Pensions may not seem the most exciting practice area, but it can be full of challenges, says Maud Couget, a consultant at EJ Legal.
“If you like problem-solving, being challenged with new legislation and new regulators, whether you’re a commercial or a technical lawyer, you should find pensions work entertaining and stimulating,” she enthuses.
Conor Dilworth of Pro-Legal argues that the stereotype of pensions as boring is unfair and untrue in the legal sector.
“The stereotype stems from the fact that putting money in a pension is boring; pensions lawyers are anything but,” insists Dilworth. “The range of skills needed means it tends to attract charismatic, bright and versatile individuals who have strong interpersonal skills, as they often need to translate complex legal points into plain English.”
Pensions has not suffered as much as some areas in the recession, adds Dilworth.
“There were vacancies in London at the newly qualified level through 2010 and 2011,” he says. “Current demand is mainly at the junior, the one to three years’ PQE, and mid, four to six years’ PQE, levels.”
Pensions expertise is valued highly, according to Keith Miskelly of Garfield Robbins.
“Good pensions lawyers are like hen’s teeth and firms tend to treat them well, both in terms of pay and flexible working, as replacing them would be difficult,” Miskelly says. “It’s rare for a pensions lawyer to be out of work.”
As for the choice of working at a full-service firm or opting for a boutique, there are a number of pros and cons to weigh up.
“Some candidates like the idea of supporting on large corporate transactions and you’re more likely to get this at a larger firm, but with this comes longer working hours,” comments Miskelly.
However, he is quick to point out that candidates should not be under the impression that the hours at boutiques are much fewer.
When looking to move firms lawyers should do their due diligence, stresses James Franklin of Robert Walters.
“Some firms have bolt-on pensions practices, while others consider pensions a staple part of their employment offering - it’s imperative that candidates understand the position of a firm’s pensions practice,” he notes.
“Pensions teams in larger firms are invariably support functions to transactional departments, which can sit uneasily with some pensions lawyers, but this is clearly not the case at a boutique, where a pensions lawyer is king of the castle,” says Miskelly.
As for in-house roles, although rare, there are some interesting opportunities, says Samantha Baker-Mediratta, a director at Baker Creed.
“When they do arise it tends to be with professional services firms or financial institutions involved in the pensions industry or the public sector, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, the National Employment Savings Trust or the Pensions Regulator or Ombudsman,” she says.
125 The number of pensions jobs on TheLawyer.com (as of 10 April)
2.6% of job alert users on TheLawyer.com are looking for pensions-related roles