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EMEA – Legal

Brexit overview

We found that there was a lot of activity in the legal job market at the start of 2018 in line with the trends extrapolated from 2017. As we approach the end of the year, we are observing a marginal decrease in permanent hires in contrast to consultant hires. There has been an increase in the need for senior consultants for various projects relating to contingency planning for when the UK exits the EU.

Since the beginning of summer 2018, we have seen an increase in demand for permanent senior hires across key financial hubs in Europe, particularly in Frankfurt, Dublin, Luxembourg and Paris. Demand outweighing the supply has caused competition for the best talent out there, increasing the need for financial services institutions to pay close to London market rates and benefits. We have also noticed increasing interest in London trained/based lawyers for roles in these financial hubs, supplementing the work force required in these cities.

These moves have been mirrored by the law firms – Simmons & Simmons is the third international firm to be launched in Dublin since the Brexit vote and Dentons have recently opened a fourth office in Dusseldorf to further fortify their presence in Germany.

In addition to the growth in continental Europe, the law firms in London have continued to see buoyant growth on the lateral hiring front. US law firms continue to dominate, with even those offices that rarely hire increasing headcount in strategic areas. It has been refreshing to hear positive news with regards to deal flow in the market with few partners stating any slowdown due to Brexit woes. Finance and dispute resolution hiring has been abundant as per previous, with steady M&A/PE growth and even some long-awaited movement within ECM. Interestingly, with the exception of a few high-profile team moves, the much anticipated surge in hiring within the restructuring area has been grossly under represented with few firms racing to expand.

Competitor information for 2018/2019 hiring plans

We anticipate that permanent legal hires in London will continue at the current pace through to the end of 2019. Most financial services institutions are gearing up for a surge in the number of consultant hires to enable them to fulfil the necessary requirements for the March 29 deadline and to deal with the post-Brexit transition. In relation to hiring in other European financial hubs, we expect an increase in permanent hires, inverse to the hiring plans of the same organisations in London at a similar time. Organisations are planning to hire senior lawyers into these offices first to deal with the immediate aftermath of Brexit, then steadily boost the number of lawyers over time.

In the private practice market, we expect to see the steady hiring of lateral partners continuing well in 2019. The general consensus being that firms will continue to ride the tide while it is high. However, with the area sensitive to market tremors, further signs of a ‘no deal Brexit’ as well as deep concerns regarding the global economy as a whole, may mean we see firms begin to aggressively bulk up their countercyclical offerings in order to hedge themselves against a market downturn.