Property sector still 'patchy'

Property lawyers are facing further grim employment prospects following a downbeat assessment of the sector by analysts last week.

Some authorities believe the market enjoyed a surge at the beginning and middle of last year – only to turn down again towards the end.

Others say the recovery has only been sporadic, with major cities enjoying steady improvement while many smaller towns remain in the doldrums.

They say that although the long-term trend is upward, there is no sign of a major boom in work for legal practitioners in the sector.

Gerald Funnell, chair of the Solicitors Property Group, says: “It is still very patchy. We are nowhere near out of the woods. I doubt if there is going to be much improvement in the market from a lawyer's point of view.”

Leslie Dubow, the group's secretary, says that overall prospects are poor, although the commercial property business showed signs of improvement.

“There was an upturn in the middle of last year, but we have since dropped,” he says.

David Bramson, head of Nabarro Nathanson's property department, believes good prospects at the beginning of last year faltered because rising US interest rates wooed investors away from property.

He adds: “Firms were tight on staff so when the additional work came, they coped. When it slipped back, work simply got more relaxing. There was no need for redundancies.”

However, some remain upbeat. David Lloyd, head of property at Linklaters & Paines, says: “It is a steady market with evidence of strength here and there.”

Simon Lipson, managing director of legal recruitment agency Lipson Lloyd-Jones, says there is a strong demand for property lawyers with up to four years' experience.

“Property has been on the up since last October. It is a huge improvement year on year,” he says.