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5 Ways You Can Create A Stress-Free Culture In Your Law Firm

  • May 10, 2019

A stressed employee is often an unhappy and unproductive employee. Yes, legal work is demanding. However, that doesn’t mean you have to neglect the emotional health of your legal team.

There’s a growing body of research that confirms the link between employee happiness and workplace productivity. A recent study at the University of Warwick revealed that happy employees work harder and are 12% more productive and motivated than those who are unhappy or stressed.

A lot of workplace stress can be alleviated simply by providing opportunities to fulfil basic human needs. In addition to being less stressed, employees who feel their needs are being met in the workplace, feel more comfortable, confident, and are motivated to work more productively.

Here are five simple practices that will help foster a stress-free culture in your law firm.

1. Develop a Wellness Programme

The firm that exercises together, stays together. This is something Japanese businesses have known for some time. Working out as an office will not only help build camaraderie; but research also shows that daily exercise is effective in helping to increase happiness (and lower stress) as anti-depression medication.

Workplace ‘workout’ can take many different forms; from a lunchtime yoga class, to organising an office sports team. You could even arrange to have monthly matches against other law firms. Working together to achieve a common goal on the field will translate to stronger relationships and improved teamwork in the office. It’s also a great way for people to get to know everyone in the law firm better.

In addition to providing opportunities for group exercise, you could bring in a wellness coach to speak to staff on ways they can fit daily exercise and proper nutrition into their busy professional lives. As well as reducing stress, a healthy diet and regular physical exercise will enable your employees to think more clearly, while having greater creativity and productivity.

2. Mentor Young Talent

Workplace mentoring programmes not only help new employees learn the ropes, but they also help them to build strong professional relationships with senior members of staff. In addition to helping them perform more effectively, mentorships give younger new team members a sense of belonging and worth. They are also an effective way for new employees to get answers quickly, allowing them to develop more quickly in their roles.

Research shows that employees who benefit from mentoring programmes have higher job satisfaction, which often correlates to increased productivity and reduced turnover. Frustration and stress over not knowing how to correctly do a job is one of the leading causes of staff turnover for many organisations. Therefore, providing new talent with the support and feedback necessary to carry out their work correctly and effectively will increase both workplace efficiency and retention.

3. Encourage Open Communication & Employee Feedback

Ineffective communication is one of the leading causes of workplace stress and discontent. One of the best ways to reduce uncertainty and anxiety in the workplace is to improve employer to employee communication channels by encouraging open communication between all team members. This will help to ensure that everyone is clear on their purpose and what their role is, which will help to develop a more cohesive community in your firm.

Another great way to help improve workplace culture and reduce stress is by implementing an employee feedback system, where all employees are able to provide feedback to the firm’s leadership team. An employee feedback system will give your employees a sense of importance, allowing them to feel understood by giving them an outlet to voice their opinions and concerns.

4. Focus On Work-Life Balance

The secret behind many highly successful companies is their promotion of work-life balance. In addition to encouraging staff to make the most of their personal time, there are many things your firm can do to promote a healthier work-life balance among your legal team.

You could adopt a flexible schedule, allowing employees to start/end work an hour or two later when needed. In addition to this, you could also implement a work-from-home scheme, where employees might be eligible to occasionally work at home in certain circumstances. Another option is to promote digital downtime by encouraging staff to go for a walk at lunchtime and take ‘digital breaks’.

Allowing your employees to take time off when they’re feeling worn out — or encouraging them to work from home when appropriate — can make a big difference in the health and satisfaction of your legal team.

5. Recognise and Reward Employee Achievements

Employees appreciate sincere and specific recognition of their contributions and achievements. Effectively recognising your team members will not only increase their sense of belonging in your law firm, it will simultaneously reduce any work-related anxiety, while increasing their commitment to their role, resulting in a happier and more productive employee.

However, it’s important that employee rewards are not forced or seem contrived. While there are many recognition-schemes your firm could adopt, it’s crucial to ensure that these acknowledgements do not become expectations or entitlements. Each recognition should be tailored to the individual employee and the nature of their contribution.

Implementing an employee recognition programme that effectively rewards the successes of your staff, will not only help you to reduce stress and engage your employees, it will also work to attract the top talent you want on your legal team.

