You only have to take a walk around London to see that there is a significant amount of construction work going on right now, even if the Government has not entirely embraced an FDR-style attempt to build its way out of recession. For lawyers in the sector, all this activity translates into a healthy level of jobs on offer.
“There certainly seems to be an air of confidence in the construction sector at the moment, with the market picking up in the past year or so,” says DMJ Legal consultant Alex Ring. “There have been a number of partner moves and there seems to be more buoyancy across the board, with some of the smaller West End and City firms competing for the same talent as several of the international and US firms.”
Glass Consultancy’s Freddie Lawson points out that the construction market took a big hit in the recession and has struggled to get going again over the past couple of years. However, the sector still accounts for a massive 7 per cent of GDP, so there continues to be a steady stream of work from the UK market.
“The real growth has come in the large infrastructure projects that are still serviced from the UK,” adds Lawson. “Those firms with large construction teams have been servicing these deals well from the City.”
There has been investment in firms’ construction teams in the UK market, adds Lawson, with plenty of firms hiring associates and promotions at firms such as Ashurst, where two were made up this year, and even magic circle firms consolidating their positions in transactional.
“As with the whole of the disputes market, the construction arbitration market, albeit small, has been extremely busy and therefore the top people are in high demand,” says Lawson. “The firms that have struggled are those that have been too reliant on the UK market for too long. This has been particularly true in the mid-market.”
Meanwhile, Lawrence Evans at JLegal says that front-end construction has been consistently active all year, especially at the mid- to senior level.
“The roles involved have tended to have an infrastructure and/or projects slant,” says Evans. “Compared with the relative quietness of disputes roles – especially when contrasted with the situation last year – this suggests either that there is a dearth of mid- to senior front-end lawyers in London, that people are moving elsewhere and/or that front-end construction work is picking up. One suspects the former two explanations.”
Evans says that there are opportunities in the UK and 2-5 years’ PQE lawyers from good firms should be able to find a new home.
“We’d also advise lawyers to look at roles in the Middle East, where both front-end and contentious construction lawyers are in high demand,” adds Evans. “There are also some senior construction options in Singapore.”