UK law firms publish more business management jobs since pandemic, with project and change management roles growing fastest

Mar 18, 2022 | Legal, News

  • Marketing, HR and IT roles accounted for over 50% of all law firm vacancies in Q2 ‘20
  • Legal sector business management jobs reach peak in Q3 2021 – up 52% on 2019
  • IT jobs pull away from marketing vacancies as most in-demand management discipline
  • Project and change management vacancies up 153% in private practice

Business management vacancies in the UK legal sector are making up an increasingly larger share of private practice jobs, accounting at one stage for over half of overall law firm recruitment, new research shows

According to a labour market report by professional services membership body the Managing Partners’ Forum and data analysts Vacancysoft, law firm recruitment for marketing, HR and IT roles typically hovered around the low-mid 40% mark since 2017.

Since the start of the pandemic, however, there’s been a noticeable shift. Although overall legal recruitment plummeted in Q2 2020, business management roles in that quarter accounted for just over 50% of total law firm jobs, their highest ever share against legally qualified vacancies.

As overall recruitment picked up following the initial shock of the pandemic, this proportion dropped sharply the next quarter before gradually rising again, reaching 48% of all new jobs in Q4 2021. 

By volume, business management roles hit their all-time peak in Q3 2021 when law firms published 1,750 new jobs for these functions — an increase of 192% year-on-year and 52% up on the same quarter in 2019.

Richard Chaplin, founder and chief executive of the Managing Partners’ Forum, said:

“The era of ‘unsung heroes’ is over. Strengthening business models and processes has become a top priority for leadership teams across the legal sector. The significant growth in business management roles in recent years shows that their vital contribution to a firm’s commercial success is widely recognised. 

“However, hiring experts is the easy part. Treat them as equals to frontline advisers or they will leave you. There is also ample evidence that clients favour well-managed firms. Elusive sustainable competitive advantage is achievable by those that can show through multiple channels to multiple audiences that they are a well-managed firm.”

IT jobs pull away from marketing vacancies as most in-demand non-legal function

Across the top six areas within business management, hiring for IT professionals has proven most dynamic. In 2017, IT vacancy volumes broadly mirrored numbers of marketing jobs in the legal sector. 

However, the need for tech solutions and infrastructure (as more people worked from home and/or remotely) resulted in there being 47% more vacancies for IT professionals than marketing experts in 2021.

The fastest-growing area, meanwhile, was in new jobs for project and change management specialists, with vacancies for these experts up by 158% year-on-year. 

Recruitment for risk and compliance professionals also enjoyed healthy year-on-year growth (134%), and showed the largest increase in relation to pre-pandemic levels, with vacancies up 173% on 2019. 

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