One in four new City lawyers from outside UK, recruitment firm says

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The Independent Online

A chronic shortage of British lawyers, accountants and finance professionals helped Robert Walters deliver record profits during the first half of the year.

Posting pre-tax profits up 66 per cent to £8.1m yesterday, the recruitment consultancy said the market for professionals in legal, finance and accounting had become increasingly global.

Up to one in four lawyers appointed to jobs in City law firms now comes from outside of the UK, the company said.

Chris Hickey, the director of professional services, said the lack of British lawyers reflected a shortfall of professional staff in their 20s and 30s in the UK.

"Corporate law is a particularly difficult area, with firms finding it difficult to keep up with the boom in mergers and acquisitions activity there has been over the past 18 months ­ around one in every four new recruits are currently not from the UK," Mr Hickey said.

"Overall, we reckon around one in seven lawyers we appoint is from Australia, New Zealand or South Africa and the picture is pretty similar in accountancy," he added. "UK graduates, rather than going into the professions, now seem to be pursuing a very wide range of careers."

The mismatch between the demand and supply of professionals in London and the South-east boosted the company's domestic business, with operating profit in the UK up 82 per cent to £1.6m.

The UK represents about half of Robert Walters' business, with Continental Europe and Asia Pacific representing roughly equal shares of the other half. Profits in the latter region grew strongly during the first half of the year, with record fee income from Australasia and a strong performance from Hong Kong.

The company said it expected its international operations to continue to grow. It has opened four new offices in Eindhoven, Lyon, Kuala Lumpur and Wellington so far this year.

Shares in Robert Walters climbed by 13.75p yesterday to close 5.5 per cent up at 263.25p last night.

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