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The impact of Brexit on lawyer hiring levels

The impact of Brexit on lawyer hiring levels

written by George Catt

​A couple of weeks ago I bumped into an old friend that I hadn’t seen for about 20 years (gulp). We gave each other a summary of our lives since school, including our current careers. After explaining that I am a recruiter in the legal market the response was “I bet you have been busy since Brexit”, and it struck me that I have heard that a number of times over the last few months.

The public opinion seems to be that Brexit = Uncertainty = A tremendous need for lawyers. Sadly (for me at least) that doesn’t seem to be the case. Since the vote we have seen one of the biggest firms in the City - King & Wood Mallesons - reduced to rubble and hiring levels have definitely been down on a couple of years ago. Whilst I’m not suggesting KWM’s demise was a result of Brexit, this hasn’t exactly been the golden spell that some might have expected. There are still plenty of positions out there, but firms aren’t generally hiring multiple associates for each team and there seems to be more caution than in 2013-15.

There is a good chance that things will change over the coming months, though it also seems just as likely that the next few years will be slow and steady as law firms tentatively feel their way through the Brexit fog.

I recently met with a government lawyer who is working on Brexit and they said that having seen law firm presentations around the topic there is a lot of wasted energy focussing in completely the wrong areas. At this stage all firms can really do is business development and it is unlikely that there will be any significant fee earning until The Great Repeal Bill is published (likely 2018).

If Brexit teams do suddenly spring up it will be interesting to see what skillset the lawyers will have and what backgrounds they will hire people from. I would be interested to hear any comments on this and what is expected.

One thing is for certain - there is little certainty on how everything will play out. I think the best approach is to stay present, respond to what arises and hope for the best.

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