Simon Chadwick of Espero Consulting summarises the current state of play for the UK law firm staffing market. He also looks at the opportunities in 2018 and gives valuable insight to enable you to create a competitive advantage whether you are hiring lawyers or considering moving firms yourself as a partner, associate or paralegal…

Brexit, Trump and Theresa May

The state of torpor that persevered through the first quarter of 2017 as a result of the shockwaves created by Brexit and Trump, has been replaced by a cautious mindset among law firm leaders. This cautionary approach has been compounded by the staccato nature of Theresa May’s prime ministerial journey. Thus, hiring was at a supressed, but increasing level in Q2 and Q3 in 2017. On the back of a strong economy, hiring picked up among the elite firms in the UK and Europe in Q4. The current state of play is that all of the elite US law firms are back in hiring mode and this should heat up for the elite UK firms too as new budgets are released in Q2 2018.

There is a shortage of talent and a high demand in the financial markets and some niche markets, such as competition/antitrust in London and in the property and financial markets in the regions.

The partner market is busy – especially for those lawyers with international practices. This sector of the market will continue to heat up as more law firms see the need to invest in senior talent – in particular those well-connected business developers in key international growth markets.


How to prioritise and create a competitive advantage in 2018

1 Continue to prioritise international growth

The strong growth that has been seen by those UK and US law firms with strong international businesses is likely to continue throughout 2018. There are some notable successes of this nature. Many more law firm clients have developed their international interests in 2017 and the signs are that they will continue to do so; through their businesses and investments in 2018 as they perceive greater opportunities to make profit on a more global basis. It seems certain that any law firm with an international presence will have greater opportunity than one without in 2018. The rollout of the law firms from the Far East; in particular Chinese firms, will make competition fierce in international growth markets. So, strategically, law firms should prioritise their opportunities for international business without delay.

2 Hire lawyers who understand Europe and international trade

Throughout 2017 there has been a focus on the recruitment of lawyers who are best placed to interpret the opportunities offered by both Brexit and Trump. Law firms have prioritised the hiring of lawyers in the areas of competition, corporate, banking, funds, regulatory, disputes, tax, capital markets, IP and private wealth lawyers from recognised firms at partner, associate, senior associate and paralegal levels.

This trend will continue in 2018 – but the war for talent will intensify.


3 Pick a law firm that has a convincing, well-researched international strategy

Much of my predictions for 2018 are similar to those I made in 2017 – mainly because the year has panned out largely as predicted and also the pattern seems set; at least for a while.

As a lawyer considering a move in 2018, one would do well to consider law firms with an international strategy.

Thank you for paying attention to this article and to other similar articles I and my colleagues at Espero Consulting published in 2017.

I wish you a happy and successful 2018.

Simon Chadwick, Espero Consulting

+44 845 241 2127 /