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Talent pipelining for success

  • May 15, 2018

Developing robust and effective talent pipelines is vital for any legal firm looking to grow, or indeed not looking to fall behind the competition. However, according to research from Lee Hecht Harrison, a worrying 30% of employers describe their pipeline as poor or non-existent. But why is building long term relationships with potential employees so important and how can legal firms do it effectively?

The issue is particularly important in the current market because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find and recruit good people, at a time when a number of sectors, including law, are not only suffering from skills shortages, but the uncertainty surrounding Brexit is impacting hiring too. And in order to ensure your firm doesn’t reach a stage where it can’t find the talent it requires, the best practice is to build pipelines for all the areas you may potentially need staff in the short and long term future.

The importance of employer brand

By determining the gaps between available and needed talent, firms can identify the most effective strategies for acquiring and developing those individuals. After all, it’s not easy to tap into and engage with talent pools if they have no idea who you are or what you can do for them. In order to build up this relationship, professionals need to recognise and engage with your employer brand, which takes time. It can’t simply be done overnight.

By building an effective pipeline, your firm can shorten the length of time needed to fill positions, because it will likely already have a ‘warm’ relationship with people, meaning you won’t have to recruit from a standing start. It can also help you to engage with the enormous pool of passive talent in the UK. By developing a pipeline into your organisation you can engage with individuals who would be compatible with your firm, but aren’t necessarily ready to move right now.

Identifying future talent gaps

Another significant benefit of strategic recruitment like this is that it allows you to plan for your talent needs not just now, but years into the future. It’s highly likely that your firm could diversify and break into new specialisms or geographical locations, and employing professionals to work in these new departments and locations requires careful planning. If your firm plans to move into litigation, for example, you can build up relationships with talent in this field way before you’ll ever actually need to employ them. This means that when the time does come round to recruit, you will be prepared and ready, rather than scrabbling about looking to promote yourself to potential employees. It also allows you to gain a much greater insight into the people that you’re hiring and whether they would be a good cultural fit for your firm. Anyone can come across well in an interview, but by engaging and keeping a close on eye on the people in your pipeline, you’ll be able to see if they really would be a good match for your firm.

To read more insights from the team take a look at our other blogs. And if you’re seeking a recruitment partner we should be talking. Get in touch today to see how we can help your firm.

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Where’s all the Legal talent gone?

  • February 20, 2018

You place an ad with a recruitment agency, excited to see who will apply and what the crop of candidates will bring. You’ve a great reputation, an attractive benefits package and offer a generous salary, so why aren’t quality candidates coming through the door?

It’s a familiar story. Plenty of undergraduates show an interest in law; according to the Law Society, a total of 22,765 students were accepted onto undergraduate law courses in England and Wales in the academic year 2016-17. And it’s not as though there are only a handful of fully-qualified, experienced solicitors in the land, as the same report indicates that there were 175,160 solicitors on the roll at the end of July 2016. While the figures appear healthy at first glance, the reality is that law firms are struggling to keep pace with changing demands.

What does a talent shortage mean for the legal sector?

One area of the law where a lack of quality candidates is particularly prevalent is in Conveyancing. The labour-intensive process of Conveyancing and the growth of other areas of law, such as work for private clients, mean that firms are struggling to meet the property-related demands of their client base. Firms are under pressure to retain existing talent and attract new talent from a shrinking pool.

Firms should take action to remain competitive

A 2017 survey by PwC found that more than half of the top law firms within the UK were not keeping pace with new technology. As a result, labour-intensive processes, such as facilitating the sale of property, remain just as labour-intensive and reliant on slow postal systems for sending documents to be signed as they ever were.

Not only does this make the field of conveyancing unattractive as a whole, a lack of investment in technology signals to a candidate that this is not a firm that is looking forward or moving in the right direction. Investing in technology to allow electronic signatures and cut out snail mail makes life easier, and the service more attractive, for all parties from staff members and candidates to clients.

Alongside investment in best practice for the future, training is another key factor in offering a competitive edge when recruiting candidates. As time moves on and client demands change, so too must the skills offered by solicitors. And of course, there’s the ever-present spectre of Brexit looming, bringing with it an uncertain future with Europe, and clients that may need advice on trading overseas. Equipping your staff to deal with these issues broadens their skill set, strengthens what your practice can offer, and makes the whole package more appealing to candidates.

