Legal recruitment in the Southwest bounced back strongly in the second half of 2021 and there are certainly plenty of opportunities as we head into a new year. We look at how the knock-on effects from the last couple of years are shaping these opportunities, and what this means for legal recruitment in 2022.

We’ve seen some real momentum in legal recruitment in the Southwest over the last few months, with the trend looking set to continue after a strong start to 2022.

After all the ups and downs of restrictions and lockdowns, we found it was taking candidates a while to return to job hunting last year. This was despite the fact that law firms were very much ready to recruit.

The second half of the year proved to be incredibly busy, though, and we ended 2021 having helped to secure a record number of job placements.

Looking ahead to 2022, there are many signs that this will continue. We can also see how the knock-on effects of the last couple of years are still shaping legal recruitment, putting candidates in a strong position when it comes to finding the right opportunity.

Record legal recruitment at all levels

We’re finding that legal recruitment in the Southwest is happening across the board – from graduate to partner-level roles, for all practice areas, at firms large and small.

This time last year, we were seeing much more specific areas of demand. It also seemed that candidates were being a lot more cautious about switching roles in that initial post-lockdown landscape, so it’s great that people are now feeling enough confidence in the market to think about their next move.

In addition, it’s a much more positive picture for law graduates looking to secure a training contract.

Back in autumn 2020, many law firms had frozen their recruitment efforts, leaving graduates struggling to find positions. It was incredibly demoralising for those fresh to the job market.

The difference in graduate recruitment between then and the end of 2021 has been astounding. After some tough times for those looking to start their legal career, it’s been wonderful to see a huge increase in opportunities for both LLM and LPC graduates.

Fierce competition for candidates

The recruitment freeze thawed last year, with many law firms keen to expand existing teams and welcome new talent. Candidates were much slower to return to the job market, perhaps reluctant to leave the relative safety and stability of their current position.

This meant there were many more opportunities available than job hunters, leading to some fantastic prospects for savvy candidates who were ready to take their next step.

Many of our candidates received offers from multiple firms, with the ability to pick and choose the very best role to suit their needs.

This fierce competition to recruit has resulted in a rise in salaries (although this looks like it is levelling off now), an improvement in benefit packages and greater flexibility in working patterns.

For anyone who has been putting off a move to a new firm, it is a great time to see what opportunities are out there. Our advice is always to have a chat with a specialist legal recruiter like Legal Southwest, who can give you the lowdown on the recruitment picture in your area.

Hybrid working here to stay?

Working from home has become standard practice during the last couple of years and it now seems unlikely that there will be a wholesale return to the office.

The majority of firms are taking a hybrid approach, with many roles now including an element of home-based working (for those who want it). The current trend emerging is a split between the office and home: firms are generally opting for two days in the office, two days at home and a flexi-day. This, of course, depends on business needs, but it has been a welcome development for many employees.

We have also noticed an increase in candidates who want purely home-based roles. In our experience, however, this isn’t always the holy grail it appears to be!

For those in the earlier stages of their career in particular, there is a lot to gain from being in the office – learning from those around you and working collaboratively with colleagues are both much easier face to face. Our advice is to consider whether a position that enables hybrid working will actually offer more benefits in the long run.

Specialist legal recruitment in the Southwest

For Legal Southwest, 2022 sees us entering our 15th year of business. During this time, we’ve established strong relationships with the law firms across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, and placed hundreds of candidates.

We offer a wealth of advice for candidates on salaries, the legal market in the Southwest and future career opportunities. While we advertise many legal vacancies on our website, we also take a pro-active approach to finding the right position for you – in fact, this is how the majority of our placements come about.

Whether you are a law firm looking for fresh talent or a candidate wanting a new challenge, we’re looking forward to supporting your legal recruitment needs in 2022!

Legal Southwest is a specialist legal recruiter, bringing together talented professionals with like-minded organisations. Take a look at our current vacancies or contact us to find out how we can help you.