Key and Emerging Trends in Ireland's Legal Jobs Market: our Top 5 Predictions for 2023

In a busy start to the year, the dominant hiring sector in-house is financial services, while in the legal services market the majority of new mandates are coming from international and mid-tier law firms.

In recent weeks we have experienced an increase in the number of new mandates for general banking, DCM, and structured finance solicitors in the newly qualified to partner level range, and for general litigation, regulatory litigation, and insurance litigation solicitors in the 2-6 PQE range. Demand is also particularly high for property solicitors in the 1-6 PQE range, for tax specialists in the 1PQE – partner level, and for corporate and M&A lawyers at all levels of PQE. There appears to be a more even spread practice areas being recruited at the start of this year in comparison to 2022.

A noteworthy feature of the market at present is the range of opportunities for solicitors in the 8+ PQE range, in particular for partners and aspiring partners. This has been a consistent trend over the last twelve months, partly driven by new market entrants and partly by domestic firms looking to expand. Many of the law firms we are working with on partner assignments are open to bringing in an associate as an of counsel, legal director, or partner. The key demand areas for partners currently are funds, tax, employment, M&A, tech, and banking. Notwithstanding contraction in the in-house market, there are still opportunities for experienced lawyers looking to move.

A well-managed economy, stable government, and the rule of law have had -  and will continue to have, a profound impact on employment in Ireland. While external economic and political factors remain unpredictable, Ireland and the Irish economy continue to perform well. The CSO unemployment figure for Ireland in January 2023 was 4.4%, versus the Eurozone average of 6.6%. The latest "flash estimates" from Eurostat - the EU's statistical agency, puts Ireland's growth rate ahead of the eurozone average. It is noteworthy that there are now more people at work in Ireland than at any time previously, and that the rate of unemployment is lower than the pre-pandemic level of 4.8% recorded in January 2020. This translates into a buoyant and sustainable jobs market where companies compete to hire the best talent and candidates have a diverse range of career options. In looking forward for 2023, our top five predictions are;

1.  Solicitor Pay Will Rise
Most of our clients across the top 5, mid-tier and international law firm cohorts have unofficially confirmed that they will be increasing salaries across the board in 2023. With contraction in the in-house market likely to continue, salary inflation in-house will be more muted.

2.  Expect Additional New Entrant Law Firms
There are now over 20 international law firms operating in Dublin and we expect several additional high profile new entrants to the Irish legal market this year. By our assessment new entrants into the Irish market will create 150 - 450 new jobs for legal professionals in 2023.

3.  Growth Areas in Law

Thirty four per cent of Ireland’s energy came from wind in 2022 and the Government is targeting a figure of eighty per cent from renewable sources by 2030. There will be an increase in the number of legal jobs in energy law and related fields (property, construction, environment and planning, finance) this year and beyond. Other areas of law which will see an increased number of job opportunities in 2023 are banking, tax, regulation, funds, and technology law.

4.  More Emphasis on Family and Wellbeing Benefits for Solicitors

While traditionally much of focus on solicitor remuneration has been on basic salary, we expect that family and wellbeing benefits will come into sharper focus this year. A number of law firms in both the domestic and international arena are examining their current offering around maternity pay, paternity pay, surrogacy pay, support for working parents generally, associate sabbaticals, and burn out prevention tools.  

5.  Increase in Alternative Working Arrangements for Solicitors
Several years ago Bill Gates predicted that “the competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead. Companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge in this area”. Many law firms offer three or four day working weeks, specified hours, and other alternative working arrangements on an ad hoc basis to both tenured staff and new hires. Our final predication for 2023 is that these alternative working arrangement models will be more formally and proactively deployed by law firms as part of their overall recruitment and retention strategy.

If you would like further detail on the legal jobs market in Ireland, please contact Bryan Durkan via LinkedIn, email or direct dial +353 1 9602121. All conversations with, and applications through, Spencer Lennox are strictly confidential. Follow Spencer Lennox on LinkedIn for regular updates on legal recruitment in Ireland.