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December 2013 Legal Job Market Update Report

Job Market Update – December 3rd 2013

Our final Legal Recruitment Market update for 2013. It is has been a very mixed year. In January 2013 I wrote that December 2012 had been one of the quietest months we had seen in 12 years of trading, and this had followed a downward spiral in work that started in October 2012.

January was much the same, but from February 2013 onwards we have seen high levels of recruitment activity across the job markets, both permanent and locum. Obviously various factors have been at work in this, affecting sectors differently. For example we have seen large numbers of personal injury solicitors laid off, vacancies disappear and candidates attempt to reinvent themselves as litigators. Similar things have happened in the legal aid sector. Crime solicitors have been falling over themselves to get off the sinking ship and crime recruitment has been minimal to say the least.

However the buoyant jobs market in law has been driven again by the house prices. We have seen an upsurge in locum and permanent residential conveyancing jobs and assignments. This started in the summer and has carried on into the autumn, showing no signs of calming down as we approach Christmas. November and December are being/have been busy.

Similarly there have been increased activity levels in the commercial sector, particularly on the locum and consultancy side of things.

New candidates have started to become more scarce. I ought to say ‘good’ new candidates are getting more scarce, because we always get plenty of weak ones (this month’s inappropriate applicants included a bingo caller and a boxing ring dancer – both applying for solicitor posts).

The scarcity of candidates is apparent particularly in the conveyancing market. What has happened is that a large number of conveyancing lawyers lost their jobs between 2008 and 2012. Redundancies were still occurring as late as November-December 2012.

Quite a few of those who left their firms have been lost to the profession. I see this from CVs we get in – candidates went off into other areas of law, they left the legal profession completely or alternatively they retired early etc.. Very few of these are now employable again in the eyes of recruiters and a good number of candidates do not wish to be!

As a result we have a shortfall of conveyancers across the profession. I suspect this will become more apparent as we approach the start of the property buying season in April 2014.

Incidentally if you are reading this and thinking of becoming a conveyancing locum, now would be a good time to start! Let us know – our contains a lot of information about working as a locum including locum rates. We have managed to keep a couple of our regular property locums in constant employment since the start of the summer with short term and medium term assignments. This was until recently a very rare thing to do. One of our locums came back to the profession after a 4 year break and has not stopped working since.

The job market is still evolving. January & February should be quiet this year as we reach the bottom of the recruitment cycle, but this has not happened as planned in December so who knows what will happen.

Wishing all our clients, candidates and readers a very peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and regularly writes the Legal Recruitment blog, an award-winning selection of articles and features on legal recruitment and the legal profession. You can contact Jonathan at or visit one of our websites.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at