Life Sciences Market Conditions Report Q2 2024: EMEA


A look at the current European market shows that recruitment activity in Big Pharma remains relatively flat at all levels, with many companies still in the process of restructuring global legal, privacy and compliance functions. Biotech remains buoyant—particularly for clients with robust pipelines who are anticipating approvals. They are ramping up accordingly and seeking expertise in reimbursement and market access. As a result, lawyers with product launch experience are in high demand.

Factors Driving Market Movement

In addition to new product developments in rare disease and specialty medicines, some forces fuelling legal market growth include:

  • Technological innovation: Advances in biotechnology, genomics, precision medicine and other areas continue to drive the life sciences industry forward.
  • Regulatory environment: Changes in regulations, especially given looming elections in Europe and the U.S., will significantly impact clients in this industry and require seasoned legal expertise.
  • M&A: Consolidation is still a prominent trend in the life sciences sector, driven by the need for portfolio expansion, access to new technologies and cost efficiencies. Demand in this area relates to regulatory compliance matters, an increased emphasis on due diligence, and the need to negotiate complex deals.
  • Data privacy, AI and security: With the growing importance of data-driven technologies and the increasing threat of data breaches, expertise in data privacy and cybersecurity is critical for life sciences companies. There is steady demand for legal experts to help companies comply with GDPR, mitigate data breaches, and address privacy issues associated with emerging technologies.
  • Investor interest: The industry continues to attract substantial investment from venture capital firms, PE investors and other sources. Legal talent is needed to structure investment deals, conduct risk assessments and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

Where Is Money Being Invested in Life Sciences?

With the growing digitalisation of healthcare—including telemedicine, digital health platforms and health data analytics—healthcare technology has emerged as a hotbed for investment. European companies that offer innovative solutions to improve patient care, enhance operational efficiency, and lower healthcare costs have garnered substantial funding.

What Can We Expect for the Rest of 2024?

As the year unfolds, London expects several movements to gain steam:

  • Accelerated adoption of digital health solutions
  •  Increased investment in biotechnology and healthcare technology
  • Regulatory developments impacting market dynamics
  • Growing emphasis on health equity and access

We also anticipate continued consolidation and collaboration—more specifically, mergers and acquisitions and strategic collaborations between biopharma, research institutions and technology firms.

Which Roles Are in Demand in the European Markets?

Functional roles are showing the highest demand currently, including heads of regulatory/government affairs and lawyers specialising in IP, compliance and investigations. There is also increased demand for business-focused patent lawyers to provide strategic IP leadership.  We are also seeing momentum in searches for transactional lawyers for M&A, joint ventures and licensing agreements, and tech ops.  Lawyers with expertise in data privacy laws, cybersecurity regulations and incident response management are also being sought after. Finally, as general counsel are tasked with finding increasing efficiencies, they are seeking legal operations specialists.

How Are GCs and Companies Retaining the Talent They Have?

In this reinvigorated market, GCs are investing marked time and effort in retaining their existing talent. Their strategies include:

  • Offering more professional development opportunities (CLE) and mentorship programs, including leadership development and secondments to other departments
  • Providing expanded access to high-profile cases or projects
  • Creating clear and defined career pathways
  • Implementing initiatives to support a better work-life balance, such as flexible work arrangements
  • Recognising and showing appreciation for valued employees, including retention bonuses and incentives
  • Improving employee engagement and communication
  • Nurturing a positive company culture
  • Implementing workplace wellness initiatives that include mental health support services and access to fitness facilities  

GCs we have spoken with are also celebrating achievements, milestones and successes within their legal team, which reinforces a sense of belonging and motivates lawyers to excel in their roles.

Potential Market Threats on the Horizon

In European markets, GCs will have to be vigilant and closely monitor potential policy and regulatory changes that could lead to risks, as well as opportunities, in the life sciences market. Those with oversight of regulatory and public affairs will play a vital role in ensuring their organizations can navigate changes in the global economic and political landscape.

