As mentioned in previous blogs, a good legal recruiter is not just someone who finds a lawyer a job.
That’s a CV pusher you’re thinking of.
No, a quality legal recruiter is a strategic partner and advisor to both firms and individuals, providing insight on everything from salary levels to key areas for firms to target growth and how this may be best achieved, including identifying key individuals in the market to achieve this. We are also consulted on where there is likely to be an upcoming skills shortage based upon the needs of other firms, and any associated trends which we can advise on.
One of the interesting aspects of working in the legal recruitment market at the moment is the way in which particular areas of the law are busy in some locations yet relatively quiet in others. For example, recently we have been very busy recruiting into private client in both East Anglia and the Shropshire areas, yet our consultant specialising in the south-east has seen no real demand for lawyers in this discipline for a number of months.
Similarly if you are looking for a role in corporate then Birmingham and Manchester are crying out for good quality M&A and corporate finance associates, yet the East Midlands has little to no requirement to recruit into this area.
It can be hard to pin down exactly why there is such a fluctuation based on geography, particularly when you compare markets like Birmingham and Nottingham which are only 50 miles apart. Certain areas of law naturally lend themselves to particular locations better than others; for example there is often a demand for agricultural law in the South-West, Shropshire and East Anglia, or a particular requirement for equine specialists in the Newmarket & Cambridgeshire vicinity, yet this demand drops quite dramatically in the Thames Valley region.
For whatever reason these regional peaks and troughs are occurring, more and more solicitors are considering relocation for a role which meets their requirements you could try this out. Since the days of the trail-blazing Dick Whittington there has always been the draw of London for those seeking what is perceived to be the highest quality work, including the whole lifestyle of 24/7 law which often appeals to the racy, corporate-minded, Apprentice-applying lawyers. However now with the likes of Bristol, Manchester, Reading and Birmingham having firms able to offer work of a comparable calibre to that enjoyed by City practices, and often with the benefit of the much-touted-yet-rarely-witnessed work/life balance, an increasing number of lawyers are finding that the draw of these cities is more prevalent than before.
Put quite simply; the quality of work that you are seeking might only be found in another location to then one that you are sat in now.
So what are the steps to finding yourself the right role in a new location? Well, firstly firms do still look for a tie or at least a discernable interest in moving to a particular area. Schooling, university, family or property are usually the criteria that firms seek evidence of, although the more specialist or niche you are the more firms are willing to look at relocating lawyers for active requirements, particularly if it is an area where they have previously struggled to recruit into or where there is a dearth of local talent. Being willing to ‘go anywhere’ for a job is not often what firms are seeking to hear, so if you are in this boat then be prepared to have to justify why at interview.
It is more often opportunity rather than necessity which is prompting thoughts of relocation, with lawyers choosing to move instead of being forced to through lack of local opportunities. We recently worked with an extremely high calibre matrimonial partner who had worked for one of the recognised High Net Worth practices in the country and realised that to continue enjoying clients of this calibre it was necessary to relocate to join one of the other four or five practices who work on a similar plane.
If you are open to relocating to maximising your career prospects then the most crucial aspect is to instruct a recruiter who understands both where you are coming from and where you hope to get to (not just geographically!) Anyone can open the Legal 500 and reel off the firms to you in the order that they appear; what you should be looking for is someone to explain (if they are working proactively for you) why a particular firm is worth a conversation; how the department is structured, how the firm is run, the calibre of work that they handle and how the practice is generally run culture-wise which can all be essential for ensuring that you are moving in the right direction. After all, when you are joining a new and unfamiliar legal community it is essential that you are working closely with a legal recruitment firm that knows the territory.
That is not to say that only a local recruiter knows the location; indeed often recruitment consultancies will claim to have a presence in a particular city when in fact it is no more than a satellite office with a phone number bouncing you to an office elsewhere. Talk to recruiters and assess how just how well they know the market; they should be able to tell you the ins and outs which are not readily accessible and available in the public domain, and which would only really be known by someone who works in that location.
In a market which still does suffer the legacy of recession there is a world of opportunity out there for candidates who are willing to go the extra mile (or more!) to secure the right move.