Forrest Gump

2016? Like a box of chocolates…

In 1994, Forrest Gump famously announced to the world “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” With all due respect to Mrs. Gump, I always thought she was being a little extreme. Until this year.

There is no doubt, 2016 has been nothing if not full of surprises.

I am not sure how many could honestly say they predicted Trump, Brexit and the astonishing impact social media could have in such a short time on the way we form our social, political and economic views. Even the chocolates themselves don’t know what they will be any more after 2016. Just look at Toblerone.

The legal recruitment market has not been immune from Mrs Gump’s prophetic words either.

The start of 2016 saw the UK legal recruitment market in a state of rude health. Deal flow looked positive and the polls confidently predicted a Remain result in the EU referendum encouraging a positive “business as usual” outlook for the rest of the year. Salary increases were seen across the law firm market as competition became fiercer for the top legal talent in the UK but also from Australia and New Zealand. We saw select US firms set a new salary record of £124,000 for Newly Qualified lawyers in London. The UK firms then moved quickly to increase their salaries and offer innovative bonus structures to stay in touch. So far, so good.

Then, enter Brexit.

The Brexit vote caused immediate uncertainty and the summer period was defined by an elongated slowdown in legal recruitment activity, particularly in London, where there was a noticeable drop in associate recruitment instructions for transaction focused practice areas such as corporate and finance.

In yet another Mrs Gump-esque turn of events however, and despite many media-fuelled doomsday predictions to the contrary, the appetite for junior to mid-level hires started to return for both UK and US firms by mid-autumn. Interestingly, during this period we also saw several high profile Partner moves announced across the City as US firms continued to successfully hire from top UK practices. Outside of London, the story was even brighter, with demand for legal talent actually remaining rather stable particularly at the associate level in key legal centres such as Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham.

So, as we now close in on the final days of a most historic year, we remain very positive about the resilience and strength within the UK legal recruitment market for 2017, but with so many global political and economic factors yet to be determined, we will also be sure to take heed of Mrs Gump’s sage advice – you never know what you’re gonna get.

For a confidential discussion about legal recruitment in 2017 in your area, please contact our team of experts at

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