Well, it’s fair to say, the EU referendum result on 23 June caught a lot of people by surprise! It was always going to be close but most people predicted a slight victory for Remain…waking up to a vote to Leave was a shock.
How has this affected the legal market? After the initial shock, many firms have adopted a (kind of) business as usual approach. Everyone is eyeing the market with a bit more caution than previously, but some firms have not reported a downturn in work whatsoever. Indeed, the utilisation at a couple of firms has gone through the roof. As one corporate partner put it recently ‘it might take five years for a full resolution to exiting the EU, are companies going to stop doing deals?’
That said, there are going to be some deals which fall away or are put on hold. Certain industries are going to be hit harder than others and deals around those will inevitably be reevaluated.
The most notable effect at the moment seems to be on real estate. Naturally, the firms acting for the large investment companies will have been rocked by those companies ‘gating’ their investments. The press (both regular and legal) were very quick to jump all over this, but were very slow to report when those same companies started trading again…
On the other hand, the exit presents a number of opportunities for law firms. There is going to be a lot of EU-regulation unravelling within domestic legislation. Areas such as Employment law are going to require lots of work. Litigation, tax, pensions, health and safety and Intellectual Property are all disciplines which could see a rise in productivity.
The key word, however, is uncertainty. It comes as no surprise that law firms across the country are either delaying pay reviews or initiating pay freezes – those firms in the latter bracket need to be careful as solicitors who have worked incredibly hard over the past year may feel the grass is greener at another firm not publicly freezing pay.
How has this affected the legal recruitment market in the North? There have been some notable shifts but it’s certainly not the Armageddon some media outlets are reporting. As one recruiting partner said a couple of weeks after the vote ‘we are not going to cancel roles, but the bar has probably been raised in terms of what is expected’. Our experience has been that many roles, including in corporate and real estate, have still been filled and all previous offers have been honoured. Available Real Estate roles have dropped in number but, to be honest, that is also a combination of the usual decline in recruitment throughout the Summer and the fact that Real Estate recruitment in recent years has been extraordinary.
As discussed above, certain areas may see an uplift in work and we could see more appetite from firms to recruit in Employment, Litigation and Regulatory.
Despite much of the negativity in the legal press, law firms are looking to remain positive in the face of a unique situation, economically and politically. Most law firms put together strategies before the vote which would account for both possible outcomes and their long-term strategies have not changed.
Things may change in the coming years as the exit from the EU is negotiated and concluded and much will depend on the reaction of financial markets. For the time being, law firms of all sizes are still recruiting, across all disciplines. There are still plenty of opportunities for all types of solicitors.
If you have been thinking about a move or would just like some general advice about options in the market, please feel free to contact Terry Cape or Chris Clarke on 0113 2385965.
CapeClarke is a leading niche legal recruitment consultancy operating across Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool and London. Please feel free to check out our priority legal vacancies by clicking here. Please note these legal vacancies are only a small selection of those we have been instructed on, so please get in touch if you do not see a role which looks suitable.