Thursday 25 March 2021 6:00 am

Hiring for lawyers at highest since pre-pandemic

Recruitment for lawyers is at its highest level since before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, new labour market data for England and Wales has found.

Professional legal recruitment took a big hit during the UK’s first national lockdown, resulting in hiring levels in Q2 2020 falling by 74.3 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

Year-on-year vacancies across England and Wales subsequently finished down 33 per cent compared to 2019. 

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However, in February 2021 Britain’s top firms posted 729 professional vacancies – that is excluding apprentices, interns and trainees – reaching a level not seen since January 2020, meaning February 2021 saw nearly 19 per cent more vacancies compared to the same month a year earlier.

“These encouraging figures show that the recovery within the legal sector is properly back on track,” said James Chaplin, CEO of Vacancysoft, a data publisher for the recruitment industry.

“After a year like no other for the industry, legal firms are rediscovering their rhythm — and recruiters in this space are feeling the positive knock-on effects.”

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Overall professional vacancies across Magic Circle firms dropped collectively by 40.5 per cent year-on-year in 2020, but Allen & Overy and Linklaters showed resilience.

Recruitment at Allen & Overy finished 13 per cent higher compared to 2019, while Linklaters posted double the previous years’ amount of new roles in 2020.

All Magic Circle firms made a strong start to 2021, with current monthly average vacancies already higher than last year’s figures.

Elsewhere, Vacancysoft found vacancies for banking and finance lawyers now make up a bigger portion of the overall legal labour market, rising from 4.6 per cent in 2019 to 6.3 per cent in 2020.

London remained the dominant region for banking and finance legal vacancies across England and Wales, with the City accounting for 74 per cent of private practice and 80 per cent of in-house roles.