Commerce & Industry – UK Legal Labour Market Trends, October 2023

Data Privacy leads the way for companies hiring for Lawyers

Key findings include:

  • Q3 sees an uptick in Legal Vacancies across Commerce & Industry
  • Data Privacy is now the leading area being recruited for, amongst in-house lawyers
  • The Defence sector has been surging in vacancies, led by activity at BAE Systems
  • By region, the North is expected to increase its share from 7.8% to 10.4% in 2023


Looking at this year by business quarter, we can see that there was a 6.8% increase in legal vacancies across commerce and industry in Q3 compared to Q2, which bodes well for the remainder of the year. Q4 is typically the busiest quarter of the year for vacancies overall, so we would expect to see that translate into vacancies for legal counsel. 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:

The recruitment market is cyclical. We expect a bounce into 2024 as we see the C&I in-house lawyer market pick up, as we are already witnessing in Q4 of 2023. With that, the role of a lawyer within a business continues to grow, not only in its importance but also it’s scope. As lawyers move into the general counsel role, we are seeing a continued requirement to take on more and more responsibility across compliance, risk, governance, data protection, and company secretarial.

Aerospace & Defence is the only sector to see an increase, in contrast, the Technology sector has been hardest hit, with a significant 55.7% decrease in legal vacancies. Nonetheless, the forecast is positive going into next year, as VC funding starts to scale up once more.

In terms of the kinds of roles being hired for, general commercial roles dominate, equally the share has been dropping. Instead, there has been a move to more specialist positions with Data Privacy increasingly leading the way, in light of the new Data Protection regulations currently going through Parliament.

Despite the decline in absolute vacancies, the North is expected to increase its share from 7.8% to 10.4% in 2023, which is also symptomatic of a wider trend across the industry, for businesses to rebalance to the North.

In terms of companies to watch, BAE Systems are projected to see a 55.6% increase in legal vacancies in 2023. As a result, it is in the top twenty companies recruiting for lawyers, for the first time. The same kind of surge can also be seen with BP, which is also in a sector impacted by the Ukraine war. 

James Chaplin – Chief Executive – Vacancysoft – Comments:

“The impact of the Ukraine war is being felt across industry and for many businesses involved, lawyers are key advisors in organising their strategy as the conflict drags on. We therefore expect companies in the Defence, Energy and Mining sectors to continue to scale up legal teams in 2024.”

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