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The UK healthcare industry covers a wide range of legal disciplines and within it, several can usually be counted on to be busy in terms of recruitment.
According to Jonathan Smyth, a consultant at DMJ Legal, there is at present the usual demand for defendant clinical negligence lawyers, particularly within the London market, mostly at the two-to-five PQE level.
“This has continued at a steady level over the past few years owing to the relatively small number of firms with an offering in this area within the London market,” adds Smyth. “We have also seen a rise in demand for lawyers with experience in healthcare regulatory work, particularly those with knowledge and experience of defending medical practitioners against regulatory investigations. Mental health remains a watching brief for a number of the specialist healthcare practices within the London market, given the rarity of experienced lawyers within this niche sector.”
The level of experience that firms are typically recruiting for at the moment depends on the legal discipline within this sector, although Smyth says the majority of the firms looking to hire are focusing their attention on junior to mid-level lawyers, again primarily those at the two-to-five PQE level.
“Senior individuals are also of interest,” adds Smyth, “although we have seen one or two NQ roles appearing in the past few months.”
Healthcare can certainly be an area of opportunity for lawyers looking to make the move in-house, with the most obvious option for those with experience of the sector being a position with one of the regulators such as the General Medical Council, General Dental Council or Nursing and Midwifery Council.
There are also options within certain NHS trusts, says Smyth.
“Those with experience in more commercial disciplines with a healthcare focus in their client base may also consider in-house opportunities with private healthcare providers and insurers, however these have not been particularly forthcoming and are usually heavily over-subscribed in terms of applications,” he says.
In terms of other recruitment trends in the healthcare sector, Smyth says that although the recent reforms in the NHS, such as the merger of PCTs, might on the face of it look like they would create even more of a burden on budgets and staffing needs, they have actually contributed to an increase in headcount across a number of private practice firms with a healthcare focus.
“Healthcare firms are also finding themselves beginning to increase their headcount in areas that were not as prominent for them before, such as competition law,” he concludes.
At many levels. healthcare is one of the toughest sectors out there, but clearly there are opportunities for the right candidates.