Legal Job Market Summary 1st March 2010

February 2010 has been a reasonable month, bearing in mind the effect the weather has had on the resurgence in recruitment, and we are quite optimistic at the moment that things are going to pick up over the next 3-4 months. At the start of the year we were very confident that the market was picking up – we have been getting a steady stream of vacancies in from firms all looking to either expand or replace, and this is very good news indeed for jobseekers.

If the weather had not been so bad earlier in the year I think the market would be a lot more busy than it is now, but still we are seeing a gradual improvement day after day.

We have had over 25 vacancies in during February, the majority of which have been from good quality firms with definite salaries, plans and stability.

All the research coming out of the recruitment industry is pointing to a slow but gradual recovery, and I think the legal market unfortunately is going to remain one of the those longest hit by the recession.

We were one of the first markets to get the full effect of the tsunami wave of redundancies and drop off in work, and also going to be one of the last to recover.

Recruitment is done in waves, and the recent wave is getting towards its peak after a short drop off over February half term. The next wave will continue until the end of March, picking up again in mid April. We expect a busy period towards the Easter break at the end of March.

We are seeing conveyancing and commercial property posts again, including both permanent and locum. However to put it into context, 2 years ago we were regularly registering over 100 vacancies a month, and placing conveyancing and commercial property solicitors at a rate of knots….

Recent vacancies in – Family/Education Law – Colchester, Civil Litigation – Tunbridge Wells, Wills & Probate – Maidstone, Employment Law – Guildford, Company Commercial/Commercial Property – Central London, Duty Solicitor – Wrexham, Family – Plymouth.

Jobs Market to pick up in 2010

Figures released today show that the UK economy has come out of recession with a reported growth of 0.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2009.

This slight recovery could further boost employer confidence and accelerate the already increasing demand for both permanent and temporary staff, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

The latest REC JobsOutlook showed that employer confidence was already starting to rise with one in five businesses planning to increase their permanent workforce over the coming year and a huge majority (over 90 per cent) not intending to carry out any more job cuts. 

This followed the latest REC/KPMG Report on Jobs which showed permanent staff placements growing at their fastest rate for 18 months and  temporary staff assignments rising  at their sharpest rate for 30 months.

Commenting on today’s economic news and the outlook for jobs, Roger Tweedy, the REC’s Director of Research said: “The UK jobs market has shown positive signs of recovery for several months and today’s news will further boost employer confidence. It is also likely that this will lead to  some fluidity returning to the labour market as more workers currently  in employment feel confident enough to look at new opportunities.”

Should Legal Course Providers downsize their operations?

There has been an announcement today that the government withdrawal of funding for higher education is going to result in a lot of university places being withdrawn in the coming 12 months. This may or may not affect legal departments.

Some commentators will view this as a good thing,including ourselves. We see so many students who are going to spend approximately £20-25,000 getting through the LLB and LPC to find that there is no suitable work, that it must be time to restrict the numbers coming through the academic stage in order to improve the chances of those who do get through.
Often the arguments in relation to law students not finding work tend to miss one rather important element – is the student actually suited to a career as a lawyer, and what steps have they taken to discover this? Very often, the answer is no and none, and it is this type of student I suspect any reduction in funding will affect, not those who are genuinely going to make good lawyers (and law students).
Perhaps the funding reduction will have a positive affect on the legal profession?

Professionalising Recruitment – does it matter?

You may be surprised to read this, but firstly recruitment agencies have a professional body who regulate their conduct, and secondly it is possible to qualify as a recruitment consultant, up to graduate level. The professional body is the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, and members sign up to a professional code of ethics.

At the end of the day, does it matter if agencies are a) regulated and b) professional? After all, very often employers are looking for people to fill vacancies and will go with the source able to provide them.

As a Member of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals, I can say that in order to pass the Certificate of Recruitment Practice, I had to study for about 5-6 hours, do an exam, and undertake CPD every year which consists of attending training courses or reading articles, in the same way solicitors do. As someone who has completed the LPC, the LLB and an LLM, as well as other qualifications including the IFA FPC 1 and 2, the Recruitment Professional qualification is by far one of the easiest I have experienced.

