Opportunities for planning lawyers continue to be good and the majority of practices are reporting steady streams of work and recruitment is buoyant.
Are you planning for success? Read on for the latest insights into this busy sector.
It’s business as usual in the planning community in 2018. Most of the major practices are reporting healthy pipelines of work and recruitment has remained steady throughout the UK.
In terms of trends, there is a noticeable migration of work from the capital to the major regional centres such as Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds and Reading. This has been recently highlighted by the well publicised relocation of the DLA infrastructure planning group. Therefore, now is a very good time for city-based planning lawyers who are considering relocation out of London.
That is not to say that there are no longer opportunities within London. Many teams boast a variety of premium work that requires advice from the capital but it is also worth noting flexible and part-time working continues to be embraced partly due to talent shortages, but also as the profession as a whole takes a more flexible approach to working.
The development planning sector is thriving and we predict will continue to grow into 2019 but what happens after March is anyone’s guess. The growth is fuelled by the ever-changing reforms, the busy housebuilder sector and the continued investment in strategic sites.
Firms such as Pinsent Masons report that they are very busy across a number of sectors and we predict will grow further in 2018/19. Town Legal has hit the ground running with healthy market disruption following their launch at the beginning of 2017. They have already made several additional hires and are one of the fastest growing teams in London. Following the arrival of Vicky Fowler, Gowling WLG has grown their planning team steadily both in London and Birmingham in the last year and it will be interesting to see how this evolves. Other firms who have grown in 2017/18 are DAC Beachcoft, Mishcon De Reya, Addleshaw Goddard and Howard Kennedy.
Overall, recruitment in development planning is healthy with departing lawyers being replaced and firms targeting strategic growth. If you use NQs as barometer of the market then it is interesting to see that 100% of NQ planning lawyers we worked with in 2017 found a position and we predict similar figures in 2018. There is also a healthy take up of overseas and public sector planning lawyers as well.
“The development planning sector is thriving"
Regionally the market is even healthier if you are a candidate looking for a role. A healthy market for candidates, however, often means a difficult market for firms who are looking to attract and retain talent. Although not a new problem, it remains particularly acute in the immediate counties that surround London as Planners are often attracted by the higher salaries of the capital.
Although the infrastructure planning sector is not as fast moving, there continues to be plenty of work out there with firms such as Pinsent Masons, Womble Bond Dickinson, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Bircham Dyson Bell and Winckworth Sherwood busy. With a number of major transport projects underway and with the continued growth of the energy sector we are confident that this sector will remain steady.
The news regarding DLA’s relocation does bring up the question of whether long-term other London based infrastructure teams will follow suit and focus on regional as opposed to London growth but this remains to be seen.
PROSPECTS FOR PARTNERS
As ever, making the leap from Senior Associate to Partner remains a challenge especially when a number of teams remain top heavy. A strong business plan is essential in helping candidates to achieve Partnership. A business plan does not necessarily have to be a following but it should provide a clear plan as to how the lawyer intends to develop business.
In addition to targeting the traditional firms, potential partners should also seek opportunities at practices that do not currently have a planning capability where they can develop their own practice. The lateral partner market remains good.
“A strong business plan is essential in helping candidates to achieve Partnership”
One of the most common questions we are asked is what is the in-house market like? 2017/18 was a good year for planning lawyers looking to move in-house with organisations such as TFL, Heathrow Expansion, EDF and HS2 hiring. Often moves to organisations such as this and to other utilities firms require candidates to have decent DCO experience. We do, however, occasionally see interest from major developers and when these roles go live it is a question of seizing the opportunity in a competitive market.
- Business as usual
- Competition from the regions
- Growth of market disruptors
- Busy in-house teams
Stuart Phillips is a Senior Consultant at Origin Legal with a focus on the planning sector. If you are considering a career move or would like an overview of the market please get in touch.
Telephone +44 (0)1206 233 504
Email [email protected]
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