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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Legal recruitment at pre-pandemic levels with increased demand for real estate experts

Legal recruitment at pre-pandemic levels with increased demand for real estate experts


Research suggests Shoosmiths, DWF and Freeths are 2021's top real estate recruiters so far

New research from legal recruiter BCL Legal and data analytics firm Vacancysoft has found vacancies for lawyers in England and Wales have maintained high numbers since early Spring and continue to meet pre-pandemic levels.

The data showed private practice recruitment in the third quarter of the year was up 92.1 per cent year-on-year, which represented a 46.8 per cent rise compared to 2019.

In the second quarter, legal vacancies reached almost 2,000 published jobs (1,956 vacancies), which equated to a 122 per cent year-on-year jump and a 55.2 per cent rise against 2019 levels. 

However, hiring dipped by 19.2 per cent month-on-month in September, falling below 500 hires for the first time since February, which the research said suggested private practice demand had passed its peak. As such, quarter three finished down 5.4 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

Angharad Warren, director, BCL Legal, commented: “This year has been incredibly busy with record hiring levels and firms reporting excellent results and growth. Our challenge now is finding enough candidates to fulfil client requirements. 

“The war for talent and blurred location requirements has impacted regional salary levels. It will be interesting to see if this upward trajectory continues as firms formalise remote-working policies and move towards a hybrid model, requiring employees to be within easy commuting distance of local offices.”  

There has been a particular boom in real estate lawyer recruitment. The research data suggested vacancies have risen in lockstep with house prices and construction output.

In the third quarter of the year, hiring levels for real estate experts were 126.3 per cent up year-on-year. Compared to the same quarter in 2019, they were 68.1 per cent higher. Top real estate recruiters in 2021 so far include Shoosmiths, DWF and Freeths.

James Chaplin, CEO, Vacancysoft, says: “Activity in the commercial UK property market this year has shaken off the effects of covid with overall construction levels at a 10-year-high. But the big question now is whether these levels are sustainable as interest rates start to rise and quantitative easing tapers off. 

"That vacancies for private practice real estate specialists are levelling off suggests law firms might be pausing to see what happens next. The real estate sector is still recalibrating as businesses continue to try and understand the effects of hybrid working on their space requirements.”