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A review of locum legal recruitment in 2017

by Laura Hayward | 30 November 2017

2017 has been an interesting year across the legal recruitment field; there have been changes in legislation with more on the horizon, continuous budget pressures, and an increase in longer term opportunities to name but a few. I thought I would take this opportunity to look at a few of the notable changes and differences that Sellick Partnership have seen throughout 2017 and the impact those have had. 

IR35 legislation
The implementation of the IR35 legislation in April 2017 turned the legal public sector world upside down. In essence, HMRC stated that if you are inside IR35 and working through your own limited company then you have to be taxed at source, i.e there is no benefit to working through your limited company inside of IR35 in the public sector. The legislation was vague and the tool unclear, which is still causing a lot of confusion some eight months later. So in brief, what changes did this make the locum legal recruitment market? 

Reducing the number of opportunities available to candidates: without being able to offset travel and accommodation costs against expenses, staying away from home is simply not a feasible option for a lot of legal professionals. It therefore reduces the amount of roles an individual can consider, as this would have to be within commuting distance. 

Reducing the number of candidates available to roles: there is always both sides. The implication for candidates has directly affected the number of candidates available to a client during the recruitment process. Pre-IR35 candidates would often stay away from home during the week in order to fulfil an assignment. This does still happen if an organisation is able to pay a higher than average hourly rate, however in most cases it isn’t the preferable option.

Budget cuts
As ever, public sector organisations are under enormous pressure to save money and reduce their budget whilst also delivering the same level of service. Unfortunately this is always a pressing issue, however the workload is also ever-present. So how have public sector organisations reacted to this? It is not all doom and gloom and I think that there are some positive reactions to come out of 2017: 

More flexible, agile working arrangements: there is no doubt that working at home significantly reduces your weekly outgoings – there is no travel costs to and from the office, no parking costs, you can make lunch at home etc. All in all, weekly expenses are greatly reduced if you are able to work a couple of days from home each week. As technology and ICT continue to improve, so does the capability of being able to be in work, without having to be physically sat in the office. That being said, it is not appropriate for all roles and there isn’t a one size fits all approach, some organisation simply do not have the technological capabilities to enable remote working.

Increase in opportunities for more junior candidates: This is something that has been a noticeable change in 2017. There has been an increase in demand for locum paralegals and legal assistants in an effort to support lawyers in a financially restricted organisation. I see this as a positive, rather than a negative. With the ever elusive training contract remaining extremely competitive, it has provided a fantastic new way in which aspiring legal professionals can expand on their experience and bolster their CV, making their application for a training contract really stand out in a tough application process

More permanent roles: There is no doubt that having a permanent member of staff in place is more cost effective than having a locum member of staff. That being said, the public sector has been in such an uncertain time that the last few years have really seen a freeze in permanent recruitment as restructures and reorganisations have been a regular theme. Now, in an effort to increase the head count there has been a noticeable rise in permanent roles being advertised, and the Sellick Partnership Legal team have had a record year in terms of the number of permanent placements within public sector organisations.

Things to look out for in 2018 
GDPR: The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation is coming in from May 2018 so this is very much on the radar for Sellick Partnership, our clients and our candidates. We are being guided by our governing body, APSCO to ensure that we are fully compliant and prepared for May 2018 so watch this space for more information.  

IR35 in the private sector: this is coming, it’s just a case of when. It will be interesting to see the reaction and impact that this has on locum professionals working in the private sector.

What trends have you seen in 2017 and what do you think should be on the radar for 2018? I would love to hear your thoughts as 2018 closes in! 

Whether you are looking to recruit additional help for your team or require assistance with your own search for legal work, Sellick Partnership is able to help you. For further information please get in touch by calling 0161 834 1642 or email laura.hayward@sellickpartnership.co.uk. Alternatively browse our latest roles.