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Legal - What's in Store for 2020?

2019 was an interesting year for the legal market. Despite constant political uncertainty, signs of weakness in global economies, and Brexit continuing to loom over us, the legal market has remained buoyant and shows no sign of letting up. Over the past year here at Pro-Legal, we have seen a number of firms ranging from White Shoe US firms, Magic Circle through to boutique firms continue to recruit, not only to replace, but also impressive increases in new work and fulfilling ambitious growth plans. We expect that 2020 will prove to be no different, and changes in regulation and technology are likely to reshape the market as we move forward into the next decade. Going forward into 2020, due to the outcome of the election we can predict more stability around the subject on the basis that Brexit will be going ahead. The political and economic uncertainty from the past few years inevitably caused firms to be more cautious in their outlook and planning, but with the end in sight, we expect to see law firms driving forwards in the next year. We are also likely to see investors starting to invest at a higher rate. There was inevitably a hold on stock investments into the UK for a period, but now people are looking at how to best spread their money and in turn, are seeking legal advice on the best route to invest and to deal with any obstacles. Firms are also likely to see Brexit as an opportunity and we predict that there will be plenty of activity in the market fuelled by private equity money, particularly in the region of mid-market entrepreneurial businesses. Technology and automation will continue to have a huge impact on the legal sector. Going forward into 2020, we will inevitably see even more investments in technology and AI, which means more automating processes. The so-called "digital revolution" and its new technologies are revolutionizing the world of work and in turn, disrupting professional services. Organisations are being forced to evolve to avoid being negatively impacted by advancements in technology, and law firms need to ensure they are constantly adapting, investing in technology, and transforming their processes in order to thrive. This also means that it is even more important for legal professionals to ensure that their soft skills and technical skills are up to scratch. Alongside Brexit and advancements in technology, law firms should also consider the growing cyber risks in 2020. Law firms typically hold a lot of valuable data and so is a concern that firms should be working to actively prevent cyber attacks and data breaches on a regular basis, particularly when considering the recent tightening of GDPR rules and regulations. The pressure on profits is forcing organisations and firms to drive profitable growth in new ways. Mergers & acquisitions with firms based outside of the UK are becoming an increasingly common way to boost profit and growth in the international market. This form of business requires a great deal of legal attention to ensure everything is done exactly right, and is an industry that is expected to generate five billion. It is therefore essential that law firms are ready to take advantage and provide innovative solutions to these M&A processes. Despite uncertainty in 2019, the majority of firms have still reported growth - both profit and revenue - and going forward into 2020 we expect a period of growth as many of the aforementioned UK and global factors take effect. Our clients have indicated that with renewed budgets in January they are keen to continue hiring experienced talent into their growing teams. If you would like a confidential discussion about the market and your options moving forward, please do get in touch as one of our expert advisors can offer you a fantastic insight into what might be available to you. There is certainly a lot ahead of us for 2020 and in the legal market; here’s to a new year and many new and exciting beginnings. For more information on this article, or to discuss your recruiting needs for 2020, please contact David Bucknor on 020 7269 6332 or


November 2019: Legal Movers and Shakers

Stay up-to-date with the movers and shakers in the legal sector. Here are the key movements in November 2019: Partner Kevin Roberts is moving to Cadwalader after having spent over ten years at Morrison & Foerster. Roberts is a litigator specialising in White Collar Crime. Roberts will be an integral member of the US White Collar defence and investigations team’s transatlantic expansion. Carl Bradshaw is moving to Goodwin Procter after having spent 9 years at Kirkland & Ellis and being Partner there since 2015. As a strong Private Equity and M&A Partner who specialises in technology and life sciences, Bradshaw will join a quickly developing practice. Andrew Sackey has joined Pinsent Masons after twelve years at HM Revenue & Customs. Sackey is a tax and litigation Lawyer who will also be involved in five major sectors at Pinsent Masons including; infrastructure, real estate, energy, technology and financial services. Partner Steve Curtis is joining Latham & Watkins from Clifford Chance having been at Clifford Chance since 1991 when he joined as an articled clerk. Specialising in structured finance in the real estate finance and infrastructure sectors, Curtis will be a vital part of the practice. For more information about this article, or to speak to Aaron Burton about your recruiting needs or Legal jobs in London or Nationwide, contact him on 020 7269 6350 or Back to Legal Movers & Shakers Archive >>


