London offers one of the most exciting legal markets in the world and is the birthplace of many legal careers. Often lawyers who start their careers elsewhere eventually end up in London and the opportunities are increasingly promising as the economy continues to improve.
The nation’s capital is home to the largest and most reputable firms’ headquarters, including the Magic Circle firms and the Silver Circle firms. Beyond the gilt-edged legal names there are numerous large international firms, the London offices of US firms and mid-tier commercial firms.
Opportunities in the capital’s commercial law firms are always available for lawyers that can demonstrate the right amount of promise and ambition but they are not the only draw. London also plays host to a wide variety of legal practices that specialise in highly technical or niche areas which go far beyond the corporate finance and capital markets work for which the City is renowned.
The breadth of legal work in London
In addition to the variety of law firms, the sheer breath of legal work in London goes unmatched by the regions. London is increasingly the forum of choice for international commercial disputes despite recent rules that have attempted to curb this phenomenon. There is also a rapidly growing international mediation and arbitration industry, with English commercial QCs in demand all around the globe.
Large markets exist in admiralty and maritime law, construction law, industrial law, and outsourcing law, all belying the notion that London is simply a hub for banking and finance. Specialist niche firms exist to serve these and other areas as diverse as information technology, insurance, aviation and sport.
Nevertheless, the proximity of the financial services industry in the City and the equities and bond markets at its core mean that many of the law firms in London benefit directly from the large numbers of mergers and acquisitions, financing deals, and rights issues that go on every day.
London’s pay differential
Few lawyers will be unaware of the fact that salaries in the capital are significantly higher than in other areas of the UK. US law firms, in particular, make clear their intentions to attract the best talent available with NQ starting salaries hovering at six figures. Lawyers that move from the regions can therefore expect a significant salary boost, particularly those with several years’ qualification under their belts.
For example, a 3 year PQE at a top regional firm can expect to earn anything between £40,000 and £50,000 depending on the city, whereas City firms pay anywhere from between £60,000 to over £100,000. Niche London practices generally pay less than their City counterparts but lawyers moving from the regions can still expect a decent increase in their take-home pay.
Why move to London from the regions?
The size and diversity of the legal market in London can be attractive to lawyers frustrated in their current work environment or for those seeking a practice that better fits their specialist skills or ambitions. A change of pace, exposure to the international dimension of legal work on offer and the quality and deal size often act as additional incentives for lawyers that move from the regions to the capital.
As legal services represent an increasingly large export for the UK, successive governments are catching on to the economic benefits the UK legal market with London at its epicentre. As London’s star continues to rise its legal industry has a strong demand for good lawyers meaning now is a good time to move.