Banking – UK Legal Labour Market Trends, May 2024

Northern regions surge to become second only to London for Banking lawyers


Key findings include:
  • 17.7% increase in legal vacancies within banks during Q1 2024 compared to Q4 2023
  • The North has had the biggest growth in law firm recruitment, with vacancies up by 96.7%
  • Within banks London is the dominant area, accounting for 73.5% of the total
  • Goldman Sachs leads the way, with 10 legal vacancies so far this year


The surge in vacancies for banking lawyers during Q1 2024, observed both in law firms and banks, reflects significant industry dynamics. 137 vacancies were posted within law firms, marking the highest total since Q3 2022. Extrapolating from Q1, 2024 is projected to see a 35% increase compared to the previous year. Similarly, there was a 17.7% increase in legal vacancies within banks compared to Q4 2023. This rise isn’t solely attributed to increased regulation; sector activity is also on the uptick. This is according to the latest UK labour market trends report by leading professional recruiter Search, and labour market data analysts Vacancysoft.

Northern regions lead with a 96.5% surge within Law Firms

Not surprisingly, the largest surge in activity is found in the north, where vacancies have increased by 96.7% compared to the monthly average last year, as a result making it the second-largest region overall. Similarly, London, has experienced an increase in activity with volumes up by 40% of the national average. Conversely, the southern regions have seen a proportional decline, with the share of vacancies dropping from 23% in 2023 to 18% so far this year.

Regarding role types, Corporate and M&A remain the largest areas, comprising 30% of the total shares. Meanwhile, the most significant growth has been in Real Estate Finance, with a 300% year-on-year increase.

London dominates within Banks, holding 74% of the shares

London exerts dominance in terms of legal vacancies, a phenomenon unprecedented in law firms, as its share has risen to 73.5% nationally. Equally, the Midlands has experienced the greatest year-on-year increase, with vacancies up by 45.5%. However, in contrast, the North has witnessed a sharp decline across the region, with vacancies projected to be 35% lower than last year. Consequently, the region has fallen to fourth in size, trailing behind both the South and the Midlands, after holding the second position last year.

Within the banks, general commercial roles constitute the largest area by volume, yet with the year on year decrease. Conversely,  the most notable surge was observed in asset management roles.

Magic Circle Law Firms See Decline in Banking Recruitment

When ranking law firms by banking vacancies, what immediately stands out is that only Clifford Chance of the Magic Circle firms are in the Top 10 in terms of recruitment. Instead, leading the way so far this year is Burges Salmon, with 9 vacancies. If they maintain this pace, it would signify a 350% increase in activity.. CMS is also noteworthy, having already posted 4 vacancies this year, double their total from 2023, making them ones to watch.

Among the banks, after a quiet 2023, Goldman Sachs has taken the lead, with 10 legal vacancies, more than three times their total from 2023. Similarly, HSBC has been the second-largest recruiter this year, with seven vacancies in 2024 so far.

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