New Report warns of tough times ahead for Bristol’s Legal sector

Jun 24, 2022 | Law, News

  • Demand for global law firms in the UK increased by 8.7% in 2021 but is set to fall.
  • Bristol’s share of the total vacancies in the UK has dropped, from 3.1% in January to 2.8% in May.
  • Legal vacancies in retail and consumer goods and services have plummeted by 76%, as a result of the rising cost of living and the post-pandemic spending bubble popping.
  • Michelmores has run one of the most prolific recruitment campaigns in 2022 so far, with monthly averages up 220% compared to last year.

Disruption to the global economy as a result of Russia’s war with Ukraine is set to have a knock-on effect in the demand for law firms, a new report has found.
According to a report by national legal recruiters JMC Legal and labour market data analysts Vacancysoft, 2022 will witness a steady decline in recruitment trends in the sector – which is already being felt in Bristol.

While legal vacancies went through the roof in the city in 2021 following the height of the pandemic with a whopping 99% increase, it has seen a 7.38% decline in the monthly average for 2022, with in-house vacancies plummeting by 31.4%.
Bristol’s share of the total vacancies in the UK has also dropped, from 3.1% in January to 2.8% in May.

Carl Pace, JMC Principal Recruitment Consultant (South West Region) said:

“As inflation, the war in Ukraine and the rising living costs look set to take their toll on the economy, time will tell on how the market responds in kind. But, given Bristol’s exceptional growth post-Covid, the city is more than set to weather any storms.”

He added that the previous powerhouse figures for the city prove it can pick up the pace again.
“Bristol continues to shine as a key legal hub by experiencing significant growth, more so than any other outside of London,” he said.

“The numbers speak for themselves, with the city offering almost double the number of vacancies in 2021 compared to the year prior.

“Real Estate, Corporate, TMT and Construction led the way, owing to the numerous Top 50’s that call the city home. A desirable place to live, doubled with increasing wider investment and work quality that often matches the city, the exodus of talent from London seeking a change of pace often see Bristol as the place to take their careers forward.”

Let’s break it down

Some areas of the legal profession have more recruitment prospects than others.
Worst hit sectors include litigation and dispute resolution, estimated to plummet by 34.1% in 2022, and technology, media and telecom (TMT) expecting a dramatic decline of 15.3% after a spectacular 260% surge in 2021. However, the future is looking a bit brighter for legal vacancies in real estate – currently leading the pack with 32 from Jan to May this year.

Company and commercial are demonstrating an equally positive rise on 2021 – up 88.6%, one of the top share hikes in Bristol.

The biggest share hike is in the family sector however, which now has a 7% share of the market in England and Wales, compared to a 4.4% share in 2021. This suggests Bristol companies are prioritising hiring in this sector.

Insurance has the highest share of all the Bristol sectors, securing 8.4% of vacancies in England and Wales. Meanwhile, in house legal vacancies in Bristol are experiencing a 31.4% decline in average monthly volumes. Unsurprisingly, the highest relative change is recorded in retail and consumer goods and services, with legal vacancies plummeting by 76%, as a result of the rising cost of living and the post-pandemic spending bubble popping.

Top 20 organisations

TLT, named Law Firm of the Year at The Lawyer Awards 2021, is the leading recruiter in the legal sector in Bristol, with 29 vacancies listed so far in 2022 – up 7% from 2021 with a total of 65 vacancies.

Michelmores has run one of the most prolific recruitment campaigns in 2022 so far, with monthly averages up 220% compared to last year.

Several of the top 20 recruiters have, however, seen visible declines in monthly recruiting averages in 2022 compared with 2021, including Ince Gordon Dadds, Clarke Willmott, Direct Line and Computershare. Burges Salmon and RPC have seen the biggest drops with monthly averages down 53.9% and 56.4% respectively.

Finally, it is noteworthy that Co-op – one of Bristol’s leading recruiters, and the leading in-house recruiter in 2021, with 14 vacancies – has seen a downturn in recruiting activities, not making the top 20 so far in 2022.

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