Corporate and private client firms are stepping up their recruitment, experts said today, as public sector bodies seek to reduce their headcount.

Recruiters said large firms have returned to their previous practice of sending lengthy ‘vacancy lists’ to recruiters, in a sign of a strengthening of the jobs market for many private practice lawyers.

Recruitment firm Badenoch & Clark said there had been a marked increase in firms looking to take on junior litigators, as they experienced greater demand in their insurance, reinsurance and professional indemnity disputes practices.

The recruiter said demand for structured product investment lawyers is also up, with vacancies often for new, rather than replacement, roles. There has also been an increase in vacancies for private client work across the country, the firm suggested, with a shortlived boost to the property market having led to more divorce work.

Brian Sheehy, consultant at City legal recruiters First Counsel, said that large firms are now sending out ‘lengthy’ vacancy lists for associates as standard.

‘Pre-2008, most City firms were sending out lists detailing the various associate level vacancies to be filled,’ he said. ‘Contrast this with last year: these lists were a thing of the past, and the few vacancies that did exist were more likely to be communicated via telephone to a select number of recruiters. We started to see vacancy lists re-emerge earlier this year, and now we’re seeing them as more or less standard from all the large firms.’

In legal aid, Legal Services Commission contract tenders have led to a rise in demand for lawyers in the regions. Lynne Hardman, managing director of the professional services practice at Badenoch & Clark, said: ‘Many of the LSC mental health and family panel member contracts previously housed in London have been awarded to firms that can manage work more cost effectively in other parts of England and Wales.

‘This has resulted in a shift in demand for candidates with relevant experience from London to the regions’.

Badenoch & Clark senior manager Colin Loth added that in contrast to the positive developments seen in the private sector, local and central government legal departments are not renewing contracts for many lawyers with temporary contracts, and are not offering new temporary positions. ‘Until the government’s comprehensive spending review is published, there will be a great deal of uncertainty about budgets,’ he said. ‘Temporary staff tend to be the first to go if overall headcount is being reduced.’