England has enough lawyers - according to a new list of jobs, put to the Government yesterday, that should be filled with skilled workers from outside the EU.
Lawyers have missed out on a place on the recommended list of shortage occupations presented to the Home Office yesterday by a Migration Advisory Committee.
The list - which includes occupations such as ballet dancers, pipe welders, chefs and hovercraft workers - is part of a new migration system that will cut the number of individual positions open to migrants by 30% and will make it more difficult to employ skilled workers in careers not featuring on the list.
A final list of shortage occupations is set to be published by the Home Office next month, ahead of the skilled worker tier of the new points system - known as tier two - coming into effect in November.
The decision is likely to impact on law firms which have in recent years been hiring rafts of associates, who normally fall into the tier two bracket, from territories such as Australia and Canada.
Law firms, along with all employers in the UK, are already scrambling to meet the Government's November application deadline for sponsoring non-EU workers. They must apply for a sponsorship license - and face a visit by the Border Agency if they want to continue hiring overseas employees.
Norton Rose's head of HR Lak Purewal, said: "We do rely heavily on recruiting outside of the EU, and although [new immigration laws] will make it difficult to continue recruiting in other jurisdictions, this is not fatal - we will just have to reach a higher hurdle and it will be more costly."
However, employment and immigration partner Richard Nicolle at Denton Wilde Sapte said: "Lawyers are highly skilled workers and often fall under tier one; they will always fulfil the points. This is not a major issue for large law firms."