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The lure of private client work has always been strong, but how is this area of law holding up in the current economic climate?
“The private client market, certainly in terms of wills, trusts and probate roles, has been a little flat, but recently we’ve seen a small upturn in roles,” says Pro-Legal consulant Alex Russell.
“The prevailing trend, which is set to continue for the foreseeable future, is the demand for offshore-related private wealth services by high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients,” adds Shane Hill of LPA Legal Recruitment. “In particular, offshore as well as onshore tax-planning expertise, is a thriving area.”
Litigation in this area is also on the rise, according to Hill.
“There’s been an increased level of instructions across the market in high-value contentious private wealth matters,” he says. “Indeed, teams that previously cut back on their disputes offering are pressed to find new resources to devote to these cases.”
So what kinds and levels of experience are most in demand?
“Those private client lawyers with strong tax and trusts experience, especially in offshore trust work, are at a premium,” notes Russell. “In London, the positions that have arisen focus on trusts and tax, with some firms having difficulty finding candidates with the requisite offshore trust experience.”
For Greg Meadowcroft of Garfield Robbins, some of the best opportunities are at both the partner and associate level.
“At present they’re at the partner level as a number of leading practices are looking to add laterals. There has also been a recent round of recruiting at the associate level; this has ebbed for the moment but we’re sure new roles will arise again soon,” he says.
Rebecca Rogers, a manager at Shilton Sharpe Quarry, says private client work could be a good option for lawyers looking for a change.
“Perhaps more people should think about qualifying into private client as it has proved to be more recession-proof than many other areas and we see continued demand for skills in this space,” she says. “Private client partners with business are in demand, as firms are increasingly keen to gain access to private wealth and high-net-worth individuals.
“Larger firms that have cut their private client teams may be regretting this now since boutique and mid-market firms are top of the market in this space.”
As Meadowcroft points out, there is no shortage of private client work flowing into London.
“Offshore tax and trust structuring continues to grow in prominence for private client teams. Clients from the Middle East, the former CIS region and Asia are a growing source of work for City lawyers,” he says. “Inward investment into the UK and the London property market is also clearly on the up and this is being reflected in a raft of roles that have come up recently.”