London law firms in hiring surge with Clifford Chance leading pack

Dec 14, 2021 | Legal, News

  • New private practice jobs for lawyers in London up 131% year-on-year; FTC roles up 126%
  • Recruitment at Clifford Chance in capital rockets 368% year-on-year
  • Simmons & Simmons with highest ratio of FTC roles to overall new jobs (59%)

Clifford Chance is the leading recruiter for lawyers in London as legal firms went on an unprecedented hiring spree in 2021, with the number of fixed-term contract roles in the capital also reaching all-time highs, new research shows.

Data from legal recruiter BCL Legal and labour market analytics firm Vacancysoft shows that there have been over 2,300 legal private practice vacancies in London between January and November — a record number that represents a 131% year-on-year rise, and a 37% increase in relation to 2019.

June 2021 was the busiest month for hiring, when the capital’s legal firms published over 260 new jobs for lawyers, 780% more compared to the same month a year earlier. Legal FTC roles are up by 126% year-on-year in London, with the most jobs on this basis published in August.

Matthew Porter, Director, BCL Legal, says: “This has been an incredible year for legal recruitment. Hybrid and flexible working, increased salaries, retention bonuses; these are all elements that contribute to a highly competitive jobs market in which candidates have more power than ever. As we near the end of 2021 we are seeing no slowdown in vacancies.”

Clifford Chance, the top law firm for most new  jobs, published over 100 professional lawyer vacancies so far in 2021 (368% year-on-year) — followed by Simmons & Simmons (86 vacancies; 41% year-on-year) and Mischon De Reya (71 vacancies; 196% year-on-year).

Almost 8% of all new legal jobs in London in 2021 are on FTCs. The largest proportion of FTC roles to overall private practice lawyer vacancies are at Simmons & Simmons (60%), TLT (45.5%) and Clyde & Co (25.6%). However, attracting the talent to fill London’s FTC roles remains a challenge.

Porter continues: “Changes in IR35 legislation meant that swathes of the contractor talent pool went permanent and a combination of Brexit and the pandemic meant many foreign lawyers went home and haven’t yet returned. With Australia and New Zealand still having very tight borders we have not seen the usual antipodean migration.”  

Top 20 Law Firms
All legal vacancies vs FTC % share, London, 2019-21*  
 Firm 2019 2020 2021* % FTC
Clifford Chance 63 22 103 2.9%
Simmons & Simmons 29 61 86 59.3%
Mishcon de Reya 57 24 71 4.2%
Allen & Overy 22 26 53 3.8%
Dentons 78 17 50 4.0%
Pinsent Masons 25 9 49 0.0%
Osborne Clarke 31 18 45 0.0%
TLT 4 10 44 45.5%
Linklaters 8 16 44 18.2%
Addleshaw Goddard 34 25 44 0.0%


  • The data for this article is taken from a Vacancysoft and BCL Legal labour market report on London FTC recruitment in the legal sector. Read it here.

[Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash]

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