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What is Happening in the In-house Legal Market Right Now?


When people ask me “How’s the market?” my immediate response for the last several moths has been “Busy!” 

The number of actual jobs in the market is extremely high, with companies not only replacing people who are moving on to new opportunities but the size of in-house legal teams genuinely increasing. This is exciting! 

Market Snapshot 

When I started in the in-legal recruitment market in London twelve years ago, it was not unusual for candidates to have to wait until they had spent four, five or even six years in private practice before moving in-house; nowadays, the demand is for lawyers at the 1-5 year PQE level….and for positions which are thee years plus, these roles are often wanting previous in-house experience, which means someone who is making their second in-house….this was not the case a decade ago.

The Age Old Question – When is the Right Time to Move In-house?

For those starting out in their legal careers already wanting to move in-house, don’t wait….if you know, even as you qualify you may want to be an in-house lawyer, do it as soon as you can – 6 months, 1 year, 2 years – there’s rarely an advantage to waiting, simply on the basis that the mid-senior level in-house roles often (usually, in fact) require previous in-house experience. If you’re a 5/6 year qualified lawyer from private practice looking to move in-house, you’ll be competing with lawyers who moved in-house at 1 or 2 years qualified and invariably, in-house experience is preferred.

What is the Effect of a “Busy” Market for Companies?

This demand for lawyers at the 1-5 year PQE level has put pressure on salaries and the recruitment processes….in addition, the increase in private practice salaries at this level over the last 2-3 years has not helped this pressure. 

Companies who take their time with recruitment process (i.e. more than two weeks between rounds of interviews) or which have an unnecessary number of stages in their interview process (almost as though they are scared of hiring at all) loose good people….the lawyers, who are in the market at this level, simply have other options.

What Does this Market Activity Mean for Lawyers?

The busy market, however, does not always mean there are dozens of perfect jobs for everyone. Positions do tend to plateau around the 7/8/9 year qualified mark (and around the £90k base salary mark) and roles at this level and above can be more scarce. It also means there’s more competition for these positions, which is quite possibly why the salaries plateau at around this level as well.

Skill-Sets in Demand

The skill-sets that are in demand at the moment for in-house roles are probably not unexpected – general commercial contracts background are always sought-after. Tech/e-commerce/TMT or digital skill-sets are also always a priority from companies across a wide range of sectors (not just tech companies but digital media companies, retail and FMCG, fin-tech, med tech and health tech, start up technology companies, luxury brands, any consumer related business.)

Privacy is also still a growth area; the roles tend to be permanent now, as opposed to the deluge of privacy contractor positions we saw throughout 2017 and early 2018 and given privacy has been a genuine area in its own right for a little while now, there are more people with this skill-set and whilst they are skill expensive and can command higher than average salaries, this is tailed of a little.

For Help with Your Career or Your Hiring

If you are a lawyer already in-house and are looking for your next move, or you are in private practice hoping to make your first move in-house, please feel free to contact me directly, I’d be delighted to help you with your search.

If you are looking to hire into your in-house team or if you’ve been looking already and are finding this challenging, please get in touch with me – I’d be delighted to help you find the right person for your team.

Posted on February 8, 2019 in Market News

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