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It’s been a roller coaster few years for the banking market – “up and down,” says Anouska Tamony at JLegal. However, as the markets begin to settle recruiters predict there will be a sustained uptick in jobs in the sector.
“If you talk to banking lawyers they’re all incredibly busy,” says Marc Tobias at DMJ Legal. “The market has been tight over the past few years and teams have been cut, so now they’re working at full capacity.”
To ease the pain, hiring appears to be growing, slowly but steadily. While there are jobs available across the banking spectrum, some areas are picking up momentum faster than others.
“Debt capital markets has picked up recently,” says Tamony.
Meanwhile, for Daniel Smith at Noble Legal, “the project finance and energy infrastructure finance sectors seem to be slightly stronger than a lot of others”.
Tobias reckons there has been a flurry of activity in bank-led restructuring and retail banking. And leveraged finance is also a blossoming market.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, changes to the financial regulatory landscape, with the advent of the Financial Services Act 2012, make that a particular sweet spot.
Milo O’Connor of Hudson Legal says: “Regulatory lawyers are worth their weight in gold – the world is their oyster.”
Tamony agrees: “If you’re a financial services and regulatory lawyer, now’s the time to move.”
So, what level of experience is in demand? Recruiters stipulate that it is relatively evenly spread. Thanks to a lack of hiring during the credit crunch there is a shortage of banking associates at senior level. But Smith notes that firms are also seeking more junior lawyers, of between two and five years’ PQE.
“There’s demand out there and people want to hire, but the bar is set very high and people are only willing to make an investment if all their criteria are met,” adds Smith.
They are specifying a narrow band of experience – “maybe even down to six months, especially at top-end firms”.
There are opportunities for lateral partner moves, but only for those who are wed to a burgeoning book of clients.
O’Connor explains: “They’re looking at junior partners, but by and large firms are looking for people who have good relationships with the banks and are well-known by financial institutions.”
While the market is relatively healthy, hiring in the banking sector remains a luxury that can only be afforded by the biggest players.
“There’s a leaning towards US, magic circle and silver circle firms,” says Smith. “It’s predominately top-end action, with a smattering of mid-level firms looking.”
So, good news if you’re a banking lawyer hoping to scale the heights of the UK 200.
“It you’re an asset finance lawyer at a shipping firm such as Clyde & Co you can move to a magic circle firm – there’s that flexibility to join a different kind of firm,” concludes Tamony.