Tide turns in favour of UK Lawyers in Commerce and Industry

Georgina Maudslay [square]

Georgina is a Senior Consultant at Laurence Simons and focuses on placing in-house lawyers within Commerce and Industry. The sectors Georgina's specficially focuses on are Professional Services, Life Sciences and Compliance.


At Laurence Simons we’ve seen increased activity with companies employing, not just replacing, in-house legal professionals. Our 2014 salary survey found that two-fifths of in-house legal departments experienced headcount growth in 2013. There has been an increase in demand for lawyers with specialist knowledge, especially for commercial contracts and IT experience. However, its lawyers with knowledge of outsourcing agreements/software licensing, in particular, who are the most sought after. It seems 2014 is the year in which demand for lawyers within Commerce and Industry (C&I) begins to grow again. 

Whilst there has been a surge in demand for lawyers with these skills, the pool of candidates to suit this area is limited. Therefore, lawyers who are seeking a move within C&I, particularly those coming from top firms, are carefully selecting which companies they choose to interview with. Candidates with this specialist knowledge, in particular those with 3-6 years PQE and from blue chip organisations, are commanding a higher than usual salaries. This puts the pressure on companies that are looking to employ. Differentiation from competitors is now paramount to attracting the best talent. 

Another approach companies could take in order to widen the pool of talent and attract the desired lawyer, is to rethink the type of candidate they are willing to consider; creating new roles and widening a lawyer’s remit are both options that companies could consider to attract lawyers.

Reasons for this change? 

The last few years of the economic downturn caused organisations to act cautiously with their finances. Our research, the Laurence Simons EMEA benchmarking survey 2014, showed that 48% of legal departments identified ‘Pressure to do more with less budget and/or staff’ was one of the most important professional challenges lawyers faced. 

This was also the case in our 2013 EMEA benchmarking survey. The need to tighten budgets is gradually disappearing as our survey also identified that over the last five quarters recruitment is gradually increasing within legal departments – from 4% in Q1 of 2013 to 26% in Q1 2014. 

However, whilst there is currently and improved economic outlook and greater confidence among companies, the cautious approach to controlling finances have certainly not vanished. Companies want to capitalise and build on the savings they have made during the recession.  Certainly the future is looking bright for the C&I sector after what has been a very tough time. Long may this continue. 


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