The Perfect Legal CV

Creating the ideal CV can be a tricky task, but the perfect Legal CV is the very first step towards your dream job. To avoid your CV being dismissed and missing out on that all-important job interview, there are things you need to consider, and our specialist legal recruiters have provided all the information you need to create that perfect CV! Unlike ticking the ‘open to opportunities’ box on LinkedIn, submitting your CV symbolises an active interest in a role. Best to avoid the mentality of “just send my CV and see what they come back with”. If the role is worth applying for at all, then this is presumably worth doing with your best foot forward. A specialist legal recruiter will likely see over 100 CVs each week. With both your experience and motivations in mind, they should be able to consult on: (1) the common mistakes to avoid and (2) how best to tailor your CV and exhibit your strengths. The first matter is straightforward enough, forming the contents of general advice here: General formatting: keep it simple The executive summary: lose the fluff Work experience: bullet point what you did Education and Qualifications: less can be more We have provided a general step-by-step guide on how to format your CV in the legal market. Quick disclaimer: ‘the perfect CV’ does not reference a stereotypically perfect career as it may appear on paper, though exemplar excerpts have been included below for illustration. 1. General CV formatting: keep it simple. Your experience should speak for itself in a way that is easily comparable with other CVs. Send your CV to your recruiter in Word (not PDF) format and say goodbye to: Flashy fonts (keep it to black, Arial size 11) Convoluted layouts (stay away from using any kind of columns) Photographs Charts/images ranking your skills Regarding length, the average length of a good legal CV is 3-4 pages: the 2-page rule is a myth in the legal industry and anything more than 5 pages is too long! 1 page is far too short because Legal Partners like to see plenty of detail around what you've done, the type of clients you have worked with, and most importantly what part you played on each matter. This is all essential for Partners to get a flavour of your experience and an idea of what you could add to their legal team. 2. The executive summary: lose the fluff. Within the first half-page, your CV should provide an overview of the most important details and your experience to date, including: Your name City/town Right to work Relevant qualifications Notice period Languages spoken (if pertinent to the role) Synopsis The synopsis is an important part of telling your story to third parties. However, promises of personal qualities are near impossible to make credible if written in the first-person. When sending your CV across to your recruiter, it is best to have your CV written in the third person - using the pronouns “I”, “me”, “my”, “mine”, “our” or “we” on your CV dampens the third-party ‘sell’ before you really need to. Try to think about your business case offering from the immediately observable and third-party perspective, as you would be discussed by others before having interviewed. The recommended format: A line (or two) on your background A line (or two) line on what your current role includes A line (or two) on what you are looking for – (framed from your reason for leaving) CANDIDATE: [NAME] LOCATION: London RIGHT TO WORK: UK Citizen QUALIFICATIONS: Qualified Solicitor of England & Wales (2014) AVAILABILITY: 3 Months (negotiable) SYNOPSIS: [Name] is a high calibre Employment Lawyer, approaching 5 years PQE with the leading International firm [firm name]. [Name] has an excellent academic record and has obtained a broad range of Employment experience to date, covering a range of contentious and non-contentious matters. Although [name] is progressing well with their firm, [name] is selectively considering firms which would offer them a step up and develop their skills and knowledge further. 3. Work experience: bullet-point what you did. This section should be in bullet-points for ease of accessibility, similar to the format you would ordinarily see in job specifications, as they are an easy way for employers and legal hiring professionals to get a quick snapshot of your experience to date. This section should not detail what your team did. Bullet pointing what ‘you’ did means focusing on your own actions and achievements. If you need to anonymise client names when detailing your work experience that is absolutely fine - for example, if you worked with HSBC you could simply say you worked with a 'leading high street bank'. Key information includes the documents you used, a value of the matter (if appropriate) and most importantly, what YOU did on that specific matter. Did you have a high level of client contact and responsibility? Showcase this. In instances where a collaborative effort was made, the key focus should be on your personal contribution to the wider effort. In bullet pointing what you ‘did’, it is important to realise what can and cannot be demonstrated on a CV. Steer away from an emphasis on what you ‘learned’, ‘developed’ or ‘demonstrated’, which are not only difficult to bring to life on a CV credibly, but are also more relevant at the interview stage. Keep the content to the job you performed, responsibilities fulfilled and value-added. What you should include is also dependent on your level of experience. If you are a junior Associate, keep your training contract experience on your CV as this is still relevant experience. As you progress through your career and become more senior, you can start to minimize this part of your experience and replace it with your post-qualification experience. Other general points for this section: Keep it chronological, in descending order of recency. Include the location (city) where each position was held. Consider omitting roles held prior to your beginning your formal qualification. 4. Education and qualifications: less can be more. In the legal market, employers are generally just not that interested in the finer details of your education. Key things to include in the education section of your CV are: When you were admitted as a solicitor and in which jurisdiction Grades for LPC and GDL (if appropriate) Grade for your degree A-Level subjects and grades Places of study Any awards/scholarships EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATIONS: 2014 BPP Law School, Holborn Legal Practice Course, Commendation 2013 University of Law, Bloomsbury Graduate Diploma in Law, Commendation 2012 University of Bristol Law LLB – 1st Class Honours 2009 [Sixth Form College] - A-Levels English (A) Mathematics (A) History (B) 5. The application: tailor your CV before applying. No one job or company is the same, so make sure that your legal CV is tailored to the position and firm that you are applying to, whether is this is a US Firm, Magic Circle, Silver Circle, or a boutique firm. Use the synopsis to highlight the main reasons you would be suitable for the position, and try to echo the organisation's corporate values and what the job specification says they are looking for throughout your application. In summary, your legal CV will set the groundwork for the remainder of the selection process. So, at the very least, it is worth considering how the synopsis might be tailored for each application you make. The take-home points here for general formatting purposes would be to let your career speak for itself with a simple layout, to omit any usage of the first person and to see the value in being recommended forward specifically by a trusted intermediary. Looking for advice on tailoring your CV, options in your search, or have a request for our next blog? Contact Tamara Salem on 020 7269 6368 or


What Responsibilities Does a Legal Partner Have?

