Continuing our series looking at jobs and hiring across different industries, this time we look at the key trends and highlights in the legal sector, which like other industries has had mixed fortunes.
Turn the clock back to March. The legal sector in the UK recorded an almost record breaking month and with revenues in April falling by only 5% according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures. However, the true impact of COVID started to emerge in May, a fall of 30% making it the lowest fee generating month in four years.
So what are the sectors that have suffered the most and where are we seeing greater demand? Clearly, there has been a detrimental impact on the property market with the slowdown of residential and commercial activity having a huge knock on effect for specialist property lawyers. Immigration has also suffered, having been hard hit due to the global travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic.
Understanding client needs
However, there are certainly pockets of optimism, as the crisis has increased the requirement for employment law expertise. Firms have experienced an increase in enquiries surrounding the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (interestingly corporate insolvencies are down as a result of the support), which has supported over six million staff in England alone. External legal advice will be crucial in helping organisations understand the rules when for example making applications. The same goes for legal tax expertise.
Commercial law is enjoying a steady stream of work and given the current economic outlook, investment funds and debt finance (including sovereign debt) expertise has been sought after. So has the need for restructure, redundancies, distressed M&A and bankruptcy advice. Even conveyancing is increasing as estate agents have opened their doors again as the housing market begins to pick up again.
Clearly, now is also a time for law firms to remain close to their clients and understand their needs. That’s why the need for business development expertise remains so important at a time when revenues are significantly down and competition for business so much tougher. And with virtual webinars and meetings replacing in person client events, the client trust and relationship dynamic is changing.
While the legal sector has been adversely affected by the world events, there are many reasons to remain cheerful. Smaller high street firms are likely to feel the pinch more, as they fight for their lives to stay operational. But law firms tend to weather storms better than most – typically with strong cashflows – and as discussed the demand for expertise is spread across so many different practice areas. That bodes well for legal hiring and jobs.