Whichever adjective you want to use for the current state of the legal market : flat, tight, dry, lumpy, wobbly, doughy… they all appear to be apt.
The result is that currently very few genuine opportunities exist – regardless of PQE or area of practice.
Corporate/commercial and litigation are faring better than others, but there is certainly not much job volume to speak of. Many partners and senior lawyers we speak with report that their clients - the ultimate buyers of legal service and the ultimate determinant of market buoyancy – have fallen into a period of inaction as they await the results of the election.
Notwithstanding some of these clients, e.g. from the mining sector and other legislation-critical industries or areas, might have reason to wait for the elections (employment law seems to undergo fundamental changes with a new government), many of these clients won’t be affected regardless of which party wins power.
So why this period of treading water?
Largely market sentiment or confidence - or lack thereof as is the case at the moment.
The GFC has been significantly more drawn out than anyone had expected, with the news out of the US and Europe, whilst getting better slowly, is not picking up at pace, throw in the slowing of the mining boom, and the drawn out calling of the election was all we needed to really slow down the legal recruitment market.
So, will the market pick up after 7 September? Probably not, and I suspect that how Q4 pans out will largely depend on who ends up in Government.
While the legal industry tends to respond reasonably quickly to a changing economic market, we don’t expect a significant uplift in the recruitment market until after Australia Day 2014. Some predict that the volume and demand for lawyers we were seeing pre-GFC may never come back - or certainly not for some years to come.
Areas like employment and taxation tend to take off reasonably quickly and we may start seeing increased activity in these areas soon after a new Government is in place, assuming that happens.
Ultimately, the demand for lawyers will really all come down to how quickly business confidence rebounds. For some it couldn’t happen too soon.