2020 was an unprecedented year for the UK and the effects of the pandemic and Brexit on the legal sector still remain unclear. Following the first UK lockdown in March, many firms froze hiring, furloughed staff and cut salaries sparking concern for those working or wanting to work in the legal sector. In Summer 2020, some firms and sectors bounced back, recapturing some degree of normality but it has been predicted that the working lifestyle will never return to what used to be ‘normal’, with many employers adopting permanent working from home. This uncertainty can make it difficult to choose a practice area.
Deciding which practice area to specialise in is a difficult yet important decision that must be made early on in your legal career. It can be notoriously difficult to move between practice areas making this decision a potentially career deciding one.
Using data from Legal Moves 2020, this blog post summarises hiring trends per practice area to make choosing a little easier. The practice areas in which hiring took place were Real Estate, Corporate and Commercial and Private Client with accelerated hiring taking place in both July and September of 2020.
Real Estate saw a relative 30% uplift in hires. This could be due to new Government initiatives which in turn resulted in an increase in lawyers retraining in Real Estate. In addition to this, more than three quarters of Real Estate lawyers are either Construction or Commercial Property lawyers as opposed to Residential Property lawyers. This could mark Real Estate as a ‘safe’ option that does not appear to be on the decline. However, due to the unparalleled circumstances of 2020, this ‘security’ must be taken with a pinch of salt.
Private Client hirings also increased as more people were making wills in 2020 due to the pandemic.
As well as analysing hiring trends, it is also important to consider which Practice Areas incurred net negative hiring rates in 2020. Dispute Resolution had a net negative hiring rate of 4% but this is expected to be circumstantial due to the intense court backlogs suffered last year. This practice area is expected to bounce back after the backlog has deteriorated.
As for 2021, the accelerating vaccine rollout may see hiring rates return to normal pre-pandemic levels by the summer. It is predicted that Real Estate will continue to be boosted by Government initiatives alongside Private Client, because of the increasing demand for Family Lawyers as well as the continuing demand for those making wills. It is predicted that specialisms such as Corporate Recruiting, Employment, Insurance and Commercial Litigation will see increased demand.
Being aware of legal sector statistics is vital for informed decision making as an employer and a potential employee. It is also incredibly interesting to see how the legal sector may change post-pandemic, and the impact this will have on practice areas and the working environment.
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