Job Watch: Competition/EU

Competition is always a popular choice, but does supply match demand right now in the legal market?

For associates, it’s a fairly good option, says Guy Adams, director at Laurence Simons.

“Where firms are looking, it tends to be at the junior or mid-level,” he says. “Partners are keen to ‘cherry pick’ the best young associates in the competition space, with an eye to the future workloads of their teams.”

“They want associates who know the law and can work without being closely supervised,” notes James Franklin of Robert Walters. “Most commonly, they’re looking for lawyers with 2-4 years’ PQE.”

Higher up the lawyer ladder opportunities are a bit more scarce, according to Adams. “There are only a few firms in the market for partners in this area, although it’s probably fair to say that most practices would look at any of the big names in the market if they chose to move right now,” he says.

“Because of the complexities of behavioural work, most of the lateral movement in London seems to have been at the mid-to-senior level,” adds Andrew Wintle of First Counsel. “Due to the quality of candidates at that level in this practice area the supply of strong lawyers is outstripping demand. It’s candidates who can show something in addition to sound technical ability, such as experience in specific sectors, who are having the most success.”

Nonetheless, Franklin stresses that changes in legislation are leading to some more roles.

“Although this is rarely a boom area of recruitment, there has been interest surrounding EU legislation coming into force this year which is creating extra work in departments that have not recruited for a few years,” he comments.

There have also been changes in what skills and experience firms are looking for in the field, adds Wintle.

“The biggest trend we’ve seen this year is that firms have become more focused on lawyers with a good mix of experience – not just merger control work but also cartels, market abuse, state aid and procurement,” he says.

In terms of hubs, Brussels is still number one, according to Adams. “As the de facto capital of the EU, Brussels will always be the hotspot in Europe for competition work,” he insists. “Firms here are always interested in talented competition lawyers, qualified in any of the jurisdictions within the EU.”

As for the in-house market, options are more limited, says Stuart Greenland of First Counsel.

“There’s always the potential for competition lawyers to move in-house across a number of sectors,” he says. “The demand from our in-house clients is relatively low, with perhaps only a handful of competition lawyers at even the largest companies. In-house roles are usually heavily subscribed and there is a preference for candidates with specific relevant sector experience. In certain sectors lawyers coming from the top-ranked competition firms with the client base and reputation in those areas are usually the most desirable.”