Banking & Finance – UK Legal Labour Market Trends, September 2023

Increasingly Banking Lawyers are in-house as Law Firms pause hiring

Key findings include:

  • Proportionately more legal vacancies are in the banks than ever before (now over 55%)
  • Within the Law Firms, the North is up to 15.8% of all banking vacancies
  • For the Banks, London still dominates with 66.8% of all legal roles in the capital
  • Addleshaw Goddard is on track to potentially double its 2022 total banking vacancies

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Recruitment levels are returning to 2019 levels. However, what has changed is that more vacancies are happening proportionately within the Banks. So for context, in 2019 we saw 381 legal vacancies in banks, in 2023 this is set to be over 500. In contrast, within the law firms, in 2019 we saw 577 banking vacancies, whereas this year we estimate the total to be barely over 400. This is according to the latest UK Legal Labour Market Trends report by Search, and labour market data analysts Vacancysoft.

James Franklin – Director – Search – Comments:

“Lawyers who specialise in banking and finance, whether in private practice or in-house, can be optimistic of new vacancies in the market over the next 6 to 12 months. There are clear signs of a thaw as organisations across the City and Canary Wharf start to release more roles.”

Regional trends

The other trend which is worth highlighting is the regionalisation that has been happening within the law firms themselves. For context, in 2019, over 50% of all banking vacancies within law firms, were within London. Compare that to this year, and this has dropped to 41.2% as a share of the national picture. Indeed, London is the worst-performing region when looking at the percentage change in volumes over the period, with 2023 on track to have 42% less vacancies for banking lawyers in law firms, than 2019. 

When spotlighting the North, we see it has been one of the regions to grow over the period, with vacancies up from 14.2% in 2019 to 15.8% this year. Equally, it has also seen a sharp drop in vacancies, when comparing this year to last, with the total being forecast to be 43% down.

In the way we have seen jobs migrate from London to the regions in the Law Firms, we have seen the same trend happen in the Banks. Nonetheless, London continues to hold the largest share of legal vacancies. Equally, the forecast for 2023 is for there to be a 46.7% drop in vacancies, which is in part a reflection of the quieter market since quantitative tightening began. In terms of market share percentages, London holds a 66.8% share this year, down from 77.7% in 2019.

Looking at the North, this year is set to face a -35.1% decrease in vacancies, equally is now holding a 9.5% share, as opposed to 6.6% in 2019. Once again, the year-on-year change can be deceptive, looked at in isolation. Overall, the underlying trend is clear. 

Firms to Watch

Addleshaw Goddard is on track to potentially double its 2022 annual totals, projecting an impressive 95% increase in 2023. This remarkable surge underscores the firm’s robust growth trajectory.

Simmons and Simmons have had the most vacancies year to date, equally, we are projecting a drop of 40% compared to last year.

In contrast, Mills & Reeve, have had an extraordinary year-on-year increase of 178.6%, the most substantial rise among the top 10 firms.

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