Progressing from Associate to Partner is the pinnacle of many lawyers' careers, and is a significant leap that comes with a number of responsibilities. Becoming a Legal Partner takes commitment and years of hard work, and understanding the extra responsibilities that come with Partnership will help you decide whether it is the right path for you. 1. Duty and commitment to other Partners The most important of all the responsibilities a Legal Partner has is their duty to the other Partners in their firm. You will be placed in a position of trust and it is a mutual understanding that each Partner must act with the utmost good faith and professionalism. When you reach this level in your career, it means more than simply signing an employment contract and going about your daily work - you have a greater level of responsibility and affinity to your firm as a whole and you need to ensure you are a true ambassador of the firm both internally and externally. 2. Change in workload You will find that once you reach Partner level your responsibilities in workload will also change rather significantly. Workload differs to that of an Associate in that you have a greater level of responsibility for the business as a whole, which means that you need to know what's going on at all levels. Rather than simply looking after your own personal work on a daily basis, you will oversee the work of your employees and if you are Partner at a large firm you may also have responsibility for different offices nationwide. You will not only be involved with internal matters but you will also be responsible for corresponding with external parties and other industry professionals. Business development will also come into your remit, and you will spend time in meetings with potential clients and business partners, meaning more travel and potentially extended hours. 3. Communicating with employees The transition from Associate to Partner in terms of relationships with your colleagues can potentially be a tricky one. The relationship you have with colleagues at Associate level is generally more casual as you are all on an equal footing, but this is likely to change when you become Partner. Part of Partnership is leading by example, and you will find that in some instances you will need to listen to employee issues, conduct interviews, deliver disciplinary actions, or even dismiss people - you may need to establish a different way of communicating with colleagues and employees in cases such as these. 4. Enhancing your business Part of being Partner is enhancing the company as a whole. As mentioned previously, you will be involved in business development and be involved in developing strategies to attract new clients, new employees and widen your business' reach. You will also need to keep up-to-date with industry news and political, economic, or wider developments that may affect the legal sector, and in turn, your firm. As a Partner, you will also have a hand in deciding how your company is portrayed and viewed externally, which will involve having a say in advertising campaigns, brand presence, measures for employee attraction or involvement in events. 5. Damage control Dealing with issues or complaints effectively in-house is an incredibly important part of a Partner's role. Unfortunately, mistakes can be made and complaints from clients or associates happen, but dealing with them in an efficient manner will ensure that such issues are not escalated to legal bodies or in a way that would be damaging to your firms' reputation. There are various responsibilities that come with Partnership, and the breadth and remit of your role will change significantly with this leap forward in your career. If Partnership is the right path for you , these are responsibilities that you will have been working towards and preparing for, and becoming Partner is undoubtedly a great step in your legal career. For more information on this article, contact Aaron Burton on 020 7269 6350 or


Legal Services Board Voices Concerns: SQE Still Has a Long Way to Go

The Legal Services Board has voiced concerns about the quality, cost and diversity impact of the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE), which has been projected to come into play in 2021. Following concerns flagged by the super-regulator, it seems that the final sign-off on the SQE is not a done deal yet, and there is perhaps a long way to go before the new form of assessment is approved. Here at Pro-Legal, we previously shared an update on the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam and how the legal training environment is changing. The Solicitors Regulation Authority have been consulting on reforms to the training of lawyers since 2015 and the introduction of the SQE, what the University of Law has called the ‘biggest shake-up in legal education in decades’, is set to change the way all solicitors qualify from 2021. A report by Chris Nichols, the Legal Services Board (LSB) Director of Regulation and Policy, says that various substantive issues were raised with the SRA’s first application for approval. Key issues raised by Nichols include the work experience section of the SQE, which according to the LSB, carries the risk of students “being treated poorly and getting limited utility from their time”. There have also been concerns raised regarding the quality of the proposed SQE, and Nichols had suggested there has been “an overall lack of any quality assurance of the process by the SRA”. The LSB has also requested an equality, diversity and inclusion impact assessment after concerns have been raised surrounding these issues, including questions like whether the exam will be provided in Welsh. The SRA will need to provide evidence that the SQE will not compromise equality and evaluate the impact the changes will have on the young legal professionals who will be going through the new exam and study structure. Dr. Helen Phillips, Chair of the LSB has stated that “the board is aware of the strength of feeling around the SRA’s introduction of the SQE, and we were pleased to have an opportunity to discuss the next steps for the process”. The LSB has agreed to send a non-exhaustive list of all their key issues and concerns to the SRA to be fully addressed in their next application for approval, which is expected to be submitted in July or August next year. The new route to qualification is still set to begin in the autumn of 2021, but it is undoubtedly clear that there is still more to do and issues to be addressed before the SRA gets the final sign off for the SQE. For more information on this article, contact David Bucknor on 020 7269 6332 or


Why are Lawyers Increasingly Joining the Big 4?

