Legal jobs up 16% in the UK year-on-year

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The latest research from the Robert Walters UK Jobs Index has revealed that the number of job vacancies in the UK has risen by 16% in the second quarter of 2017.

This increase has reached all levels of seniority and has outstripped the national average across all sectors which stood at 11%. 

Despite uncertainty surrounding the general election in the UK, hiring levels continued to recover compared to 2016. While activity remained muted in some areas, financial services firms in particular were more willing to commit to sourcing legal professionals to fill regulatory roles.

“Regulatory pressure has been a major driver of hiring among financial services firms for some time, as employers are forced to take action to ensure legal compliance,” said Charlie Harris, Senior Manager at Robert Walters.

Changing legislation

In the run up to and wake of the EU referendum last year , many businesses froze or postponed hiring processes.

“As deadlines approach for various regulatory frameworks, employers are being forced to reactivate hiring in order to secure the professionals they need.”

“Regulatory pressure has been a major driver of hiring among financial services firms for some time, as employers are forced to take action to ensure legal compliance."

“GDPR in particular is proving to be a key area where legal experts are needed. With a delivery deadline of May 2018, financial services firms are coming to recognise the importance of implementing procedures to ensure compliance,” added Charlie Harris.

These efforts are being hampered by acute skill shortages in this area, forcing employers to broaden their hiring criteria and consider candidates with transferable skills.

New opportunities in the legal market

Political and economic uncertainty in 2016 also had a noticeable impact on candidate behaviour, with many legal professionals being averse to change roles in that climate. This compounded an existing trend that had been going on for several years, with staff being reluctant to take on new roles. 

“Legal professionals have gone through a protracted period of being risk averse when it comes to changing roles. This was maintained, and even exacerbated last year amid political upheaval in the UK, Europe and North America," Charlie Harris continued.

In 2017 we have seen this trend begin to soften as more positive conditions have led to a rising number of professionals looking for new opportunities. This has also encouraged businesses to be more active in looking to source staff, with candidate confidence growing as a result.

“Despite this, professionals with skills in key areas still remain in short supply. As a result, many employers are looking to short-term contractors to kill critical skills gaps until full time staff can be secured,” concluded Charlie Harris.

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