Across the country, we’re seeing companies spread out into regions, to avoid the extortionate London prices. The BBC is a good example of this. Shrinking down London hubs is a great way to save cash.
Mover and shaker of the law world, Allen & Overy, has taken advantage of this, by cutting its London graduate intake substantially, and hiring low-cost employees in other areas of the country, including Manchester and Belfast. These regional centres will provide IT, human resources, and basic legal tasks.
Herbert Smith has also followed in their footsteps, in a bid to make savings. These two law firms (with a turnover of £1.5bn in total) have been awarded £3m of taxpayer’s money to make this move, to increase investment in Northern Ireland.
Law firms that already have regional offices are sending junior-level lawyers to do all the menial work, while London elite lawyers enjoy their £60,000 – £1m annual salaries in the big city. This obviously poses a problem for London recruitment agencies, who are struggling to find London law graduates positions at reputable firms.
Of course, there has always been a gap between lawyer pay, depending on where you work in the country, but the situation is worsening. Regions are being used as outsourcing houses for cheap work. It’s a massive demotion for legal students who studied to become lawyers.
What it really comes down to is: wealthy students and poor students. Students from affluent backgrounds can afford to take a premium course at university: £27,000 plus £9,000 for a postgrad law conversion course. For the really wealthy, students can go to the New College of the Humanities for £64,000. Peanuts.
Less affluent students will have to settle for the standard two year course, which costs £18,000.
You can see the difference in teaching standards here. The rich can afford to be extensively educated.
Of course, London law firms insist that they hire based on talent. Before you say we’re accusing the legal industry of effectively becoming another Bullingdon Club for our age (us?), it is true that law students who have managed to make it through another year of education and better academic tuition may appear more polished. This will also be true of the high quality contacts they make throughout university. They effectively have the best of starts, while less affluent law students are almost automatically consigned to regional positions.
In the general context of the environment, this isn’t representative for the legal sector in general, as there are many instances of regional, non London based law firms, including those with a speciality as a high value conveyancing property law solicitor. As they do enforce great recruitment practices, but the dilemma for recruiters in these regional areas, involves the wealth of positions now in the legal sector.
However, if you are a London recruiting agency, there will be a few elite positions up for grabs, and a large crowd of legal students with no professional place to go, unless they’re open to relocation.
If you’re tackling this challenge, good luck to you!
Guest Post fromDenver Burke of Vincents Solicitors