Understanding The Recruitment Trends Of The 2022 Legal Market

Working at the coalface of legal recruitment, it’s difficult to ignore the most pressing trend in the market right now: it’s busy. Really busy. In fact, I’d say there’s never been a better time to be a legal practitioner looking to make a move. 

It doesn’t seem to matter what location or size a given firm is, nor whether they’re based in the UK or the US. From internationals to boutiques, the story remains consistent across the board – they’re all on the hunt for an array of legal practitioners.

At the moment, for example, there’s a lot of movement in the worlds of property and real estate, corporate law (including ECM and venture capital), finance, TMT, and restructuring. And, for that matter, we’re expecting the second half of 2022 to see an uptick in interest across the likes of IT and data privacy, employment, specialist litigation, and HNW client-focused roles. 

In short, quite a few practice areas. But if it’s tough to pinpoint interest in specific areas, it’s worth turning our attention instead to what’s motivating the broader movement surrounding legal roles in 2022.

Why are people moving?

Across these myriad practice areas (did I mention firms’ increased interest in IP, competition, and tax lawyers?), job moves are often prompted by the usual suspects. Many lawyers are, for example, continuing to switch roles in line with their Post-Qualified Experience (PQE), while others are (understandably) drawn to opportunities with higher salaries.

We’re also seeing increasing numbers of lawyers who move based on a need to tweak their workload – some commercial lawyers, for example, might want to undertake more outsourcing while cutting back on data protection (there is, after all, such a thing as too much excitement in a job).

I think this motivation ties in with a broader desire to improve work/life balance among members of the legal profession – a desire we’ve seen borne out in what’s now a standard request for flexible and home-based working, with very few individuals asking for fully on-site roles.

Of course, whatever the reason for a busy legal market, we’ve found that movement leads to further movement. With partners moving at greater volumes – often taking some of the juicier work with them – associates will obviously be prompted to take stock of their current situation and think about the exciting prospect of professional change.

How should people find their ideal next role?

Of course, no matter what practice area you work in (let’s not forget the strong opportunities present in fields like structured finance at the moment!), understanding recruitment trends is only half the battle.

If you want to effectively participate in the movement currently dominating the sector, it’s important to leverage that knowledge as you examine the legal job market. For example, the array of strong options floating around at the moment can feel a little bit overwhelming – which means you need to adopt a targeted approach. 

I advise pulling together a strong sense of what you want your next role to look like. Lawyers, in my experience, often have a general view of their strengths and preferences, and these instincts are worth anchoring individuals currently surveying the current sea of available roles. 

In fact, this is advice that equally applies to firms and partners currently undergoing the hiring process – with such excellent talent out there and so many competing firms looking to snap up quality legal professionals, firms who drag their feet and fail to swiftly identify the qualities that comprise their ideal candidates will lose out to competitors with their eyes on the ball.

For lawyers, however, this eagerness on the part of fast-moving firms only highlights the opportune nature of the current market – and with more and more firms working hard to improve their ESG and diversity practices, it’s never been a better time to throw yourself into the vast opportunities across almost every practice area under the sun.

Firms are desperate for talent, and there are new roles around every corner. Including, ironically, a fair amount of insolvency work. 

About the author: Alex Dick is the CEO of Alexander Lyons Solutions.

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