Job Watch: Immigration

Few topics get tabloid blood racing like immigration, but are heart rates running quite so high among lawyers practising in this area? 

Certainly, many recruitment consultants agree that immigration is a particular hotspot right now although, they add, this zippy pace is nothing new.

“The immigration market has been busy since the points-based system was phased in between 2008 and 2011,” says Shilton Sharpe Quarry’s Jago Verna, adding that the switch led to increased demand for advice among individuals and businesses, and this has yet to let up.

And looking forward, the pace of immigration work growth looks sure to be maintained.

“I forecast that the market will grow substantially over the next five years in the same way as competition law has grown since the 1990s,” says James Gavine at RedLaw Recruitment.

This expansion is partly down to City firms looking to build independent immigration practices as opposed having them as offshoots of private client or employment.

“A number of City and international law firms have contacted us in the past few months, looking to laterally hire and acquire expertise in that area to launch teams and keep immigration work in-house,” continues Gavine.

The transformation of the landscape is being accelerated by a raft of firms, primarily from the US, entering the City market, with an eye to bolstering their existing teams. Meanwhile, UK firms that already have strong immigration practices are continuing to grow by hiring sector and geography specialists.

All levels of PQE are in demand, ranging from NQ right up to partners. However, senior associates are particularly highly sought-after in the current market. Those looking to move laterally into a partner role may just strike gold.

On the junior side, Gavine reckons that NQ positions are fewer in number, but that there are “consistent opportunities” for junior to mid-level associates.

Lawyers hoping to find a new role are advised to brush up on their language skills. As firms look to establish global migration practices to augment their inbound UK teams, Verna believes there will be increasing demand for candidates with business-level fluency in another language. There is also growing demand for those with specific experience in managing applications in other jurisdictions.

What’s more, firms have begun to bolt on audit and compliance advice to their immigration offerings.

“This often involves fee-earners visiting a client on site, and thus the business development skill-set has become sought-after,” adds Verna.

Investor expertise will also impress potential employers. 

All in all, as the immigration market continues to ramp up, this would seem to be the perfect time for keen lawyers to cross some legal borders of their own