Job Watch: Going north

As competition remains fierce in the City, there are many reasons why lawyers are looking north.

Although, as in other parts of the UK, the recession has had a dampening effect on workflow 2011 showed signs that things are starting to improve, according to Louisa Hill, manager at BCL Legal.

“2011 was much more encouraging and law firms have shown confidence by increasing their recruitment activity. Across the board, from the top-tier and mid-tier to smaller and niche or boutique practices, an upturn in work has meant partners have sought to add to their streamlined teams with quality appointments,” she notes.

Northern light

Gemma Jones, associate director at ENL Legal, says North-East firms are showing signs of resurgence.

“North-East firms haven’t been as active in recruitment as their Northern counterparts Leeds and Manchester,” she says. “However, the area certainly hasn’t come to a standstill. In particular, we’re seeing replacement recruitment at a range of levels. Specifically, firms are open to expansion opportunities at a senior level and are always interested in hearing from ’ex-pats’ interested in returning home.”

Things are also looking up in the in-house sector, says Tom Fleet, a consultant at BCL Legal.

“While I wouldn’t call it a buoyant market yet, we experienced a doubling of permanent recruitment activity in 2011 compared with 2010, and the current year seems to be continuing in the same vein,” Fleet says. “The in-house community in Yorkshire seems to have weathered the storm well.”

Fleet points in particular to the financial services community in Leeds and says there is “significant financial services experience to be found in local law firms and
in-house teams”.

While Manchester and Leeds are known as strong legal hubs, Jones highlights that the North East is proving increasingly popular.

“Many people look at the lifestyle choice involved in relocating to the North East and want to have the Pennines, Lake District, Cheviots, North Yorkshire Moors and Dales on their doorstep while still working in a buzzing legal centre,” she says.

Although she admits that salaries tend to be lower, she adds that “the cost of housing is also a fair bit lower than in London”.

A key thing when looking to relocate north is to highlight local links you have with the area to your prospective employer, notes Fleet.

“If you’re moving to a region I find employers often like to hear about your personal links to the area, as reassurance that this isn’t just a pipe dream of moving out of the City to take a ’nice gentle role in the regions’,” he says.

For lawyers who do not have any such links it may be easier to break into the market at a more junior level, says Jones.

“Without local clients or contacts it’s more realistic to join as an associate with a plan in place to achieve partnership,” she says.