The most important factor for law firms

With ways of working changing faster than they have in decades, technological advances continuing apace and an uncertain relationship with Europe on the horizon, flexibility is the defining characteristic law firms need to display. Investing in better ways of doing things and training staff is all well and good, but it’s only relevant until circumstances and client demands change next week, next month, or next year. Law firms need to have one eye on the future, one eye on the lay of the land, and adjust and readjust as times move on to be in with a fighting chance of attracting – and keeping – the very best candidates.

Contact us today to see how we can assist you with your Recruitment needs by calling us on 01772 259121 or Register a Vacancy directly.

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Big firm, little firm…get the best from your recruitment provider

  • January 22, 2018

There’s no doubt that recruitment in the legal profession today is very different than it was a decade or two ago. Firms have had to adapt to new hiring processes – online communities, digital meet-ups and candidate data all play a significant role in today’s recruitment.

And with so many different aspects now to consider, the lure of using a big recruitment agency is appealing; the legwork is done for you, the burden is taken away from your HR department, and in the past it’s proved an effective way to access large pools of available candidates.

Yet all this can come at a cost – aggressive third-party recruiters, increasing placement rates and commission fees, and dealing with recruiters that are only interested in fulfilling their activity quotas pose a potential risk when working with a large recruitment agency.

So, what if using a recruitment giant wasn’t the only option besides taking on the recruiting yourself? What if you could benefit from a more personal touch in the hiring process, enabling you to find and attract unique top legal talent that could really help your firm excel?
Here’s why you don’t have to settle for using the big recruitment firms:

• Jobs boards are universal – despite what you may hear, jobs boards are accessible for all, and there’s no reason why you need to rely on the biggest firms to advertise for you. Don’t forget that a cleverly written, engaging job description will help you stand out amongst hundreds of job vacancies advertised in exactly the same way.
• You can get the same level of candidate access elsewhere – don’t be fooled into thinking that it is only the biggest agencies that have access to the greatest range of candidates. It’s not simply a case of volume, you need access to quality, talented candidates that are the right fit for your firm – and that means tailoring the hiring process to meet your specific needs.
• Smaller firms give the personal touch – smaller recruitment agencies can put in the time, effort and legwork to build relationships over time – both with you the client, and with those all-important candidates. The best specialist agencies will have built up relationships with firms over many years, building trust and reputation as they do.
• A credible voice in the legal market is invaluable – specialist agencies will be able to demonstrate detailed knowledge of the legal sector, and you’ll benefit from working with true experts in the field, rather than relying on a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Plus, you can tap into valuable industry help and advice, as and when you need it.
• Speed takes priority – this isn’t always the case but big recruitment agencies will often prioritise filling quotas, meeting targets and making commission, over providing you with the service you’re looking for. Time is money as they say…but what if speed over quality costs you more in the long run?
• They come at a high price – as well as charging high fees for their services, you might also find costs mount up elsewhere too. Failed hires, in particular, are extremely expensive for legal firms, highlighting the importance of investing wisely from the start to find the right candidate to fit your role.
• Sophisticated data analytics aren’t just for the giants – increasingly data analytics are playing a bigger part in recruitment but you don’t have to be using a big recruitment agency in order to access them. Specialist firms will often have a better insight into the data that specifically concerns the legal profession.
• Thinking outside the box pays off – if you want to successfully reach out and recruit a range of legal professionals, you need to be thinking outside of the box. Not only are millennials more likely to jump ship, research shows that 90% of professionals are interested in hearing about new job opportunities…so it’s important you don’t overlook passive candidates, in search of only active ones.

Finding the right fit for your firm is more important now than ever before and having the right recruiting process in place – with a focus on the personal touch as well as just ‘filling the role’ – is essential.
Of course, the most effective way to find, access and attract exceptional legal talent is by ensuring you’re working with a recruitment provider that understands your firm and helps you to get the most out of your candidate search. To find out more about what a specialist firm can bring to the table, just get in touch with us here at Clayton

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Technology: friend or foe of the conveyancing lawyer?

