How should we approach a changing economic climate?
It seems that political and economic instability is the new normal!
I have been doing legal recruitment since 2007 and co-founded Think Legal in 2016. In that time, we’ve had the financial crisis and subsequent great recession, followed by anaemic growth, the Brexit vote and ensuing years of politic instability, the pandemic, war in Europe exacerbating a cost of living crisis, and now more political and economic turmoil linked to the mini-budget and impending interest rate rises.
Casting my mind back through all of this, it’s easy to see why it’s been a tough decade plus for so many people. It’s easy to forget that top tier law firms in Manchester were paying NQ solicitors £42k in 2007. Whilst not to diminish recent significant uplifts, those same firms were only paying NQs £45k as recently as 2021.
Throughout this tumultuous period, which has largely defined my career in legal recruitment, I have had the privilege of working with countless talented legal professionals in Manchester and the North West and helped people navigate through their careers. I’ve also been privileged enough to have in depth conversations with law firms and key decision makers as they have attempted to plot their way through this extraordinary period.
I thought I’d write here about what I’ve learnt from the many professionals that have inspired me during this time in the hope that it may provide some comfort to those looking to move forward in what can sometimes seem an uncertain future.
The UK legal services market is incredibly robust, durable and well thought of both at home and abroad. It has continued to grow throughout the recent past. Here in Manchester, we are lucky to have such a rich and diverse range of legal practices, bolstered by many new entrants since 2007. We have leading lawyers based here who are at the top of the game both nationally and internationally. We also have a thriving mid-market which helps support the Greater Manchester economy which has outperformed many of its peer UK cities in the recent period. Despite all the change and the turmoil in recent times, the underlying strength and robustness of the legal services sector and also the Greater Manchester economy have been key reasons for the continued growth of the sector.
With that said, a number of individuals that I’ve been close to have achieved remarkable things in recent years. How have they done this? My key takeaways from being close to many of them throughout this period are below;
1. Identify what you are good at and what you enjoy most. Trust your instinct on this and go for it. Once you know what interests you, think further about the work you enjoy the most and the clients/sectors that inspire you to really grow with and deliver for. Most of the people I’ve worked with who have excelled in recent times had a clear idea of what they enjoyed and where they wanted to get to. From this “big picture” vision they thought about the client/sectors that they could deliver success for and focussed relentlessly on this to achieve for themselves and for their clients.
2. Be opportunistic but don’t forget the relationships you already have. Its great to explore new ideas, break new ground and win new clients. But don’t forget the clients you already have and make sure any new clients you develop are aligned with your existing strategy and broader client base.
3. People matter. Be good to your colleagues. Be good to your clients. Be good to everyone else too. The best lawyers and the best leaders are the best at managing/developing/nurturing their people. It inspires loyalty and stability in a team and confidence and warmth in clients.
4. Good people are always opportunity led. We may be entering a period of increased economic uncertainty and fewer job prospects. But the best candidates are still sought out by firms and, if the opportunity is right, the best candidates still move. They back themselves. They know if they can develop their practices in an uncertain market, they can do it in any market conditions. They also know that working with key clients in a time of instability and uncertainty provides the bedrock of a long-term relationship for the future, where mutual success can be enjoyed in better times.
5. Be strategic. Don’t panic. Don’t be alarmist. Focus on what you are good at and be across the political and economic climate to be ahead of the market for your clients. Even bad times hold significant opportunities and can lay the groundwork for future personal and professional growth.
If you’d like to talk through your career and the future at any point over the next few months – I am always here to listen and provide advice based on my experience of recent times, having learnt from some of the best.