An overview of the South Wales legal market and why YOU should consider the land of the dragon for your next career move!

I am a member of the Chadwick Nott South West & Wales team and we specialise in the recruitment of permanent qualified solicitors of all levels across the South West and South Wales regions.

As the team is Bristol based, I have previously been accused of a slight bias towards my home City – I am Bristol born and bred (although I now live in Somerset!) and I absolutely love it here. With the Sunday Times recently voting Bristol the best place to live in the UK, it’s also a relatively easy sell to any lawyer! (Please see my colleague Sarah Woods’ recent blog about Bristol here). BUT only 40 mins away across the Severn Estuary there is Cardiff, the magnificent capital of Wales. The purpose of this blog is to highlight the Welsh legal sector and why I believe that every lawyer should consider this beautiful part of the UK to live and work in.

When I refer to the ‘South Wales Legal Market’, I must say that many of the clients we work with very regularly are Cardiff or Newport based, but we also place candidates in Swansea, Bridgend and Abergavenny. There are lots of full service law firms of all shapes and sizes in Wales and we are always keen to assist both the law firms and candidates across the entire region.

The Law Firms

Cardiff is home to a number of leading law firms including the largest firm in Wales, Hugh James a Top 100 full service law firm. This firm is relocating to plush new offices in Central Square in 2018 (right by Cardiff Central station so making the commute from East and West of the City very easy).

Blake Morgan was formed in 2014 with the merger of long established Morgan Cole and Blake Lapthorn, creating a Top 100 firm with circa 120 Partners with a UK wide network and a full service offering. Blake Morgan occupy some of the best office space in Cardiff (again Central Square) and offer modern open plan offices with fantastic views. They focus on Real Estate, Litigation, Employment and Construction in this office.

Another big player in the Cardiff scene is the recently merged global law firm Eversheds Sutherland – the only international firm in Wales with large teams in Cardiff including Real Estate, Commercial, Employment, Dispute Resolution and Financial Services Disputes as well as other areas of law.

Voted ‘Welsh Law Firm of the Year’ 15-16 is Capital Law, which is a leading specialised commercial firm offering services across the commercial spectrum including corporate and commercial, banking and finance, real estate and employment.

Due to their ongoing success, Acuity Legal have recently opened a Swansea office for their commercial clients. Offering a range of commercial services, they are also on the panels of a range of national public sector organisations in both Wales and England

Geldards are also here – another well-known name with offices throughout the UK and very broad commercial expertise.

There are of course many other firms across the region, too many to mention, who offer very varied opportunities for lawyers of all levels and expertise.

The cost of living

OK, so we are all aware how expensive it is to live in London, but it still perplexes me how much cheaper it is to live in Cardiff versus London (and Bristol).

I won’t bore you how much the rent is in London compared to Cardiff, as we all know London is like nowhere else in the UK and crazily expensive. However, if we compare Cardiff to Bristol, Cardiff is much more affordable. Courtesy of – the average rent per month is just over 30% cheaper in Cardiff than Bristol. To buy, the average price per square meter is 25% cheaper in Cardiff (outside of the City Centre).

From a quick Rightmove search, I can find a number of 1 bedroom flats in central Cardiff for sale from £100k – now if you want a 1 bedroom flat in central Bristol will set you back at least £200k.

I do appreciate that cost of living is relative to earnings, but I will look at this below.

Salaries for South Wales solicitors

For as long as I have worked in legal recruitment, I’ve heard “lawyers in Bristol get paid so much more than lawyers in Cardiff” and I have to admit that often this is true. Bristol firms are now offering NQ solicitors salaries in the high £40ks. NQ salaries in South Wales will completely depend on the size of the firm as well as the practice area, but in general they start in the £20ks up to late £30ks.

Salary will increase not only on your PQE level but also what skills you develop for the firm. I would say that all Welsh firms would prefer to retain good lawyers than lose them to the likes of Bristol, Birmingham and London. Actually a lot of my clients will now offer what they call “Bristol salaries”. What this really means is going to depend on your practice area as well as your background etc….. but I am happy to discuss this further with anyone reading this who might be interested!

What else can I tell you?

1) For me, the first thing to highlight is the natural beauty of the Welsh coast. The Gower Peninsula has some of the most beautiful beaches to offer in the entire British Isles and you can be there in just over an hour in the car from Cardiff. The Gower Peninsula was designated as the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural beauty. The Pembrokeshire Coast National park is also a must visit: world famous for its beaches, cliffs islands and wildlife, this park offers boundless opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.

2) Sport & Entertainment – now I must admit, I’m personally not much of a sports fan so I’ll keep this brief. However, Wales is world famous for its rugby (6 nations and club level), the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff centre is amazing and hosts international rugby and football events, as well as many big name pop concerts. As a capital City, Cardiff hosts and stages athletics, basketball as well as football and many other sporting events. In addition to the very big name music stars playing at the Millennium stadium, Cardiff has its Arena and many other top music venues.

3) Barry Island! This just had to be mentioned! Arguably made world famous by Gavin & Stacey, Barry Island pleasure park has something for all the family to enjoy from dodgems to the ghost train – this is a great day out.

4) Castles – I remember visiting various Welsh castles when I was at school. Wales has over 600 castles so wherever you may be, a castle will never be too far! I have to say Conwy Castle for me, whilst a long drive, is definitely worth it. Cardiff Castle would always be a good start, being right in the City Centre.

The above is of course just a very small selection of an array of things to do in and around this great city and in South Wales. Whatever you fancy there is something for absolutely everyone. From nights out, to premiership football, museums and art galleries – the world is your oyster!

Current Opportunities

So the Welsh legal market interests you? We are working with a range of law firms in many disciplines and we are instructed on roles including (but not limited to) the following areas:

• Commercial
• Corporate
• Corporate and Commercial
• Construction
• Procurement
• Real Estate
• Private Client
• Residential Conveyancing
• Employment
• Personal Injury
• Family

In the current market, law firms are actively recruiting and we expect once the seemingly never ending elections are over, things could get even busier. Please get in contact if you would like further and specific information.

Chadwick Nott also offer other services including specialist paralegal, interim and in-house recruitment.

For further information about the South Wales legal market, please contact me – Matt Goodwin at Chadwick Nott.

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