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London Update – December 2021

London Update – December 2021

What a difference a year makes…

Reading back our London entry from late 2020 when we were lamenting the almost year-long hiring freezes that had become the market norm, it is pleasing to be able to report that the London and wider UK legal market has bounced back like Bruce Willis in Die Hard 3 – with a vengeance!

The resilient London market, late 2021 (colourised)

Almost every area of transactional/non-contentious law is busy, with most firms actively hiring (or at the very least, happy to consider speculative approaches from strong candidates).

Candidates with a skillset in Corporate (Public/Private M&A, Private Equity), Capital Markets (ECM/DCM/High Yield Bonds), Banking & Finance (Leveraged, Acquisition, Real Estate, Structured & Asset), Funds, TMT, IP, Construction/Energy/Projects, and Financial Regulatory are in particular demand, with bidding wars the norm for mid-level candidates coming from market-leading teams in Australia/NZ.

Outside of these sector areas, Litigation & Arbitration and Insolvency & Restructuring, remain relatively quiet – a symptom of a very buoyant market! The odds of an international move into areas like Competition, Employment, Private Client, and Real Estate also remain long, as local experience tends to be a non-negotiable pre-requisite for most firms, but please don’t let that put you off reaching out to your local Montgomery contact for a chat about the market.

The big news in London in the last quarter has been the seismic shift in lawyer salaries. A few major White-Shoe US law firms deviated from the Cravath Scale (not a salary fixing cartel) earlier in 2021, and the waterfall effect on the wider legal market has been impossible to ignore. Almost every major player in the market has been forced to react by embarking on off-cycle salary reviews (unheard of in the UK market); so much so that the Magic Circle now sit well above the £100k base salary mark for newly qualified (think 1-2 PAE equivalent) UK lawyers, with the Silver Circle and International firms not far behind.

As a result, there really hasn’t been a more rewarding time to make a move to the UK, and Montgomery are ideally placed to assist – we have a superb track record of assisting Aussie & NZ-qualified lawyers to make the transition, and London firms are more receptive than ever to overseas talent given the battering the UK legal market has taken by almost every major firm having been on a hiring spree for 12 months.

Please reach out to our UK office head Glenn Johnston, or any of our Australian based team for an in-depth chat about how we can help you make a London move in 2022.

Glenn Johnston

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