Job Watch Planning

The economic climate continues to affect the construction and by association the planning industry, changes to planning laws are being introduced in the UK in a bid to boost our economy. What effect has all of this had on lawyers working in the sector?

“The planning market is cranking back into life after a tough few years,” notes Conor Dilworth of Pro-Legal. “The market is replete with practice opportunities, particularly at the 3 to 5 years PQE level.

“The firms that are traditionally strong in planning and construction are enjoying good workflows and an increase in the availability and affordability of finance seems to have given the industry a shot in the arm.”

This follows a difficult time for the market, adds Dilworth. “Financing for construction projects pretty much dried up in 2008 and the only significant planning work was for government-backed projects.”

Things are picking up though, says Daniel Taylor of Taylor Root.

“Demand diminished greatly from 2007/10, but we have seen a steady flow of roles in the past couple of years with a handful of firms. Many hires previously took place directly through partner approaches, but junior roles are now proving difficult to fill due to the lack of trainees being taken on into planning teams in 2009-11.”

Steady flow

“We’ve seen a steady flow of activity in planning in the past few months,” comments Alex Ring, a consultant at DMJ Legal. “As you’d expect, it’s with firms that have a solid real estate practice at their core, rather than the corporate practices. Junior to mid-level lawyers are in highest demand.”

Dilworth adds: “A stroll around the City or Canary Wharf will show you that construction is making a comeback and planning is a few months ahead of construction on the recovery curve.”

For Taylor, however, there are still some drawbacks for lawyers working in this sector.

“Planning lawyers now are expected to travel around the UK with projects and, due to the lack of junior support, lawyers are finding they are undertaking many tasks typically undertaken by NQs and junior associates,” Taylor argues.

Dilworth is sceptical as to how much the recent changes to planning laws have affected this area of the legal market.

“The planning law changes haven’t affected the industry that much, [since] they appear to be geared more towards currying favour with homeowner voters,” he notes. “There has been an increase in approved planning applications for residential developments, but these pieces of work have been quicker to execute which means several instructions. However, they are not particularly complex or lucrative.”

As for in-house roles, there are some out there up for grabs, according to Dilworth:

“Planning forms a significant proportion of the duties of in-house teams at large development and construction companies, and they will often consider candidates who have a planning background.”