Becoming an in-house lawyer in 2021 could be your smartest career move. The in-house legal market bucked the downward trend in 2020. We look back over a turbulent year to see how it happened and why we think the trend is likely to continue.
The biggest and most obvious shift we saw was in mid-March when a UK-wide lockdown meant a sudden move to working from home. This unexpected change in operations coupled with uncertainty across all markets meant companies tightened budgets. By the end of March 85% of roles were on hold with many companies introducing a complete hiring freeze.
But even during this time, there was some movement in the in-house legal sector as firms battled ‘force majeure’ clauses and the finance industry looked to bolster their in-house legal counsel.
By June it was clearer where law firms needed to focus their attention. Healthcare, fin-tech and technology firms were all doing better than commerce and corporate. And these sectors continued to recruit - particularly to their in-house legal teams.
Why did this happen? Healthcare needed legal support to navigate new manufacturing and distribution rules and the specific regulations involved in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine.
And we saw a sharp rise in demand for legal help in employment, insolvency and litigation because of the downturn - with many in-house teams bringing in temporary specialist legal support.
By September it was clear the growth in the in-house legal market was strong. General counsels wanted in-house legal teams to do the work previously outsourced to law firms.
We have also seen a change in the work being done by in-house lawyers. They’re doing a wider variety of roles as companies try to keep most, if not all legal matters in-house. Specialist projects requiring outside counsel are taking a back seat as firms prioritise commercial, corporate and regulatory legal issues popping up on a weekly basis.
Another lockdown brings with it the more permanent shift to remote and flexible working for firms who previously wouldn’t have considered it possible. And it looks like companies are looking at their long-term financial responsibilities and choosing the in-house route to save money on paying expensive hourly rates to law firms.
Flexible and remote working is likely to become the new normal for many firms when offices reopen. Optimism about the new vaccine could mean the return of graduate recruitment schemes and training programmes - bringing new lawyers and more junior roles to the in-house market.
But in-house lawyer roles for mid-level and senior lawyers is where I’d expect the most growth as firms look to bring in experience and a breadth of knowledge to existing teams.
So if you’re contemplating shifting from private practice to working in-house then get in touch with us at JMC Legal Recruitment to find out what exciting opportunities we currently have.
JMC specialises in in-house legal recruitment. If you’re looking for the best in-house legal jobs in Bristol, London or anywhere in the UK, we’ve got you covered. And if you’re searching for the perfect in-house lawyer, we have the expertise you need. Call us today for confidential advice on 0203 865 2113 or click here for more information.