certainly be down to a combination of caution on the part of the candidates and retention efforts by the law firms paying off.

Let us wait and see what the Autumn brings as we revisit this hiring activity in the coming months.

It is worth noting that only this weekend, figures quoted in the Telegraph show total recruitment revenues in the UK have risen steadily to a high above that achieved pre-recession – to £28.7BN in 2013-14 and are now topping a heady £31BN in 2016. These figures are published by the REC who also predict that the trend will continue. In their view, total recruitment revenues in the UK will rise to an all-time high of £39BN by 2020.

Perhaps the September hiring figures really do reflect what is truly the case amongst major law firms – both in action taken and sentiment too.

For more information contact the author, Simon Chadwick of Espero Consulting +44 7985 198 578 or