Legal Job Market Report 17th September 2020
in Legal Job Market Reports

Legal Job Market Report 17th September 2020

Good morning. Here is our summary of the current state of the legal job market:

Permanent Recruitment – Quiet
We seem to be back to the up/down situation last observed during Brexit. One week we see a number of vacancies and candidates coming through and the next week the market goes quiet again. We anticipate it being an extremely slow run up to Christmas – the rule of 6, the end of the furlough scheme and the increased infection rates are all going to contribute to the quiet times we think. Although redundancies keep being anticipated, we have not seen this yet in practice. It is true that some firms have taken the opportunity to reduce their fee earners in certain departments, but others are recruiting into the same areas of law so at the moment there are no large numbers of unemployed solicitors in any part of the country.

Locum Recruitment – Quiet
The same impact is being felt on the locum side. Traditionally the market winds down in September, with a slight spurt around October half term. We do not anticipate the market being busy now until next April when the summer season (hopefully) starts. Some firms are taking on locums to cover departing permanent staff because they are unsure of caseloads in the run up to Christmas. Hourly rates for these types of assignments can be very competitive.

Law Firms for Sale – Reasonably Busy
We have seen a few deals going through, a few in advanced stages of talks and a number of enquiries. The market remains active across the UK. Some enquiries coming through from potential investors looking for distressed firm sales which at the moment are not cropping up as far as we can see. For details of current law firms for sale please click here to view our list.

Permanent Jobs – Candidate Advice
Our advice to candidates looking for new permanent roles is to register and apply for jobs wherever you see them as you would normally, but don’t expect a response from law firms or agencies. You never know who may be in need of staff and when the market reactivates itself so it is still worth going through the motions.

Locum Jobs – Candidate Advice
Be prepared to compete for work, which means drop your prices, and if you want long term assignments you will need to drop them substantially. Instead of getting 1-2 locums expressing an interest in covering each assignment we are getting up to 40 each time. Make sure we have all your documents on file as we will always go with our Tier 1 locums (fully checked) for roles where possible – and we usually have at least 2-4 available for each post.

KPMG & REC Job Report (we are members of the panel contributing to this report)
Permanent placements and temp billings return to growth
Substantial increase in candidate supply amid redundancies
Starting salaries and wages continue to decline

Comment from KPMG:
“It’s positive to see an uptick in hiring activity, particularly for temporary staff, which
could mark a turning point with businesses appearing more willing and able to hire as
more parts of the UK economy reopen. But with total candidate availability rising at a near-record pace, strong and sustained rises are needed to move the UK jobs market back to levels seen pre-COVID – and with concerns around a possible second wave of infections, the winding down of the furlough scheme and a Brexit deal outcome, there are still many challenges ahead.

Comment from the REC:
“A return to growth on permanent placements and temporary billings is good news – though it is also expected, given we are comparing activity now with the lockdown.
Temporary work is critical in any recovery – businesses turn to temps to help them ramp up and meet demand while the future looks uncertain. At the same time, it enables people to find work quickly. Past recessions show that temporary work bounces back more quickly – it is one of our jobs market’s biggest strengths and that’s really showing now. Slower growth in permanent staff appointments is concerning. It reflects the uncertainty businesses face about what will happen over coming months with the
pandemic and Brexit.”

CIPS UK Services Sector Report (we are members of the panel contributing to this report)
Key findings:
Business activity expands for the second month in a row.
Rising domestic demand leads to faster growth of new work.
Rate of job shedding accelerates in August.


General Statistics for August 2020 (comparison is with August 2019)
New permanent vacancies added: 16 (33)
New locum vacancies added: 26 (25)
New candidates registering: 75 (84)

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