  • January 22, 2018

As any conveyancing professional knows, there can be an inordinate amount of time spent pouring over papers and inputting data manually, not to mention the frustration of being part of a sequence of communication very much like the property chain itself, where it only takes one lawyer to go on holiday and all associated proceedings grind to a halt for a fortnight. The real risk of a process where things are dragged out is of course, that the chain may collapse and the sale of the property may not go through at all. And, in an age where so much information is readily available at the touch of a button, it is understandable if clients get a little impatient.

Most of us would agree that more efficient methods are needed and as a result, in recent years there has been a surge in the number of companies providing technology specifically tailored to the needs of conveyancers, designed to simplify and speed up the most time consuming and intricate processes. For example, firms can easily send documents via secure portal and receive electronic signatures, rather than relying on the return postal system and complex tech that now exists which enables faster and increasingly sophisticated property searches.

So, are firms making use of the new tools at their disposal? Not according to a recent survey by PwC, which found that 55 of the UK’s top 100 law firms were failing to keep pace with cutting edge technology, with just 11% utilising big data or predictive analytics. However, awareness is certainly increasing: Reuters’ analysis revealed a 484% rise in new legal services patents globally, indicating that while there is a way to go, law firms all over the world are beginning to invest in legal tech.

With clients’ expectations growing, firms must ensure their resources are being utilised in the most efficient way and demonstrate their value add to clients. It’s clear that many firms need to revolutionise in order to compete. But, when this technology would free up lawyers to concentrate on real add-value work, such as providing strategic advice, why are so many, reluctant to embrace it? One reason might be the perceived risk to jobs. However, rather than seeing tech as a threat, firms should recognise its potential to help them grow and actually increase headcount. Conveyancers sit on a wealth of data: proper analysis of it will enable you to capture its innate value and use it to offer more comprehensive consulting services. Matt Taylor, a partner at Clifford Chance, agrees. At a recent roundtable hosted by news resource Legal Futures, he predicted that the shape of law firms will change and “move towards the consultant side” of the property transaction as a result of embracing technology and data. For example, Norton Rose Fulbright’s Newcastle office, already has a hub of lawyers and legal technologists working with process designers and paralegals to trial and apply new legal technologies.

So, the message to law firms is that the leading players of the future will be staffed and shaped differently. Law practices will almost certainly start to move towards the consultancy side and develop teams which are more system savvy. Try to keep abreast of changes, identify where the landscape is shifting and what it means for your business in terms of required skills and talent. Businesses should be planning strategically, with a view to creating a team of lawyers and those providing technical expertise – such as data scientists or programmers- working closely together. Many firms will chose to enter into partnerships with these service providers. It’s important not to underestimate how quickly we will see these changes: rapid technological developments could mean more traditional companies fail to keep pace and struggle to remain relevant to their clients. The firms that keep abreast of these changes and staff their teams accordingly are the ones that will reap the commercial rewards.

To find out how Clayton Legal can help you plan for the future needs of your firm, contact us today.

Take a look at some of our other blogs to gain more insight into the legal sector.

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More Coverage for Clayton Legal’s Yorkshire Analysis

  • January 5, 2018

UK recruitment industry news website Recruitment Buzz is the latest media outlet to cover our market analysis for advertised legal roles in Yorkshire.

This follows articles from publications including Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Business LinkBdaily, and the Global Recruiter.

To find out what the results mean for legal professionals in Yorkshire and the surrounding areas, please click the links above.

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Are technological advancements and client expectations holding law firms back?

  • December 14, 2017

Rapid advancements in technology have been widely adopted by employers in varying sectors and geographies – and for the most part, they’ve been introduced highly effectively. However, new research suggests that the sheer rate at which technology is advancing – coupled with rising client expectations – has actually hindered the profitability of the majority of law firms here in the UK.

 

In an attempt to become more agile for example, and reflect the wishes and desires of millennials, law firms have set out to embrace mobile working arrangements…yet this has often proved both expensive and somewhat patchy in its effectiveness.

So where are firms falling short and what can they do to ensure their success?