Other issues that may impact talent acquisition and workforce planning include market access challenges, IP concerns, competitive pressures and healthcare budget constraints. Data privacy and security concerns will likely continue to influence life sciences clients as well.

The Role of AI in Life Sciences

The life sciences sector was arguably one of the earliest adopters of AI, as its applications in drug development or R&D for new medical devices were apparent even when the technology was in its infancy. Overall, AI is beginning to revolutionise the industry by enhancing efficiency, accuracy and compliance while enabling legal professionals to focus on higher-value tasks. Example use cases include:

  • Document review and analysis: AI-powered tools can efficiently review and analyse large volumes of legal documents, including contracts, patents, regulatory filings and scientific literature.
  • Due diligence: In life sciences transactions such as M&A, AI tools can streamline due diligence processes by automatically extracting key data points from documents, identifying potential legal and regulatory concerns, and providing insights to support decision-making.

  • Compliance and regulatory monitoring: AI can assist in monitoring regulatory changes, tracking compliance requirements and analysing how new regulations may impact companies.

  • Predictive analytics: AI algorithms can examine historical legal data to identify patterns, trends and potential outcomes in life sciences litigation, regulatory proceedings and other legal matters.

  • IP management: AI tools can aid in managing intellectual property portfolios, including patents, trademarks and copyrights.

  • Contract management: AI-powered contract management platforms can streamline the creation, negotiation and management of contracts.

  • Ethical and privacy considerations: AI can assist in addressing ethical and privacy considerations associated with the use of data in life sciences research and legal proceedings.

Whilst there is not yet a clearly defined profile of an AI legal expert, certain backgrounds, professional experience and skills may provide a solid foundation for an in-house counsel to assume this role. Based on initial conversations we have had with life sciences companies looking to invest in AI—and some of the initial court cases—we can safely assume an AI legal expert will need some level of knowledge in intellectual property law, privacy and litigation.

The Next Big Thing

As AI continues to develop throughout Europe and the world, recruiting life sciences lawyers will likely involve a combination of technological proficiency, interdisciplinary expertise, specialised knowledge, global perspective and a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Recruiters who can identify and attract candidates with these qualities will be well-positioned to meet the ever-evolving needs of the industry.

U.S. Market at a Glance

The strongest growth opportunities in the U.S. life sciences market right now appear to be biotech in the oncology space, biosimilars and vaccines. In the coming year, our teams are hopeful for additional hiring needs as access to funding sources increases and more money is invested in research and development. This will likely be a result of increased confidence in the strength of the economy and less concern about inflation.

What roles are in demand: There seems to be a slight uptick in hiring, particularly for biotech/biopharma companies with PE investments. These are typically situations where the company is hiring its first GC. Head of compliance roles are also bringing more search activity. For the most part, it is shifted to much more of a buyer’s market. Candidates do not seem to be holding multiple offers and search processes are taking longer to complete.

Factors driving the market: Factors affecting the market currently include access to funding to continue operations—especially if results have not been optimal or additional clinical trials need to be conducted. Competition is also significant; companies are under major pressure to develop innovative products and next-generation therapies. Other influential factors include the use of generative AI for research and discovery and drug pricing.

Threats on the horizon for life sciences include limited funding access, acquisitions of smaller startups, cyber threats and supply chain issues stemming from global geopolitical tensions.

How GCs are retaining talent: Legal departments are focusing on retention by increasing compensation to be more in line with the market—especially if they are bringing on new talent at a higher price point. Some are realigning reporting structures to give their lawyers more oversight and management responsibilities; this is often accompanied by title changes.

The role of AI: Many clients are already using generative AI for research and drug discovery. Some are focused on assessing where else the technology may have an impact in this sector, such as clinical trials, design of medical devices and drugs, and diagnostics. All these applications could influence the work necessary for those legal departments.

The next big thing: This is undoubtedly the increasing use of and investment in generative AI, as well as growth and expansion in biosimilars.


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