As one of the worst-hit sectors in the recession, construction might not seem an obvious choice for specialisation. However, there are signs that things are looking up, says Tarnjeet Purewal, a consultant at Red Law Recruitment.
“The construction sector in the UK has grown at its fastest rate in nearly a year and, with the Government launching a mortgage indemnity scheme designed to allow first-time buyers to step on to the property ladder, there has been a boost to the construction sector, leading to a surge of recruitment for both transactional and contentious construction lawyers,” he says.
Shay Schlaepfer of First Counsel: notes: “Construction, particularly non-contentious construction, is a hot area and we’ve seen this field generating a lot of activity in the early months of 2012.”
Purewal adds that energy and infrastructure projects abroad are generating plenty of legal work back here in the UK.
“Many City practices are acting for clients who are undertaking projects in the energy and infrastructure space globally, resulting in a strong pipeline of work to be serviced,” he says. “This has led to a number of roles with both US and UK firms that have been seeking to recruit mainly at the junior to mid-level, particularly where the team needs the incoming associate to take on strong levels of responsibility with less supervision to service a busy practice.”
There are more opportunities for junior lawyers in the sector, according to Schlaepfer.
“As demand outstrips supply our clients are becoming more flexible on the level of post-qualification experience required, and we have positions for associates with only a year’s experience,” she says.
Purewal notes that the in-house sector is also looking up.
“Recent statistics show an upturn of hiring in the construction and engineering sector,” he says.
While opportunities for construction lawyers are plentiful in areas such as the Thames Valley, Manchester and Leeds, there are also an increasing number of opportunities abroad.
“Many City firms are recruiting associates with the opportunity of a long-term secondment to one of their overseas offices or in-house to clients, with hot areas being the Middle East, Africa and Australasia,” Purewal says.
“Also, many law firms in other jurisdictions are recruiting - for example, in Perth, Australia, where a number of liquefied natural gas projects are underway. And last year there was a huge drive for construction lawyers in Abu Dhabi, which had its own construction boom.”
Schlaepfer stresses that it is important to think carefully about your options. “As construction is a busy area the opportunities are quite diverse so it’s important to explore a number of positions before deciding on what’s right for you,” she says. “As always, do your due diligence on the firm and the team, and make sure you’re happy with the cultural fit before signing on the dotted line.”
339 The number of construction jobs on TheLawyer.com (23 March)
8% Lawyers registered on TheLawyer.com who are looking for construction roles (29 March)