The last few years have seen many changes in the legal landscape, with law firms more competitive than ever. Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC have been investing heavily in their legal services arms – particularly in Europe – and now collectively employ about 8,500 lawyers globally. With the gap closing between Magic Circle and City law firms, the ‘Big 4’ accountancy firms and their legal teams truly stand out for offering a unique tailored service to clients. Law firms in the UK are having to be more competitive than ever before when it comes to attracting the best talent. Earlier this year, we saw Magic Circle law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer increase its salary for newly-qualified lawyers to £100k, followed closely by the other four Magic Circle and Silver Circle firms, which was largely fuelled by competition from large US firms. Not only this, but the upcoming changes to the education and training of junior lawyers with the introduction of the Solicitor's Qualifying Exam means law firms are having to work hard to create innovative training programmes, and offer exciting training contracts to compete with commercial and accounting firms in this rapidly evolving legal landscape. The Big 4 are actively recruiting huge numbers of lawyers and, according to Harvard Law School, are emerging as hot spots for supporting legal work. Beyond the UK, each practice works with its international counterparts - PwC has a global headcount of around 3,200 lawyers, EY has more than 2,000 lawyers, KPMG has 1,300 lawyers spanning over 70 countries, and Deloitte has almost 2,000 legal professionals globally. We have already seen significant changes happening within the legal arms of the Big 4. Deloitte Legal has worked closely with ULaw to develop innovate training for new graduate-level legal qualifications placing them at 'the forefront of what is undoubtedly an exciting new era in legal education and training', as well as new legal apprenticeships as part of Deloitte's BrightStart Apprenticeship programme. Moves like this from Deloitte mean access to the legal profession is broadening and becoming more inclusive, offering the opportunity for aspiring solicitors to earn while they learn. Most significantly, a legal training contract with one of the Big 4 means lawyers are able to encounter the wealth of expertise beyond legal work that these accountancy giants can offer as multidisciplinary firms. So, how does working at the Big 4 benefit lawyers? Not only do they hold great power in their brand that instantly opens doors, the Big 4 offer a complete end-to-end solution for their clients – one that cannot be matched by a traditional law firm. A multidisciplinary service is provided by the Big 4 legal teams by combining their skills and knowledge with the firm’s world-class business advisory services, enabling them to work at the heart of every client and their business. One of the main value-added propositions of the Big 4 is their client-based service setup and their ability to offer globally integrated business solutions, meaning that together with their global presence and ability to provide a one-stop-shop, the nature of the work is often not only international and cross-border but of extremely high calibre. At Pro-Legal, having successfully helped many Lawyers transition into the Big 4, the environment is commonly described to us as private practice but without all the politics. You are provided with in-depth technical and professional training and the setting in a Big 4 is incomparable, creating almost a halfway house between traditional private practice and in-house. Working internally within an accountancy firm, lawyers are being asked to be more than technical experts - they are often seen as trusted advisors and provide a wide array of expertise that goes beyond legal services. While the Big 4 have historically focused on practices that complement their audit and tax advisory businesses, such as tax, labour and employment, it is evident that they are increasingly branching out into other areas, including M&A. Particularly busy areas of growth include Corporate, Banking, and Finance, Data Protection, TMT, Intellectual Property, Real Estate, Employment, Private Client - meaning your scope of work is vast. You’re still offered the opportunity to work with multiple clients, ensuring that your remit is broad and involves varied work. However, within the Big 4 you are able to take a different approach to business development and utilise the vast internal network opposed to the traditional external business development – a much easier way to build your practice! Client secondments both in the UK and overseas are also frequent and encouraged. Last but not least, one of the key attractions for the Big 4 is the workplace culture. All of the Big 4 have been ranked in Fortune magazine's list of the 100 Best Places to Work and their capability to provide a genuinely flexible approach to working from home/remotely tends to be attractive. If you are considering a potential move into the Big 4, or for any of your Legal recruiting needs, contact David Bucknor on 020 7269 6332 or email


The Solicitor's Qualifying Exam (SQE): How the Legal Training Environment is Changing

The legal profession is approaching a new era for the training of junior lawyers with what the University of Law (ULaw) has called the 'biggest shake-up in legal education in decades'. The introduction of the Solicitor's Qualifying Exam, or the SQE, is set to change the way all solicitors qualify from 2021. So, what do we know so far? The Solicitor's Regulation Authority have been consulting on reforms to the training of lawyers since 2015, and Kaplan have now been appointed as the examination adjudicator and assessor. One of the biggest changes will be that students no longer have to study a Qualifying Law Degree. You will still need an undergraduate degree or the equivalent experience - and a law degree will give you a solid foundation and help you with your studies - but a QLD will no longer be a formal requirement. Not only this, but the SQE differs from the current legal training framework where students don't start training contracts until they've passed the Legal Practice Course (LPC). The new form of examination is set to replace both the LPC and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) when it comes into force in September 2021. The SQE will be fundamentally different in that all law students will sit the same set of exams set by Kaplan no matter where or how they are studying, and going forward, the SRA will only use your SQE result to determine whether you have the knowledge and skills to become a solicitor. Michael Castle, UK Managing Partner at Deloitte Legal has said, 'The legal training environment is undergoing significant change to contend with a rapidly evolving legal landscape'. Deloitte Legal has worked closely with ULaw to develop a new, innovative training programme to prepare future trainees for the SQE, ultimately allowing them to be at the forefront of what Michael Castle described as 'an exciting new era in legal education and training'. The challenge for the likes of ULaw will be to come up with a variety of SQE courses and tailor these to meet the needs of different students, as well as law firms' requirements, but they also offer the exciting opportunity to rethink the content and structure of preparation courses to guide students into their careers in the legal profession. The new SQE training contracts will allow law students to take up their place straight out of university, meaning they are able to earn while gaining qualifying legal work experience before sitting their SQE examinations. Professor Andrea Nollent, Vice-Chancellor and CEO of ULaw views these new training contracts as a way for students to experience the real legal world earlier in their career and education. For ULaw, providing a practical, hands-on legal education is hugely important in nurturing the next generation of legal talent. The new and current systems will run alongside each other for some years to allow for a transition period, and the SRA has proposed that anyone who starts their legal training before the SQE is introduced will have the option to choose which route they would like to take - as long as the current process is completed within 11 years. The Legal Services Board has voiced concerns about the quality, cost and diversity impact of the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE). Following concerns flagged by the super-regulator, it seems that the final sign-off on the SQE is not a done deal yet, and there is more work to be done and issues to be addressed before the new form of assessment is approved. You can read more about recent developments in our most recent article Legal Services Board Voices Concerns: SQE Still Has a Long Way to Go. The SQE presents a big change to the legal industry in terms of training and education of lawyers. There is nothing you need to do at this stage - exactly when the SQE will be formally introduced and what it will involve is still uncertain, but this will not be until 2021 at the earliest. The most important thing is keeping up-to-date with developments, and our legal recruitment experts are on hand to share all the information we have and to help ensure you are knowledgeable and informed when talking to potential employers. For more information on this article, or to speak to Aaron Burton about your search needs, contact him on 020 7269 6350 or


