As we reach the midway point of the year, the landscape of the Legal industry is shifting…
Against the backdrop of both the United Kingdom and the United States’ respective former Prime Minister and President going through highly public legal proceedings, we have seen the UK narrowly avoiding a recession, as well as the onslaught of redundancies that many firms predicted would go along with it.
Whilst an increase in redundancies in the sector was a growing cause for concern in the earlier part of the year, this appears to have slowed down significantly in recent months. It could be argued that the cautious ‘recession mentality’ held by firms in anticipation of the period played a part in avoiding the need for mass redundancy. However, this isn’t to say every area has sailed through unscathed; Property in particular took a big hit in the first part of the year, with many redundancies being made due to poor market conditions. Thankfully, this area seems to be showing positive signs of beginning to bounce back, although hiring in this area definitely hasn’t reached the levels we would expect as the norm just yet.
In industry news, the merger of Allen & Overy with Shearman Stirling has marked one of the biggest transatlantic legal deals in history: the joint firm is soon to become one of the world’s largest legal practices, with combined revenues of $3.4bn and about 3,900 lawyers across 49 offices. Equally, big moves are being made in LawTech, as the release of the AI-powered debt recovery tool “Do Not Pay” marks the first fully AI Lawyer to enter the market. While some have found the emergence of this kind of new tech unsettling, and are concerned this could impact jobs, others have seen the move as exciting: with only lower-level and admin-heavy jobs likely to be made redundant, many in the industry seem to be favouring the belief that the sector will be able to progress and make greater strides more efficiently when embracing new innovations. But whichever side of the argument you fall onto, tech is undeniably playing a bigger role in the Legal industry than ever before.
For those trainee solicitors who are just about to qualify, they will be entering a very different jobs market and legal landscape to the one that they began their training contract in. This year in particular, there seems to be a higher volume of trainees qualifying; this is likely to be a knock-on impact of many training contracts being deferred due to the pandemic. Because of this, the competition for popular qualification areas is fierce, especially as firms will tend to look internally in the first instance.
In terms of our predictions for the remainder of the year, we are definitely seeing a major shift in the market with regard to remote and flexible working practices, and this is likely to have the greatest impact on hiring. Flexibility is being offered far less frequently, and there is far less opportunity for 100% remote working, with an increasing expectation to be in the office. For many, this is unsurprising; many law firms have always held the belief that remote working would not be here to stay. But, for those individuals who moved roles for the benefit of greater flexibility, this move is unlikely to be a welcome one. We could potentially see a spike in legal professionals who have had their working autonomy taken away re-entering the hiring market very soon.