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Covid recruitment impact report: Legal

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The below is an excerpt from our mid-year legal recruitment update; you can download the full report using the form on this page.

Legal recruitment in the UK and US began 2020 strong, with both geographies sheltered from the full impact of Covid-19 for most of the first quarter. In Asia, things got off to a slower start.

Political unrest in Hong Kong had already dampened sentiment in the second half of 2019 and, as the first region where Covid-19 took hold, market recovery was disrupted. Hiring volume in private practice decreased, especially at associate level, and large financial institutions were subject to hiring freezes. As the pandemic reached the West, many institutions followed suit and imposed a hold on recruitment, particularly in the global banking space.

Encouragingly, the financial services market is showing signs of picking up. Digital banks and other cash rich institutions have continued to hire throughout the pandemic, particularly in Asia, and now – not wanting to miss out – their competitors are hiring in core practice areas.

By contrast, hiring within commerce and industry became notably concentrated – even increasing – as Covid-19 hit. The consumer goods, technology, pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors were busy across all levels of PQE. Here, commercial lawyers experienced a surge in demand; most acutely at the 3-8 years PQE level, although there have also been some notable senior roles in the market where previous management experience and regional coverage has been essential.

Employment lawyers and litigators have been in demand across in-house and private practice, in addition to those with restructuring and insolvency experience. We expect this only to continue for the rest of the year.

For businesses, now is a good time to be accessing talent that was previously harder to engage. There are more candidates available on the market, including those in what would have been deemed ‘secure’ organisations, who have now found themselves at risk through no fault of their own.

What’s reassuring for candidates is that if organisations are choosing to hire in this market then there is clearly a very strong business case to do so. Of course, it is always important to do your due diligence, but provided you are happy with what you find you should feel confident to proceed as you would have in a normal market.

From both a candidate and client perspective, there should absolutely no fear surrounding a virtual process or virtual onboarding. We have now facilitated a large number of placements across all of our verticals and both candidates and client have been pleasantly surprised at how smooth a process it can be. In fact, the new way of working offers plenty of opportunity – for example, remote working has opened up roles to candidates in other locations that were previously not considered by businesses.

For advice on hiring strategies, your career or just to hear more about the market please do get in touch for a confidential discussion.