September 2019: Legal Movers & Shakers

Stay up-to-date with the movers and shakers in the legal sector. Here are the key movements in September 2019: Three lawyers have been promoted to Counsel in the London office of Shearman & Sterling. Alastair Goldrein (financial restructuring and insolvency), Margaret Ryan (international arbitration and public international law) and Tsegaye Laurendeau (international arbitration). Simmons & Simmons have appointed Paul Baker as the new leadership in its Dispute Resolution team. Paul chaired the London Asset Management Litigation Team and is a member of the firm's Crime, Fraud and Investigations Group, and will now take on the role of Dispute Resolution National Practice Head for the UK. Christina Blacklaws, who served as the Law Society of England and Wales' 174th president and fifth female president, holding office between 2018-19, has joined consulting and technology business Mason & Cook as a Non-Executive Director. City firm Wedlake Bell has appointed William Granger as Partner to help spearhead its Employment team. William previously founded the employment group at law firm Campbell Hooper in 1995 which has merged with two other firms to create what is now Charles Russell Speechlys. KMPG's legal services has welcomed two new Partners, Kate Eades and Usman Wahid, to it's Business Structuring and Transactions group. Kate joins from Greenberg Traurig where she was Partner for almost eight years specialising in corporate law, and Usman comes from Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner after fourteen years as a technology and outsourcing Partner. Joining as senior associates, Elizabeth Cookson, Laura Flanagan and Venisha Shah have joined Slater and Gordon's London Family Law team. For more information about this article, or to speak to Tamara about your recruiting needs or Legal jobs in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696368 or Back to Legal Movers & Shakers Archive >>


August 2019: Legal Movers and Shakers

Stay up-to-date with the movers and shakers in the legal sector. Here are the key movements in August 2019: Mona Vaswani is leaving Allen & Overy to join Millbank Corporate Head of Fraud, Mona Vaswani is leaving Allen & Overy to join Millbank’s expanding office. Leading a new group in the City office, she will be joining the firm having spent 26 years at the Magic Circle firm where she started as a trainee. Taylor Wessing hires Alison Dennis, Fieldfisher’s former life sciences head After the firm previously lost four Partners to Goodwin Procter, Taylor Wessing have begun to reassemble its group by hiring Alison Dennis, Fieldfisher’s former life sciences head. Dennis will be starting as the International Co-Head of Life Sciences, having previously been at Fieldfisher for over a decade. Goodwin’s London team secures Ali Ramadan, from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe As well as the previous four Partner hire from Taylor Wessing’s life sciences and technology team, Goodwin’s London team have secured a new hire. Ali Ramadan, from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe will be joining the firm advising on cross-border M&A and private equity transactions for the technology industry. Mark McNeill, former Shearman & Sterling Partner, will be starting at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan Mark McNeill, former Shearman & Sterling international arbitration partner, will be starting at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan as a new partner in their New York office. McNeill previously worked as an attorney-advisor in the US Department of State in Washing DC, representing investor state arbitrations. For more information about this article, or to speak to Tamara about your recruiting needs or Legal jobs in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696368 or Back to Legal Movers & Shakers Archive >>


