Planning Law Recruitment. 2024 so far and what we have to look forward to…

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  • Planning Law Recruitment. 2024 so far and what we have to look forward to…

As I write this on a wet rainy day in July following the General Election, I thought it would be a decent time to reflect on the past 6 months of legal moves in the planning sector and what the next 6 months might have in store.

If you are a lawyer currently working in this sector, then it may not have escaped your attention based on the volume of LinkedIn messages you may have received that the job market for planning lawyers continues to thrive.  This is the case from my perspective and 2024 began with several high-profile firms moving to strengthen their teams in both infrastructure and traditional TCPA sectors.  Practices such as CMS Cameron McKenna, Herbert Smith Freehills, Pinsent Masons and Town Legal all had a busy start to the year in terms of recruitment.  There have also been interesting moves in the regions such as Lee Gordon going to Walker Morris.  The most noticeable trend this year is that the market for partner and senior planning lawyers has significantly picked up. I put this down existing teams looking to scale up their practices and some firms without a presence keen to invest and capitalise in this busy sector.  This has created new opportunities and increased competition which is a sign of a healthy market.  As things stand, a number of firms remain keen to invest in partners and senior lawyers.  Of course, a following or business case is ideal, but some practices have enough work to justify a senior appointment without a following.  I have also been thrilled to see a strong number of internal promotions this year, especially at partner level which demonstrates that the future is also in good hands.

Another encouraging sign is the emergence of planning teams adding competition to the well-established players and it is exciting to see some diversity and variety in the teams out there.  Practices in growth mode include but, are not limited to Bevan Brittan, Freeths, DWF, Ashfords, Irwin Mitchell, as well as new boutiques such as Planet Law who are challenging the more traditional law firm models.

Although 2023 was busy with infrastructure hiring and is likely to continue, the need for lawyers in development planning is growing again and I suspect this will continue now we have a new government in place.

Although we have seen an increase in the volume of senior placements in the first half of this year, the need for mid-level and junior lawyers remains steady.  The past couple of years saw all planning NQs whom I worked with find a home and although it has been a little slower so far this year, I remain optimistic new opportunities will come through.  My advice to them is to hang in there.

I have also noticed an increased interest from overseas lawyers especially from Australia and New Zealand who are looking to gain UK experience.  Often, they can bring experience of environment and infrastructure sectors which are valuable in a evolving UK environment market.  Getting the first break can be a challenge, but the opportunities are out there.

Salaries are always an interesting subject as they tend to align with the leading firms in the sector.  I try and distance Planning away from the headlining pay wars fuelled by the legal press as I do not believe this helpful or sustainable in the long term.  Of course, I understand salary plays a crucial factor when you consider the cost of living, but in planning, my experience is that people move for quality of work, culture and opportunity.  I anticipate we will see modest rises at most firms this year especially as retention of talent is as important as attraction.

In conclusion, it has been a positive and busy first half of the year in planning recruitment and if the new government is able to deliver on it’s promises in energy, housing and the economy then our new Prime Minister isn’t the only one with work to do.

Stuart Phillips is a Managing Consultant at Origin Legal.  If you would like to have a confidential discussion with please contact him on 07725 246 857 or at [email protected].  Or find him on LinkedIn.

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Stuart Phillips
Picture of Stuart Phillips
Stuart Phillips

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