PwC’s annual survey of law firms reveals that a combination of rising client expectations, increased pricing pressures and staffing costs, and a failure to keep abreast of new technologies, has led to average fee income growth of just 3%. In addition, half of the firms surveyed saw domestic profits fall. Given that technology can be of huge benefit in reducing staffing costs – through automated processes, for example – and reacting faster to clients’ demands, are these firms missing a trick? It would appear so…

 

As David Snell, partner and leader of PwC’s law firm advisory group says, “Fundamental action is needed to future-proof the shape and operation of the legal sector. Technology will impact all areas, from client service delivery to business support and, importantly, staff recruitment and retention.” 

 

Clearly, firms need to harness technology to their advantage – not only to assist their talent management strategies but crucially to deliver a better, more efficient service to their clients.

Increased agility and a focus on the client

So, how can firms focus their efforts on systems that will enable them to be more agile, increase efficiencies and ultimately deliver a better client experience? Client demands are changing, and the pressure is on law firms to manage their relationships and use their technology more innovatively.

 

The people agenda will continue to play a large part, and against a backdrop of skills shortages and intense competition for talent, the legal sector must embrace emerging technologies to ensure the very best legal candidates want to work at their firms. Snell, for instance, highlights artificial intelligence as one such innovation that will not only aid retention but also help firms to achieve more effective staffing levels and react faster to changing client demands.

The answer?

Recruiting, developing and retaining top talent remains a priority for boards, and while many have embraced the agile working model, it’s perhaps time that more follow suit given PwC’s findings. Especially when we consider that 84% of all respondents in a recent Grass Roots survey indicated that their benefits package is keeping them in their current role.

 

The message is clear; if firms want to keep staffing levels maintained in order to meet the ever-growing demands of their client base, agile working must be a part of their business model.

 

How does yours compare? For more information on how to adopt a more effective recruitment and retention strategy, talk to us here at Clayton Legal.

Call the team today for information about how Clayton Legal can assist your firm with recruitment and retention strategies. And for more insights from the team take a look at our other blogs and resources.

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Artificial Intelligence and the future of law firms

  • December 11, 2017

What exactly is Artificial Intelligence?

Lawyers have been making good use of LegalTech – software which allows them to do their work in a way which is more efficient and cost-effective – for some years now. A number of repetitive, labour-intensive manual processes such as reviewing documents for relevant information can now be done through automation, which enables professionals to devote more time to strategic work. But the most pioneering strand of this technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI) – software that has the capability to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. When this kind of technology is used, it promises to be faster and more accurate than a human. In a profession where attention to detail is everything and mistakes can be costly, it pays to be aware of what AI can offer.

How law firms are currently benefitting from AI

So, how is AI transforming the everyday practice of law? The most common way is during the process of document review. Once, routine tasks such as drafting contracts and analysing legal documents were often delegated to junior lawyers. Now AI can be used to proofread and intelligently detect errors such as inconsistencies and omissions far faster and more accurately than a human, which dramatically speeds up the preparation of complex documents.

AI is also expediting the process of research and improving its accuracy: cognitive intelligence applications such as Watson can, for example, search through case law and identify relevant information and patterns, then evaluate and summarise the results. This makes it a valuable tool to lawyers working on due diligence, investigations and compliance related tasks. Staff at Berwin Leighton Paisner, for example, use an AI system to extract and check data when they work on certain property disputes, in a process which now takes minutes rather than weeks.

There are also some examples of AI currently being used in ways which seem more in line with the futuristic, robotic visions depicted in science fiction. A number of firms have been experimenting with AI robotic lawyers -or ‘lawyerbots’ – which can be used to provide legal advice and answer questions over the internet. With development, this could certainly replace the ‘send a request form’ section of many firms’ websites. In addition, AI is being used to sift data to predict outcomes, one fascinating example being the algorithm created by Chicago-Kent College of Law professor Daniel Martin Katz. It predicted the outcomes of 7700 U.S. Supreme Court cases with 70 percent accuracy, making it more precise than the forecasts made by legal experts. As the technology develops, it seems reasonable to anticipate AI being used to review information in real time and conduct risk assessments in order to help deal with potential legal problems before they emerge – pre-empting litigation.

