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The energy sector is booming, but what is the demand like for legal expertise in this sector right now?
“The energy market is resilient, with relatively few redundancies,” comments Jonathan Firth, managing director at Michael Page Legal. “The opportunities that come up tend to be in new-build, international projects and commodities trading.”
“The market for energy lawyers has remained consistent and demand continues to outweigh supply,” stresses Ailish Hogan of Taylor Root. “Typically, this sector was dominated by a small number of the larger firms, but there has been an emergence of teams at mid-sized firms in this field.”
And what experience are firms looking for?
“Junior to mid-level corporate and projects lawyers are very much in demand,” says Alex Russell, a consultant at Pro-Legal.
“The current sweet spot is at the mid-level,” comments Hogan. “Firms are well-serviced at junior level as the market has been saturated with high-quality NQs in the past few years. Lawyers with upwards of three years’ PQE are in big demand.”
“As usual, those who are more senior in terms of PQE will find things difficult unless they have a book of business,” adds Russell. “Lawyers with upstream experience can afford to be choosy and, to a lesser extent, so can those with experience in nuclear, renewables and wind farms.”
The in-house market is also full of opportunities, according to Russell.
“Those prepared to look outside London to Aberdeen or even internationally give themselves an excellent chance of finding a good in-house role,” he says.
“Demand for in-house lawyers is strong in this area, particular from businesses in the Middle East,” affirms Paul Turner of Garfield Robbins. “Their focus tends to be on senior candidates, and they tend to move across geographies, such as from Australia/Asia to the Middle East or from London to the Middle East.”
While Firth admits there has not been a great deal of movement of in-house candidates of late, demand is still there.
“While there are fewer roles being created there’s always demand for candidates with strong engineering, procurement and construction experience, while those with energy trading experience can be in short supply,” he says.
Other locations abroad may offer opportunities both in private practice and in-house, notes Matthew Hall-Turner, a senior consultant at Taylor Root.
“The legal elements of China’s industrial revolution and natural resources boom are being handled through Hong Kong, while the extraction of resources elsewhere in south-east Asia is largely being handled through Singapore, Asia’s fastest growing legal community,” he says. “The past five years have [also] seen a huge increase in mineral extraction and international energy company investment throughout Western Australia and the Northern Territory which, given their comparative proximity to Perth and Brisbane respectively, has seen these legal markets swell.”