2021 Legal Salary Guide
Our 2021 Legal Salary Guide provides an overview of recruitment and remuneration for legal professionals across the UK, Asia and the US.
This year, we have gone one step further and partnered with The Pay Index resulting in the creation of one of the most in-depth salary guides on the market.
This includes reports on gender pay gaps, diversity, the impact of COVID and more.
To request your copy please fill out this form.
As can be expected, 2020 saw an overall decline in hiring activity within the legal industry, albeit there were a number of notable sectors that experienced sustained or even a surge of hiring in response to demands brought about by the pandemic. These were largely within the technology, consumer goods and pharma/life sciences industries.
In private practice, it was largely litigation, employment and restructuring/insolvency hiring that dominated the activity throughout the majority of 2020. Hiring within multinational financial institutions largely ground to a halt, whilst smaller challenger banks, fintechs and asset management firms were able to resume hiring relatively quickly post moving to a remote working environment.
By Q4, and coinciding with the good news surrounding the development of a vaccine(s), we saw a pronounced uptick in hiring activity – most notably within transactional areas including banking & finance, M&A and PE. This has continued into 2021 and we have quickly returned to a job-rich, candidate short market as industries have adjusted to the new way of working.
The new normal
Whilst operating within a virtual environment initially proposed obstacles, it has now become the norm. Recruitment processes are being run entirely virtually and many organisations are now permanently changing their policies with regard to flexible & remote working which is changing their profile in terms of ability to attract and retain talent.
Hiring activity within the European legal market is back to an all-time high. Within private practice, there has been sustained demand from all classes of law firms for professionals with corporate (M&A/PE) & commercial (IT/IP) experience. On the in-house side, lawyers with data privacy, general commercial, funds and insurance experience remain highly sought after.
With Hong Kong and China the first to be impacted by Covid, it has been a difficult 18 months for the legal industry. On the in-house side, it has been the virtual banks and challengers that have stimulated most of the hiring activity as well as organisations within the TMT and FMCG sectors.
International law firms immediately put in place a hiring freeze with additional countries following shortly after. Major IPO’s in Hong Kong got pushed back, and deals slowed across corporate teams, forcing firms such as Orrick and Osbourne Clarke to exit Hong Kong. It was a particularly hard year for newly qualified lawyers who struggled to get retained or find new roles in a down market.
The IPO market has come back significantly (Skadden’s HK$4.1 billion with Yidu Tech as well as Davis Polk’s $23.9 billion with Baidu). The turn of the year has already marked a number of significant people moves in HK and with all cylinders firing across Asia, it is sure to be a record year to come. Lawyers with strong transactional experience (IPO/M&A), digital payments and data privacy experience, in particular, will continue to be in high demand.
Across the board we saw initial hiring freezes as law firms were unsure of how to pivot in the environment brought about by the pandemic. There was an initial struggle to adapt to the virtual environment resulting in immediate furloughs and layoffs, as well as delays in bonuses and temporary reductions in compensation levels. As we have emerged from the pandemic, COVID bonuses have become more common as a means of remaining competitive in the market as well as to retain talent.
As seen across Europe, there was an initial surge in hiring for bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers. But we saw a steep decline in volumes of work across noncontentious construction and real estate as well as more transactional corporate areas. Where processes didn’t go on hold, interviews quickly moved to a virtual setting and this has largely become the norm with the result being a shortening of the overall interview process.
The new normal
Towards the end of 2020, some offices reopened with the option to return once or twice a week or as comfortable, with safety precautions in place. Talks of a hybrid work environment has surfaced to give people the flexibility to work in the office, at home, or wherever they can be the most productive and there has been a much greater emphasis and awareness around mental health and the benefits of physical activity. 2020 has forced organisations to adapt and the challenge is now how organisations return to ‘normal’ whilst continuing to attract and retain talent. On top of this, they are still having to continue competing in an ever-increasingly competitive legal market.