Law grad vacancies down 16% since 2005 while accountancy places soar by 68%

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By Thomas Connelly on

Number-crunchers in demand but law still pays more


Graduate positions in law firms have dropped substantially over the last decade while entry-level vacancies in accountancy, IT and the public sector have soared, research has revealed.

The new figures — produced by High Fliers Research — examined the graduate recruitment trends of the UK’s 100 best-known and most successful employers. The corporate law firms featured were Allen & Overy, Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Linklaters, Norton Rose Fulbright and Slaughter and May.

According to the stats there are now 16% fewer graduate positions in law than there were back in 2005. In comparison, other sectors such as accountancy & professional services have undertaken a sustained period of growth over the past decade, with graduate positions up by a whopping 68% on the 2005 figure.

The findings correspond with other available figures. Across the profession, training contracts numbers have been hitting around 5,000 annually over the last few years — down from the 2007-08 high of 6,303.

Meanwhile, the average magic circle firm now offers around 90 TCs each year, down from approximately 120 at the top of the market. While money has risen in the last couple of years — according to the report, law offers the highest average starting salary (£40,000) behind investment banking (£45,000) — the number of available TC positions has stubbornly refused to budge after plateauing from its big fall in 2009.

Most excess capacity has been going towards staffing the outsourcing hubs launched by the likes of Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills in Belfast, and Freshfields in Manchester.

While the legal sector is undergoing a period consolidation, the accountancy and professional services sector seems to be flourishing — with grad positions up 68% on the 2005 figure. This sector is led by ‘Big Four’ giants like EY, which — ominously for law firms — is moving into legal services and offering training contracts. Average graduate pay in these firms is £30,000, according to the report.

But it was the public sector and IT & telecommunications which had experienced greatest junior-level growth — with researchers recording an increase of 130% and 160% respectively in graduate vacancies.

Law was joined by three other sectors that have seen a decrease in graduate recruitment since 2005. Entry level jobs in oil & energy were down by 13%, investment banking by 21% and the armed forces 27%.