Is the demand for talent set to continue?
by Stuart Phillips
In my last update in December I wrote about the elevated rise in demand for talent at all levels across the planning sphere and predicted that we may begin to see a “war for talent” as practices look to service an increased avidity from the clients across all planning sectors. This has proven to be the case in 2015 with practices continuing to expand and in some cases firms are recruiting multiple lawyers to boost their planning offering. The NQ market in planning has moved for September NQs earlier than I can ever recall, with some firms hiring September NQs as early as February. The sweet spot for key hires remains at the 2 – 5 year level, although a number of firms have also been looking at more senior levels due to the need for experienced candidates to lead on increasingly complex projects.
As it stands, things remain very optimistic for planning lawyers in this current climate. Following the election result, it looks highly likely that a number of major infrastructure projects are set to continue with others, such as the announcement of the next runway in the south-east anticipated. This has led and continues to lead to opportunities for candidates to break into private practice from the public sector and overseas. However memories of more lean times still stick in the mind and the question that a lot of people are asking is how long can this upward trend in work and recruiting continue for?
It certainly looks as though things will remain stable for some time to come. Investors are still keen to invest in major projects and developments, the UK is continuing to strive to become more self-sufficient in its energy needs and the commitment to emissions targets also means that the need to meet renewable energy goals continues. On top of this, the need for affordable housing across the country remains.
I have spoken to some of Origin Legal’s clients who have commented about the current market and confidence for the future.
Clare Fielding, Partner at Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co commented:
“We have noticed an upsurge in work from this time last year, especially since the general election and I feel confident about the next 12-18 months”
Chad Sutton of Maples Teesdale goes on to say:
“Planning is a political system which is reformed every year and the greatest level of planning reform comes with a UK General Election (which we only see every 5 years). With the recent General Election and the election of the Conservatives as the sole party in Government we should see further planning reform, as the Conservatives manifesto discusses further planning reforms they propose to implement and they will now be free to fully implement these reforms unhindered given that the Liberal Democrats are no longer in Government with them. This should flow through to increased levels of planning legal work, particularly advice work, which means it is the perfect time to hire additional planning lawyers. We won’t see another time like this for 5 more years! The property market also continues to remain strong and with the high level of infrastructure proposed in London and the wider UK, including Crossrail 1 and 2 and High Speed 2 and 3, the indicators are good for increased development and planning application levels to remain strong, which will have a positive impact on the level of planning legal work.”
Richard Ford, Partner with Pinsent Masons stated:
“The Planning market remains very strong across all parts of the UK. All sectors are busy, particularly residential and office; energy and infrastructure; retail and leisure; and logistics and public sector work. The UK General election outcome has reinforced confidence. Government changes and initiatives are also creating more work. Our global business also generates a lot of opportunity. It means we can capitalise on global markets as well as the strong UK market. We are thus continuing to recruit top talent and invest strongly in our planning team.”
A further Partner and head of Planning and Environment at a city firm said:
“The pipeline is looking really strong and the book of business is reasonably good for the next 18-24 months, which is as good as you can realistically hope for. Much of this work will be undertaking infrastructure planning work, but the buoyant real estate sector means that our clients will be buying, selling and developing assets for the foreseeable future which is good news for planning lawyers - we certainly expect to be hiring come September.”
The views above are very encouraging for the short to medium term and therefore I think planning lawyers who have decided to consider their options can do so with a decent degree of confidence in 2015 and 2016.
Stuart Phillips is a Senior Consultant at Origin Legal with a focus on planning sector. If you are considering a career move or would like an overview of the market he can be contacted on 01206 233504 or [email protected]
A list of active positions can be found here: http://www.originlegal.co.uk/vacancies