How law professionals will need to adapt

But what does this mean for the future of the legal profession? And will lawyers need new skills? Unfortunately, there isn’t any AI which makes predictions about that. However, we can assume that as more legal professionals come to recognise how useful AI is as a time- and money- saving diagnostic tool, the more they will use it to support their work. It is likely that lawyers, especially those at the junior end of the market who are often tasked with those time-consuming research and review processes, will be freed up to work on more cognitive tasks, necessitating a rethinking of how teams are structured, as well as the responsibilities allocated to individuals. It’s also worth remembering that AI is only accurate when applied correctly, so training in the use of the technology will be imperative.

Why lawyers needn’t fear being replaced by robots

All of this means that where AI was once a futuristic idea, it’s now viewed as something which can be used to complement existing technology and is likely to become as second nature to us as spell checks and predictive text are on our laptops and smartphones. It will always be a tool because it is unlikely to ever reach a human level of creativity and judgement that would allow us to see a court room of robots. And while the legal sector is still in the early stages of discovering the full potential of AI, firms wishing to be market leaders should take advantage of current and emerging technology.

What benefits can your law firm reap by adopting more AI software solutions?

Take a look at some of our other blogs to gain more insight into the legal sector

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Clayton Legal’s latest recruitment analysis featured in the press

  • December 4, 2017

Our latest market analysis for advertised legal roles has been featured in a number of publications including Bdaily, the Global Recruiter and Recruitment International.

It has revealed that vacancies for legal professionals across the North West have risen by 9% month-on-month. To learn more about the results, click the links above.

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The four biggest legal markets outside of London

  • November 28, 2017

London has long been the undisputed major legal market in this country. Parts of the capital have been dedicated to the practising of law since the Middle Ages and there are entire legal districts and landmarks – such as Temple and The Old Bailey – which make it synonymous with law even to those outside of the profession.

However, as a national recruiter, we’re acutely aware that there are several cities outside of London that are thriving legal hubs in their own right and are becoming increasingly desirable locations for firms and practitioners. So, what cities are thriving?

Leeds lawyers link easily with London

The legal sector in Leeds is the fastest growing in Britain, according to recent figures from the OFS. In fact, the number of jobs in the city increased by 20% between 2010 and 2015, compared to London’s 5% sector growth. Leeds has benefitted from the widespread trend of London firms relocating their offices and the ‘big six’ all have practices there. Excellent transport infrastructure means, that lawyers can easily travel to London, enabling them to offer the same range of services as their peers in the capital, but without the hefty fees. Leeds, has also seen a steady growth within its technology and digital economy, meaning there are plentiful opportunities for specialists.

Birmingham booms as a ‘legal city’

The recent ‘mini boom’ in Birmingham’s local housing market, fuelled a 68% increase in demand for the services of residential conveyancing professionals, according to our latest hiring index. In addition, there has been considerable growth in infrastructure, such as New Street Station’s £750 million transformation, leading to increased opportunities for construction lawyers.  The HS2 high-speed rail network project will continue this trend and provide a number of opportunities for transactional, regulatory, compliance and litigation specialists.

Manchester law firms mirror the city’s growth

Manchester’s buoyant legal sector, echoes the sustained growth of the city. Rapid urban development has led to a skyline of newly built towers, which house businesses and private residences. As a result, there has been continual growth within property and construction as well as finance and corporate law. Big firms such as Slater and Gordon, Clyde & Co, Freshfields and Nabarro have all settled in the city, supplying plentiful opportunities for the city’s legal professionals.

Bristol harbours major legal firms

A port city best known for its aerospace, technology, and research industries, Bristol’s knowledge-based local economy is a draw for legal firms with expertise in energy, transport, financial services and infrastructure. The Temple Quarter area has welcomed major firms such as Simmons & Simmons and Burges Salmon and key players such as home-grown Osborne Clark and TLT reported rises in their turnover during 2016/17, highlighting its viability as a second ‘legal city’.

So, as more and more firms continue to invest in these cities, the opportunities for professionals is vast. Gone are the days where it was deemed necessary to work in the capital to pursue a career in law.

If you’re a legal specialist seeking a new role for the New Year, get in touch today to see what opportunities we have available nationwide.

And, if you’re a firm seeking talent for your growing legal practice, we can help find your next hire.

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