Law Jobs Ireland: Key Trends in the Partner Jobs Market in 2023

A buoyant partner jobs market demonstrates the confidence the Irish legal services industry has in the general economy and points to growth areas in law and business. The converse is also true - a poorly performing partner jobs market is usually indicative of a more uncertain business and economic environment. Here we look at three of the key factors which have been driving the consistently high levels of partner recruitment by law firms in Ireland over the last 18 months.

The partner recruitment market is the least resistant is economic shocks. It is the first to slow down in times of uncertainty, and the last to recover when stability returns. There was limited partner level recruitment by law firms in Ireland during 2020 and in the first half of 2021 due to the Covid19 pandemic. The partner market recovered in the second half of 2021, and since then it has boomed. Though 2022 and 2023 law firms have reengaged the strategic growth plans which they had effectively paused for most of 2020 and a lot of 2021. Mergers within the legal services market remain relatively uncommon in Ireland, so when law firms look to strategically expand either an existing team or develop a new practice offering, that goal is often achieved through the recruitment of talent at partner level.

A second factor driving partner level recruitment in Ireland is new entrant firms recruiting their senior bench. Law firms which launched greenfield sites have had a significant effect on the Irish legal jobs market. These firms have grown headcount from a standing start in 2017, and now employ over three hundred staff in Ireland. 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. Partners hired by the new entrant firms for Dublin are typically external hires recruited locally, rather than internal partner moves relocating from other overseas offices.

The third key driver of partner recruitment in the Irish market over the last 18 months is the domino effect created by the new entrant firms poaching talent from established teams. As new entrants poach partners and senior associates, more established firms seek to replace those movers. A buoyant partner jobs market creates fresh opportunities for ambitious partners and associates facing internal career roadblocks.

The most sought after skills at partner level at present are M&A, funds, and tax. There are also partner level opportunities for specialists in employment, financial regulation, competition, banking, energy, technology, privacy, financial services disputes, debt capital markets, and structured finance. Most of the partner roles we are recruiting seek 10+ years’ relevant PQE, however we are also recruiting partner roles in the M&A and funds space currently where the hiring teams will consider ambitious associates from 5 years' PQE upwards. The level of recruitment at partner level by law firms in Dublin is generally an excellent bellwether for the overall strength of the legal jobs market in Ireland, so it is great to see such a diverse mixture of roles at this level.

The war for talent is a is a headache for law firms seeking to recruit. However what this means for ambitious candidates looking for a fresh start and a new challenge, is more choice, more competitive pay, and more flexibility. We are currently recruiting partners for domestic top 5, mid-tier and boutique law firms, international new entrant and established law firms, and global accounting firms. If you would like to have a confidential discussion about roles we are currently recruiting at partner level please contact Bryan Durkan on +353 1 9602121, or your usual Spencer Lennox point of contact.