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IT is a rapidly growing industry and the demand for IT lawyers is on the rise.
“IT seems to be a hot area, with the sweet spot being the mid-level,” comments Robert Rooney, manager at Shilton Sharpe Quarry. “We’ve received instructions from six firms for lawyers with this skill-set in the past month alone.”
“There’s been a rise in associate-level IT vacancies, largely at the one to four years’ PQE level,” says Ailish Hogan, an associate director at Taylor Root. James Franklin of Robert Walters adds that some firms are targeting two to six years’ PQE level.
Mid-sized law firms are also offering a growing number of opportunities in the sector, notes Hogan.
“While a range of firms across the City are recruiting in this area, it’s the strong mid-sized firms that are most active,” Hogan notes. “The economic situation’s given rise to a more competitive marketplace in terms of fee structure and quality of service. This in turn has resulted in mid-sized firms securing panel places at blue-chip outfits traditionally serviced by the magic circle.”
According to Rooney there are many in-house opportunities available in this sector.
“IT lawyers are often a key component of an in-house organisation’s legal function and there are opportunities across all industry sectors,” he says.
“Due to the sheer number of technology, media and telecommunications [TMT] businesses and the growth in these sectors, this is the area where we’re seeing most in-house opportunities,” adds Franklin. As a result, “lawyers with outsourcing, e-commerce and data protection skills are particularly sought-after”.
In an increasingly cost-conscious society companies are on the lookout for in-house, IT-specific legal expertise, according to Zandria Papprill, a consultant at EJ Legal.
“IT lawyers are in demand in-house as financial institutions and corporates look to offshore and onshore their IT or procurement services to cut costs,” Papprill adds.
Rachael North, director at Laurence Simons, is optimistic that 2012 will bring many more in-house opportunities in the sector, both for associates and for more experienced lawyers.
“2012’s seen a strong start in terms of in-house opportunities in the TMT sector, where the rapid pace of digitisation and general convergence continues,” says North. “We’re seeing companies recruit at junior levels predominantly, but there have been some senior legal counsel roles sought, as well as compliance officer roles, in this sector.” Skills and experience in other areas can help you stand out in this sector, says Franklin.
“Employers normally seek general commercial contracts experience because these roles typically involve a lot of agreement work around joint ventures and licensing,” he explains. “We’ve also noticed that, where experience in areas such as digital payments and online gaming or gambling is required, firms have considered in-housers for private practice roles.”