What to Expect from Different Types of Law Firm

Choosing the law firm that’s right for you can be a daunting task. There are positives to every type of law firm and your decision will ultimately come down to what you are looking for in your future career as a lawyer. According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, as of last year there were nearly 10,500 law firms in the UK, all offering a unique and varied experience in terms of what to expect from your legal career. Here at Pro-Legal, we have outlined the main points to consider when choosing which type of law firm is best suited to you as an individual, from top Magic Circle and US firms right down to smaller boutique law firms. Magic Circle firms If you are looking to relocate to do banking, finance, corporate and international work, London’s Magic Circle is the place to be! For the past 15 years the ‘Magic Circle’ has consisted of a distinct group of five - Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Slaughter and May - and all are top of the list for revenue and partner profits, offer a broad scope of work (both national and international) and excellent training and development programmes in a fast-paced environment. Of course, there are pros and cons, but training and working at one of these top UK firms is highly desirable to many solicitors. Silver Circle firms London’s large commercial firms - otherwise known as those in the ‘Silver Circle’ - are not hugely different from the Magic Circle in terms of specialisms, work, hours and progression, but they fall just below them in terms of turnover. Silver Circle firms include Ashurst, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Herbert Smith Freehills and Macfarlanes, and all of these firms post significantly higher profit per equity partner and revenue per lawyer than the rest of the UK’s legal market. US firms US firms based in the UK can offer excellent salaries, hands-on experience early on in your career, and access to the US market. American firms based in London include Kirkland & Ellis, Skadden and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and these firms are generally characterised by the finance and corporate international work that is involved. However, US firms also come with their own unique culture, which often means longer working hours and the added pressures that come with fewer associates, billable targets and a higher salary. Mid-sized commercial firms These firms often enjoy similar profitability to those bigger London firms. You will find these mid-sized firms work primarily in business law and focus less on international work than, say, Magic Circle firms. These mid-sized commercial firms, including Addleshaw Goddard, Simmons & Simmons and Mishcon de Reya, offer a high degree of client contact and a much more intimate atmosphere than large law firms, and present fantastic opportunities for newly-qualified and trainee associates to gain exposure and work directly with well-established Partners. Smaller commercial firms London’s smaller commercial firms could be the right place for you if you are looking to relocate for better hours or are interested in real estate law. There are many of these firms throughout London, including Wedlake Bell, Memery Crystal and Russell-Cooke, but you may need to be willing to take a pay cut if you are moving from a larger London firm. Most of these smaller commercial firms are full-service law firms focusing on a broad range of practices, although some have built up a reputation within certain industries to specialise in one or two practice areas. Niche firms If you are looking to specialise in once niche practice area, there are also many law firms throughout the UK that can offer this. There are firms which specialise in areas including media, energy, insurance and intellectual property, and if you have experience in a certain industry a firm like this could be the best place for you. Some of the best niche firms in the UK include Vinson & Elkins (US), Clyde & Co and Bristows. Regional firms If you are looking for opportunities outside of London or have ties to a specific region within the UK and want to develop your legal career in that area, there are some fantastic regional firms including Burges Salmon, DAC Beachcroft and Ashfords, that could be right for you. Ranging from small offices to vast operations within their own right, regional firms don’t all fit the same mould, but they all offer a fantastic chance to venture beyond the capital. Although salaries across the board tend to be lower at regional firms in comparison to large London firms, living costs outside of London are also significantly cheaper. These firms are based around the UK and tend to focus on the needs of top regional clients, offering you the chance to become an important part of your local business community. National/multi-site firms Whether you want to work in London or outside the capital, you may choose to join a firm which has a strong UK-wide market recognition and presence in several major UK cities. National and multi-site firms perform large-ticket work and have massive operations based outside of London - for example, Eversheds Sutherland has nine branch offices across the UK and many more overseas. In this kind of firm, you will focus on more Commercial, Real Estate, Private Client and General Banking, and these national firms also offer a high degree of mobility and the chance to move across the country with the same firm. Small firms Solicitors choose to relocate to smaller, boutique law firms for various reasons. Although the work at these firms can be incredibly rewarding and involve daily client contact and a wide variety of cases, the salary at these small firms is typically the lowest. But, if your motivation behind practising law is to see how your work is affecting and helping individuals and the community in which you are practising in, and if you are looking for a very good work-life balance, relocating to a small law firm may be the right choice for you. For more information on this article, or to speak to our specialist legal recruiters about the next step in your legal career and which type of law firm is right for you, contact Tamara on 02072696368 or


