Demand was at its highest for ambitious counsel with two to five years of post-qualified experience (PQE). Those possessing experience of funds, derivatives and regulatory law were of particular interest to many organisations on both a permanent and interim or contract basis.
Within the senior end of the market, focusing on professionals with 10 years of PQE or more, there has been a far weaker pattern of recruitment, although the funds and finance space has seen occasional spikes. This slower rate of external recruitment is an indication of the prevalence of internal promotion.
Regulatory changes are expected to dictate the pattern of recruitment through the course of the coming year. The Senior Managers Regime (SMR), due to come into effect in March 2017, is already driving demand across both the contract and permanent markets. Compliance recruitment, which remains extremely buoyant, is absorbing much of the headcount that would normally have been allocated to in-house legal teams.
The legal interim and contract market within the financial space continues to eclipse permanent recruitment. Businesses have embraced this method of bringing in high-quality legal assistance at a fraction of the cost of an external law firm. Interim professionals and contract staff are being increasingly sought after to assist with ongoing project requirements, and help implement regulatory changes as well as covering for key members of staff taking extended leave.
As well as a need for candidates with funds and derivatives experience, there remains consistent demand for experienced master agreement negotiators as well as financial services commercial lawyers with five to eight years of PQE. The ongoing regulatory changes are also creating a need for professionals experienced within the securities space.