Manchester Real Estate Lawyers Market Update Summer 2021

21 Jul, 2021

Manchester Real Estate Lawyers Market Update Summer 2021

What a strange time it has been – but we are delighted to report for our candidates and clients that the robustness of Manchester’s economy and its law firms has shone through!

It has been an incredibly busy period over the first 6 months of this year and it feels like the right time to take stock and reflect on what is happening out there, explore why this is happening and assess what it means – particularly in the context of salaries within the Manchester legal market.

Some of you may know, I predominantly focus on real estate legal recruitment in Manchester. The market over the last 6 months has probably been as busy as I can remember. I think a number of factors have worked to create this demand, which I have tried to briefly outline below:

  1. Law firm revenues (in general) held up incredibly well during the pandemic while costs (particularly in relation to travel and entertainment) were significantly reduced. This extra profitability has been invested in growth particularly since the late Autumn/early winter.
  2. So much of the UK economy is geared towards the success of the every facet of the property market and many government interventions have been specifically targeted to support this sector. Long term housing projects have also continued in face of increasing demand for new homes across the country. The retail sector and broader asset management has been hit and has changed in many ways but these changes have also created opportunities for legal teams with the repurposing of shopping centres and high streets and the divestment of assets by institutional investors. In short the work didn’t dry up – if anything it increased.
  3. Factors specific to Manchester – one partner said to me a number of years ago “Manchester has too many law firms and too few lawyers”. No doubt market consolidation continues but even in very recent times we have had a number of new market entrants along with the creation of a number of boutique/start-ups. Almost all have or are looking for real estate teams.
  4. We still aren’t making enough lawyers! The largest firms are still creating nowhere near the same level of NQs as they did prior to 2010. This means proportionately we still have comparatively fewer NQs every year, even with all of the new entrants the market over the last 10 years.
  5. London! People are moving North and out of the capital for cheaper house prices and bigger gardens. Some will move to Manchester firms but many (at least in the short term) are working remotely while taking their London salary. We’ve also heard reports of London firms offering Manchester lawyers remote working roles on London salaries. This may not last but the rise of home working makes it possible and changes the market considerably when it comes to pay.
  6. All of this is compounded by the fact that, very often, experienced  lawyers in Manchester in national or international teams are managing NQs (notionally) in London (while everyone works from home) and these NQs are paid far in excess of their Northern managers! I think this will cause significant pressure for pay structures and we are already seeing signs of Manchester salaries increasing markedly as a result – a trend we expect to continue.
  7. Paradoxically, of course, many National/International of course are continuing to look to recruit in Manchester because it offers the potential for cheaper resource than is available in London.
  8. Candidates sat tight at the start of the pandemic but, having had the opportunity to reflect on their career and life, many have opted to make a change as the opportunities rolled in. People are increasingly taking a portfolio approach to their career and are recognising the enhanced career potential that experiencing different roles/teams/work streams can bring for career development and job satisfaction.
  9. As is always the case, this movement creates its own movement and opens up opportunities particularly for lawyers from “out of town” firms to move into the city centre and experience something new.
  10. Home working and virtual interviews have meant that its easier than its ever been to arrange virtual interviews and coffees. Firms and hiring partners have adapted incredibly well to this new way of interviewing and its meant processes are often quicker, further increasing demand and turn over in the market for talent.

So all of the above means more vacancies than we could have imagined 12 months ago and real, genuine and sustained upward pressures on salaries. We are seeing these pressures at all levels from paralegal to Partners. While it is difficult to predict the path of the economy in a post pandemic world, given the overall importance of the property market to UK PLC, it’s a fair bet that benign policies will continue to support the market and create opportunities for lawyers and law firms in Manchester.

If you’d like to explore this in more detail with me, unpick what it means for you/your firm and get a more detailed picture of salaries within real estate teams in Manchester, I would be delighted to chat!

Joe Gregory