UK vs. US Law Firms: The Big Debate

Each law firm, whether UK or US, has its own culture and way of working, and each individual firm comes with its pros and cons. However, there are general differences that you should consider when deciding whether to move from a UK to a US firm and vice versa. As an associate, your decision will ultimately come down to what type of person you are and what is important to you in your long-term legal career. Choosing your career path and deciding between a top UK or US law firm can seem daunting - our expert legal recruiters have put together some key information to help you make an informed decision. Salary Associates in US law firms have historically been paid much more than their counterparts in UK firms. The decision by New-York based Cravath Swaine & Moore to increase its first-year associate base salary to around £145k has been a ‘game-changer’, with White Shoe law firms increasingly paying ‘Cravath scale’ salaries as it has now become known in the market. In reality, no UK firm will ever be able to match the salaries offered by US firms and large UK law firms have done well to resist major NQ salary rises for this long, which has been primarily achieved by offering work-life balance and perks as opposed to simply cold cash. However, recent months have seen Freshfields followed by the other four Magic Circle law firms, as well as some Silver Circle firms, increase their salary for NQ lawyers to around £100k. So, while it is widely recognised that US law firms do pay more than their UK counterparts, the current UK legal market is also seeing considerable movement in terms of remuneration and benefits packages. Breadth of work If you want a role in an area that isn’t big-ticket transactional or mainstream litigation, you are looking in the wrong place with a US firm as there are some areas that US firms don’t tend to take as serious parts of practice. If you are looking to work in a relatively niche practice area, such as employment or intellectual property or private client, you are most likely to find a varied role that suits you within a UK law firm. However, for those lawyers who want to work on multi-million or billion-dollar/pound deals, US firms can provide this exposure which cannot be matched by most large UK law firms. Degree of responsibility To a degree, US firms can offer a greater degree of responsibility at an earlier stage in your career. This is partly because US firms tend to have a linear structure to their teams - instead of six associates as you may find in a UK firm, there may be only two or three. While it is important to mention that this is becoming less true of some firms, including Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins, this is the case for a significant number of US law firms. Due to the leaner structure of teams, you may find you have a greater degree of responsibility early on, which can be invaluable and an excellent catalyst for progressing your legal career. Progression Many people have the idea that US firms will push them up the ladder quicker. While this may be true in terms of initial responsibility and remuneration, it is also important to remember that as you move towards the senior end of your career where there is a huge demand placed on those aiming for Partnership, this ease of progression can skew in the other direction - potential Partners at US firms are expected to bring in more business than a UK centred firm. However, it is also true that fewer associates mean less competition for Partnership, a benefit of the structure of US law firms. In reality, the path to Partnership is tough at every firm, both UK and US, and depends heavily on your practice area and your individual team. Training and development While this very much depends on the firm, the team and the Partner, UK firms are ahead of most US firms when it comes to training for associates and have more resources available for development - associates at US law firms are not exposed to the same depth of training materials and advice as in large UK firms. US firms tend to focus on fee-earning and building a practice as many have been in London for a short period of time, whereas large UK firms have placed emphasis on training and development for decades, partly due to a larger number of Partners in UK law firms who can spend more time on associate development. However, US firms are self-aware in this regard and are making attempts to redress the imbalance. It seems that recently some of the more established US law firms in the London market are making roads to bridge this development gap and are placing more importance on associate training and development. Work-life balance Is it a generally agreed-upon view that UK law firms offer a better work-life balance. Typically you will work longer hours in US firms, most of whom expect a minimum of 2000 hours billed per year. In the practice areas typically covered by US firms, including corporate, banking and private equity, you will find yourself working longer hours which is due in part to the fewer number of associates per team. While, of course, it does depend on the individual firm, top-end UK city firms tend to offer employees better working hours and work-life balance. International opportunities and access to the US market Bigger deals tend to be in the US legal market, New-York in particular. New York is the largest financial and legal centre in the world, and therefore the value and profile of work that top US firms are able to attract can surpass what large UK firms are often doing in London and elsewhere in Europe. If you are looking for access to premium deals or international cross-border work, or even opportunities for international secondments in the States, working at a US firm might be the right choice for you. Office priority and power base One final thing to consider about working in a smaller London office of a big US firm is the office’s power base. Working for a US firm, you would need to be aware of how loud a voice the UK has in the wider firm as a whole entity. It is important to understand that the firm’s strategy will most likely come from overseas and may not take into account the idiosyncrasies of the London market, which could be perceived as a negative of working in the UK office of a large US law firm. On the other hand, if you work for a large UK law firm - a Magic Circle or Silver Circle firm for example - London is the centre of operations and the firm’s vision and strategy is formulated with the London market at the forefront. Of course, there will always be an element of internal politics - as in any law firm - but going into a UK law firm you can be sure that policy is being written by people in the UK legal market. Your choice of law firm must ultimately come down to what is important to you in your long-term legal career. If you are looking for a higher salary, early opportunities for responsibility and progression and international opportunities, a role at US law firm may be the right choice firm for you. Or if your priorities lie with a good variety of work, training and development and a better work-life balance, you may want to consider working for a top UK firm. For more information about this article or to discuss current opportunities in both UK and US law firms, contact Tamara on 020 7269 6368 or


