Leeds resurgence equals rich pickings for some

The Leeds market has transformed over recent years, with new entrants and expansionist stalwarts generating demand at all levels.

Newcastle migrants, in the form of Ward Hadaway (3 June 2008) and legacy firm Dickinson Dees (now Bond Dickinson) (29 June 2011), have joined long-time residents such as Eversheds, with Squire Patton Boggs (via its merger with Hammonds) adding a global presence to a market populated by regional stalwarts such as Walker Morris and Gordons.

Even the University of Law has got in on the act, moving from its sleepy York base to the Yorkshire capital (8 July 2013).

“The junior side of the market has picked up quite significantly,” confirms Leeds-based Hays Legal consultant Nathan Abimelech. ”We’ve seen a growing appetite for juniors, most significantly in real estate and construction but also corporate and banking.”

Transactional work is returning, and with it the city’s demand for junior lawyers. Rewind six years and very few NQs were qualifying into transactional departments anywhere in the UK. Now, Leeds firms are taking the two-pronged approach of hiring extras NQs to supplement their homegrown workforce and recruiting 1-6 year PQE associates.

Half of the Leeds-based 1-6 PQE roles listed on The Lawyer’s jobs site fall into these categories, with a 50/50 split between banking and corporate and construction and real estate.

Such is the demand for junior transactional lawyers that national firms are increasingly recruiting lawyers from regional firms to fill the stopgap.

“Candidates who have trained at regional firms are now being considered by national firms which would not have looked at them in the past,” says BCL Legal’s Catherine Henry. “Those who have trained at smaller firms now have the opportunity to move to national firms as there has been such an uptick in work.”

That transfer from regional to national is not only a good career move for some lucky associates; it also heralds the tangible benefits of a transactional market in recovery.