It did however make me stop and think of the service we provide to clients. Very often, existing and older clients will call from the middle of a partners meeting and ask me to give salary ranges for a particular type of candidate, to give market research advice into the current state of the market, or to discuss strategies for longer term recruitment. If someone has a professional qualification linked to that advice, it can only be a good thing in terms of providing quality information, advice and service to clients.

67% of the Public think Will Writers are Solicitors

The Fellowship of Professional Willwriters and Probate Practitioners have released a survey showing that consumers are completely confused by will writers, with 67% of them thinking that to write a will you need to be a qualified solicitor.

The main feature of this is that as lawyers the profession has remained pretty hopeless at marketing, thanks to the various restrictions that remained in place until recent times, and this has resulted in firms not being able to market their unique feature in the wills market place, which is namely that you can almost guarantee the price for writing a will will be a perfectly reasonable one, rather than some of the ridiculous figures some will writing companies come up with.

A few years ago, an elderly relative called one of the will companies from a local newspaper advert and had two wills drawn up (for assets of about £75,000), with no requirements at all in relation to beneficiaries etc.. and for this the will writer spent an hour at the house selling a number of different insurance products, as well as add-on services. The total cost was about £400 for the wills and about £250 a year for storage charges. The elderly relative was convinced he had got the will prepared by a solicitor, as the salesman had given him so many membership details he had sounded professional. The will looked appalling – it was almost as if the salesman had been into WHSmiths and photocopied a “Write your own Will” pack.

It is this point that perhaps solicitors and other lawyers have a genuine advantage over non-qualified will writers – the marketing point has to be precisely this – price, which will be less due to regulatory restrictions, professionalism and quality.

I appreciate that there is a market out there if you intend to overcharge for services not required, but surely this must apply as well to people in genuine need of a will being written professionally and at a reasonable price.

Legal Job Market Report – 1st February 2010

The Legal Job Market looked as if it was going to take off quite dramatically as December drew to a close. All the signs were there – firms wanting to interview over Christmas, indications of the recruitment freezes being lifted by some of the larger firms, lack of redundancies and a stop to the large numbers of CVs flooding the market through redundancy, and requests by law firms with posts. January has been a little bit slow as a result of the adverse weather conditions we have experienced, although vacancies have still picked up. We had people about to attend interviews two hundred miles away only to discover that not only was the firm they were going to see closed, but the partners they were due to meet being snowed in at their homes. One company had a whole days worth of interview cancelled with people travelling from all over the country to a central location in Derby. This makes it very difficult on the recruitment side as the work that a consultant puts in to set up one days worth of interviewing can take another week to get back on track, once partners have been tracked down, candidates have made travel arrangements etc.. It is all very time consuming and quite frustrating when adverse weather affects interviews. We are still seeing some rogue firms and candidates coming through, which has been a fairly common theme throughout the recession. We have had firms offering ridiculously low amounts of money to well qualified candidates and being surprised when they get turned down, candidates who get offered extremely good deals only to turn them down for spurious reasons and candidates who simply fail to turn up to interviews at all. All of these things have been very rare in legal recruitment during the time we have been involved in it, and thankfully are decreasing as the markets pick up. The other phenomenon is the non-existent law firm or job offer which usually involves a firm claiming to be starting up and with the money to provide a salary plus bonus scheme, only to get to the interview and find that the firm were wanting to see if the person coming to see them had their own following that a) they could potentially “use” and b) they could base their department on in order to pay the candidate to do the work rather than generating any new work. We have seen an increase in the number of non-contentious positions with Wills and Probate and conveyancing slowly starting to get back onto the market. In fact we have noticed in some areas that there is already a shortage of conveyancers with a particular level of experience and I expect this to start to become increasingly prevalent as the recruitment season progresses. The usual litigation positions are there as always although family appears to have died off again, after a surge last year. Perhaps this is a sign of the increased optimism in the economy, as I write this I hear that the country is now officially out of a recession which of course has an effect on people’s financial and personal decisions. The outlook for February is good and we hope that the snow stays off and firms start to look to recruit again. The back of the Law Society Gazette is always a good indication of the market and in recent weeks we have started to see a number of law firms and companies looking to expand departments and increase their teams and we hope that this continues for the foreseeable future.