Henley Reid

A Move as a Lawyer to London – Market Update

The UK market, along with the world, has seen unprecedented change over the course of the past few years. Like many other recruitment industries, the legal recruitment market has not remained unscathed and has undergone a rapid transformation that looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. Below we highlight some of the key areas of impact that are shaping the recruitment landscape of the United Kingdom.

It cannot be denied that the global pandemic that has swept across the world, has created a multitude of unpredictable changes to the legal recruitment market. In a market such as London, that historically relies on a steady influx of top talent from numerous overseas jurisdictions (e.g., Australia/New Zealand), the subsequent closing of borders and tightening of restrictions, created a significant shortage of talent that would ordinarily be relied upon. This in turn led to a large spike in the competition between firms for “homegrown” talent, as firms looked to outbid their rivals with huge pay raises, sign on bonuses and retention incentives.

However, with the recent easing of restrictions and the reopening of borders, once again the demand for overseas lawyers has returned allowing firms to cast their net wide over the global talent pool to attract the best lawyers into the UK market.

While traditionally there has always been a steady demand for lawyers with skills and experience in corporate and finance, other areas of speciality have now emerged as being just as “in demand” due to the knock-on effects of the pandemic. Firms are seeking the services of lawyers in the practice areas of employment, technology, and insurance as well as construction and projects. While COVID-19 put an initial pause on activity in the corporate and finance industry, there is now a consistent pipeline of work for lawyers particularly in the corporate (including private equity, funds and public M&A) and finance space.

More recently, there have been several geopolitical factors that have also influenced the UK legal recruitment market.

With the invasion of Russia into the Ukraine, various country policies (predominately in the form of sanctions) have been implemented, which has in turn created work for lawyers in the UK and Continental Europe as they navigate through the legal ramifications of the conflict. Areas of practice, including international arbitration and litigation, have seen increased activity and workflow in response to this event.

On the other side of the world, there has been a strengthening of ties between the UK and Australia, with the creation of the Free Trade Agreement (“FTA”) in June 2021, which will in time, provide lawyers entering the UK to transition across more easily through a proposed time extension as well as a lifting of the age limit for lawyers applying for a visa grant.

In conjunction with this, lawyers heading over to the UK can now undertake the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (succeeding the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme in September 2021) to become a solicitor in England and Wales. As Australia is a “recognised jurisdiction” under the SQE (carrying over from the QLTS) there is now a more simplified and expedited admission process under the SQE.