Job Watch: M&A

In the past few months there has been a growing sense, at least in parts of the corporate sector, that the M&A market is finally back. 

As RedLaw Recruitment’s Amy Hambleton says, “2013 has seen a marked increase in deals which don’t abort and there is a sense of optimism becoming prevalent among corporate lawyers.”

This is unlikely to result in magic circle or major City firms hiring M&A lawyers in bulk, but if your heart is set on a new corporate role you could do  worse than cast an eye across the Atlantic.

“A diverse array of US outfits ranging from the prestigious New York elite through the mid-Atlantic players and the energy firms to the West Coast technology partnerships are all wanting a slice of the M&A pie,” notes Hannah Gomersal at Shilton Sharpe Quarry. 

In fact, a number of US firms in the City are busy poaching associates from the magic circle, which tend to have larger corporate departments and the benefit of huge intakes of trainees.

M&A at mid-tier and silver circle firms is also on the up, says Julia Stone at Taylor Root, adding that “most of the activity has been in the mid-tier market although there has been some growth from a selection of key boutiques that have been doing well”.

As with so many practice areas, it is mid-level associates who are most likely to saunter into a new role.

“Many US firms will only look at the 2-4 years’ PQE level,” says Colin Loth at Robert Walters, although he admits that those between their second and sixth years’ PQE are generally sought-after across the board. 

Hambleton agrees. 

“A capable mid-level associate can obtain multiple offers from private practice firms at the moment,” she says.

That said, recruiters report dealing with the occasional more senior M&A role. At the moment these are particularly prevalent in the private equity space.

“Private equity is an area of considerable demand within M&A,” says Gomersal, “while under the general corporate umbrella equity capital markets lags behind, with very little activity.”

If private equity is not your forte, don’t panic. Loth insists that “While there is always situational demand for specific expertise, the trend among firms is to want generalist corporate lawyers that can undertake a diverse range of work.”

Of course, additional expertise won’t do any harm. Those jobseekers with expertise in growing sectors such as telecoms, energy, pharma or real estate will likely get off to a particularly strong start. 

According to Stone, those with experience of AIM are also in demand. And Antipodean lawyers are also a step ahead of the pack, according to JLegal’s Phil Jennings. 

“Overseas lawyers from top-tier Australian/New Zealand firms are getting more opportunities to gain employment with London-based firms due to the shortage of high-calibre mid-level lawyers in the City market.”