After an inauspicious start, the in-house market has gathered some momentum in the second half of this year.
As ever, job prospects for the new year are largely dependent on the economy and market confidence which are tough to predict.
Although business confidence has dropped slightly from post election highs, indicators are still significantly higher than this time last year. To analyse this issue further I contacted a number of general counsel and heads of legal across a variety of sectors including Financial Services, Insurance, Construction, Transport, Energy & Resources and IT & Telco.
Of those questioned, 25 per cent anticipated increasing permanent headcount within legal next year while 87.5 per cent stated that they would replace any lawyers that left.
So, although there is some growth planned (more than this time last year at 16%) most vacancies will depend on people moving roles.
We have observed a greater number of temporary or contract positions supporting regulatory change, projects and extended leave. Over half anticipate a need to recruit lawyers on a contract basis next year.
This supports the view of one client that there has been a major shift in thinking in this area with the benefits of flexibility and cost management outweighing any negative such as loss of corporate knowledge and that contract lawyers will become a permanent fixture in the future.
When asked which practice areas they were most likely to recruit next year, surprisingly, the most popular answer was M&A, again reflecting the apparent upswing.
Other popular responses included regulatory and more BAU roles such as commercial, financial products and construction.
The main challenges and proposed changes for next year centered around regulatory change, driving efficiencies to manage cost and workloads, managing less low value/low risk work internally, considering LPO offerings, effective knowledge management, staff engagement / retention and developing commerciality and soft skills rather than just technical.
Most indicated they are likely to outsource less legal work externally than in 2013 so the focus will be on efficient use of external firms and obtaining value.
On the whole, the outlook for the in-house market in 2014 looks positive provided that market conditions continue to improve.
This could be the time to secure the move that you have been putting off for the last couple of years!
Daniel Stirling (pictured)is the in-house legal manager Charterhouse Partnership
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