March 03, 2022

10 of the best? What a decade in legal recruitment has taught me


I’m celebrating 10 years with Bygott Biggs, right in the midst of a rapidly changing legal recruitment market.

As such, I thought it might be an opportune time to reflect on the past but also to look to the future and a market full of dynamism, change and opportunity for all.

So here’s 10 positive changes for Solicitors that I’ve seen since starting in legal recruitment.

1. Moving and improving

You’ve never had it so good! I’ve seen an incredible increase in the number of opportunities available with the growth of private practice law firms and in-house legal teams.

Yes, there have been numerous mergers and acquisitions, meaning some smaller firms have been incorporated into larger firms. However, there have been new entrants to the market including alternative models to the traditional law firm and in-house legal teams have continued to grow.

The legal recruitment market is unrivalled compared to any time in my career to date with an abundance of opportunity from NQ to Partner / General Counsel.

2. Remuneration - show me the money!

Salaries have increased and are going up at an exponential rate. DLA have just announced they are paying NQs in the regions £65k and Eversheds have confirmed they will be paying £62k from May this year. (Compare this to most of the other large commercial firms who paid £45-50k last year.) This will really shake up the market.

In addition, firms now offer competitive bonus or benefits structures, allowing for strong performance (not always financial) to be rewarded.

3. “Hello” (Golden) is it me you’re looking for?

Yep, they’re back with a bang. For the first time in years, the team and I are seeing 'signing on fees' or 'golden hellos' for new recruits in order to attract the very best talent. Meanwhile, more and more performance bonuses are being structured and paid out by ever increasing numbers of firms to help them retain their top talent.

4. Features and Benefits - 38 days holiday?

Yes please! OK, this might not be the norm, but it shows that employers are offering more than the 20 days that was common when I started my career. I’ve also seen the introduction of the option to buy and sell holiday time. Across the board, there are a raft of benefits on offer that just weren’t there when I started as firms embrace more holistic elements as they seek peak performance.

5. ‘Work life balance’ - truth or myth?

Some commentators may claim this is a myth but the pandemic has opened up numerous opportunities to explore more creative models. Working patterns have changed, with most firms offering hybrid working, even post-pandemic.

There has been a huge shift in firms and in-house legal teams moving to a way of working that allows a real balance between work and home life. Whether that time is for family or to pursue hobbies or interests outside of work. What’s more, employers and employees alike can see that it works!

6. Diversity & inclusivity - a new era of opportunity for all

“Blind” CVs, with academic achievements and gender being left out are now being trialled by more and more firms with a view to attracting a more diverse workforce and the topic is under ongoing debate.

Happily, I can say that in recent years I’ve worked with employers who focus much more on the candidate’s experience and suitability for the position they are recruiting for. I have secured more and more new positions for solicitors who don’t have a traditional background for both law firms and in-house legal teams.

7. A welcome shift to wellbeing at work

One of the main areas for positive change has been a conscious focus on mental health and wellbeing, with more support being offered to individuals by firms.

Whether it is access to confidential aid, support from a counsellor/therapist or even an additional day out of the office to promote wellbeing, more and more firms are helping to tackle one of the great challenges of the modern workplace.

This awareness barely existed when I started in recruitment and is a hugely positive stepchange, especially given what we have all recently experienced with the impact of the pandemic.

8. Dress code - brown shoes with THAT suit?

Now, this MIGHT well have been a historical sartorial faux pas on my part in my younger years but you get the gist! Formal business dress used to be the “go to” for office attire or meetings, but this is changing. I even recall on one occasion a Partner was wearing shorts and a t-shirt (seriously, it was VERY hot). I know dress code can be a divisive issue but I’m all for things being relaxed, where appropriate. The bottom line is… 'dress for your day'.

9. Social media and a sense of entrepreneurship

When I started Twitter was still really in its infancy and Instagram (and plenty of other social media platforms) didn’t exist. With the advent of these new social media platforms, solicitors have an ability to create content, carve a niche and reach a new audience. I’ve seen solicitors who are also authors, advisors, content creators, and (dare I say it) “influencers”. Whether this is all a change for the better, I’ll let you be the judge!

10. Relationships are the key

I’ve saved the best for last. Our role is no longer about advising on a one-off career move. We’re developing career long relationships which means we’re on hand to provide help and advice at key points along the way such as salary benchmarking, promotion criteria or even helping put together business plans at partner promotion time.

It’s the same with clients: there’s been a definite switch or perhaps even a “blurring” of the lines from client and supplier to trusted partner relationships between recruiters and law firms. This has allowed far greater insight into the needs of the business and ultimately means a far better service.

It is altogether a far more strategic alliance between all parties and that means a better future for everyone.

Richard Betts, Associate Director & Legal Recruitment Consultant

The team are well aware of what is happening within the marketplace both locally and on a national scale and you can always rely on them for an intelligent, honest and supportive approach.

Vicki Simpson, HR Manager Freeths