The Rise and Fall and Rise again of the Transactional Lawyer

January 25, 2013

Okay, okay – perhaps the title is slightly misleading (well, not the “fall” part!).

The UK economy shrank again in the fourth quarter of 2012 with certain analysts predicting we are heading for a triple-dip recession.  Law firms, however, inform us that  the number of corporate, banking and property transactions has grown in the past year.  Of course, we are nowhere near the transaction levels of “the good times” (copyright, any transactional lawyer who qualified 2002-2007!), but hopefully the greater activity in the market will continue and the legal community can look forward to a more sustained period of consolidation.

Paradoxically, however, the most in-demand legal professionals at the moment are corporate, banking and commercial property lawyers.  Oh, how the legal market moves in cycles!

From 2008 through to 2011 (and, in some cases, later), law firms shed many a transactional lawyer (particularly property lawyers) and, of course, there weren’t many trainee solicitors qualifying into those areas.  This has obviously left a skill shortage in transactional disciplines with a real lack of quality corporate, banking and property lawyers on the market.  2012 saw firms rectify this at the NQ solicitor level, but there is still a distinct gap at the 1-4 PQE mark.

The result has been that, as transaction levels have risen and transactional departments have become more stretched, there is a real need to recruit junior solicitors in these areas.  Those who were lucky enough to qualify into those areas in recent years are now highly in demand and there is no shortage of available roles out there.

One group who will benefit from this trend is the mid-tier lawyer who has always fancied a step up to the top of the legal market.  In the “good times”, many firms often looked for lawyers from a similar firm (i.e. a Big 6, top Manchester or City firm), but today firms cannot often be so picky and it opens the door to quality mid-tier candidates to secure roles at the top and prove themselves in a demanding environment.  We have seen a number of the traditional top-tier in Leeds and Manchester recruit excellent mid-tier lawyers successfully, those lawyers becoming integral parts of their respective departments and long may it continue.

If you would like to discuss this blog, 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, 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.

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