July 2019: Legal Movers and Shakers

Stay up-to-date with the movers and shakers in the legal sector. Here are the key movements in July 2019: Adrian Lawrence- project finance partner has joined White & Case from Ashurst: Ashurst has appointed Adrian Lawrence as a partner in its project finance team in London. Lawrence joins from White & Case where he worked for more than ten years in its energy, infrastructure, project and asset finance practice across its London, Moscow, Doha, Hong Kong and Beijing offices. He has extensive experience in project finance, banking, corporate and capital markets transactions, with a focus on oil and gas and petrochemical projects. He has advised in some of the world’s largest and most complex multi-sourced project financing across a range of jurisdictions in Sub-Sahara Africa, the Middle East and beyond, including financings involving all of the ECAs. Ashley Hill – Tax, Trust and Estate specialist has joined Irwin Mitchell from BDO (we placed him): Irwin Mitchell has appointed Ashley Hill as a partner in its London tax, trusts and estates team. Tax accountant Hill joins from BDO, where he spent 12 years as a tax principal. Prior to this, he spent time with Ernst & Young (EY) and KPMG. He is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation. Hill specialises in the taxation of high-net-worth individuals with complex and varied affairs often across multiple jurisdictions. He advises on international and offshore tax issues for high-net-worth individuals, their structures and businesses both in and outside the UK, with tax compliance and reporting being an important aspect of this advice. Gavin Weir – Corporate Partner has joined Akin Gump from White & Case: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP has announced that Gavin Weir will join the firm as a partner in its London office. Weir will join from White & Case, where he has served as co-leader of its financial institutions M&A group. He is expected to join Akin Gump later this Summer. Weir has significant experience in domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance, with a particular emphasis on complex, high-end corporate transactions focused on financial institutions (including investment funds), technology and life sciences. He advises on international and domestic mergers and acquisitions, public and private takeovers, auctions, reorganisations, joint ventures, corporate governance, and other corporate transactions. Weir is qualified to practice in England and Wales. Andrew Harris – Private Equity and Corporate Partner has joined Vedder Price from Arnold & Porter: Vedder Price has welcomed Andrew Harris as a partner in the firm’s finance and transactions group in London. Harris is also appointed as the European head of private equity and corporate. He joins from Arnold & Porter and has also worked as London managing partner and head of private equity and corporate at Kaye Scholer LLP before its mergers with Arnold & Porter. He focuses on private equity and private merger and acquisition transactions. He has experience in share and asset purchases, disposals/exits, management buy-outs, management buy-ins, buy and builds, joint ventures and restructurings. He acts for private equity firms, entrepreneurs and highnet-worth individuals, as well as portfolio companies and management teams. Mark Aspinall and Paul Sinnott – Energy Sector Partners who have both joined Hill Dickinson from Eversheds Sutherland: Energy sector lawyers Mark Aspinall and Paul Sinnott have joined the commodities team at Hill Dickinson in London as partners from Eversheds Sutherland. Aspinall specialises in the midstream (processing)/downstream (trading) oil sector and associated tanker markets (crude, products and chemicals). His practice is focused on dispute resolution and transactional matters covering trade finance, physical sales, and storage, contracts of carriage by sea, processing/throughput agreements, related joint ventures, SPAs and SHAs. Sinnott focuses on transactional and regulatory matters, as well as all forms and stages of dispute resolution. He acts largely for energy and metals industry client which trade, finance, hedge of transport commodities. Laura Nyman – Real Estate Disputes Partner has joined Seddons from Howard Kennedy: Seddons has appointed Lara Nyman as a property disputes partner. She joins from Howard Kennedy, where she spent five years as a partner. Nyman specialises in providing advice, including risk analysis and strategy, to landlords and tenants as well as developers, investors and other property professionals. For more information about this article, or to speak to Tamara about your recruiting needs or Legal jobs in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696368 or Back to Legal Movers & Shakers Archive >>


What Does Freshfields' £100k NQ Salary Mean For The Legal Profession?

May 2019 saw Magic Circle law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer increase its salary for newly qualified lawyers (NQs) to £100k plus a discretionary bonus, which was largely fuelled by competition from large US firms. Large UK law firms have done well to resist major NQ salary rises for this long, which has primarily been achieved by offering work-life balance and perks as opposed to simply cold cash. However, the 18% increase in pay for NQ lawyers at Freshfields means their salary is now more than double the pay received by their counterparts at investment banks, and this has been fuelled by aggressive competition from large US law firms, including Milbank and Cravath, which last year started paying their NQ lawyers £145k. Freshfields announced in a statement: ‘Our pay offering is a critical part of our talent strategy and reflects our continued commitment to attracting and retaining the very best talent in the legal market. We regularly review our compensation and benefits across the firm with this in mind’. But what does this mean for the legal profession going forward? This move by Freshfields inevitably put pressure on the other four Magic Circle law firms to follow suit to maintain their elite status among future lawyers. Clifford Chance increased their salary for new lawyers at the beginning of June, followed by Slaughter & May, then Allen & Overy and most recently Linklaters. Although it is also worth noting that both Clifford Chance and Slaughters include bonuses in their £100k pay whilst Freshfields are offering discretionary bonuses on top of the increased salary, leaving Freshfields out in front. This move by Freshfields will not only affect those firms in the Magic Circle. Silver Circle firms, such as Travers Smith and Macfarlanes, who offer the strongest competition to Magic Circle firms for hotshot law students will also be forced to increase salaries for NQ lawyers if they want to remain in the competition. This is already apparent, with Macfarlanes boosting it's NQ remuneration package to range from £98,600 to £110,250. This will then be followed by global megafirms, and firms below them and so on. This move may also affect UK corporate law - paying like US firms inevitably means working like US firms. Large US firms have less junior associates per Partner which results in longer working hours, and London headquartered firms will have little choice but to move towards a working model similar to that of US firms if they want to maintain profitability. It is perhaps fair to say that the US business culture does not fully translate culturally to the UK, which means that UK law firms will be looking for ways to increase efficiency. The UK is arguably ahead of the US in terms of driving more efficiencies with lawtech, and recent years have seen major law firms investing in technology that’s beginning to yield results in the British legal market. Aside from lawtech, north-shoring is likely to rise as it is cheaper to employ people outside of London due to London housing and renting prices. This is all worth considering when deciding on your legal career path once you qualify as a lawyer. With this salary increase, competition among top UK law firms will be even fiercer. There are plenty of options for you as a newly-qualified lawyer and with the current legal market seeing considerable movement in terms of remuneration and benefits packages, speaking to one of our specialist legal recruiters can help you make the decision that’s best for your future career. For more information on this article, or advice on the current legal market and opportunities available, contact Tamara on 020 7269 6368 or



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