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What on earth is happening in Perth?

Some of Perth’s most senior legal professionals are moving between BigLaw firms as industry-wide talent shortages force them to offer the big bucks to lure in talent. 

user iconJess Feyder 21 November 2022 Big Law
What on earth is happening in Perth?
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The Perth market has seen considerable movement over the past year, with firms increasing their headhunting efforts in the West Australian capital.

In March 2022, Ashurst had four partners taken by King Wood & Mallesons; Ashurst then poached three partners from Norton Rose Fulbright, and went on to record a 12 per cent revenue increase in July

Allen & Overy poached Matthew Johnson from Hogan Lovells to make him its co-head of global mining. They also took a senior lawyer and a senior associate from Herbert Smith Freehills


In May 2022, Squire Patton Boggs lost a partner that had been with them for eight years to Gilbert + Tobin. Gilbert + Tobin also took a senior associate from Squire Patton Boggs and a senior associate from K&L Gates.

In September 2022, Hall & Willcox took a partner from Dentons, and Squire Patton Boggs brought in a real estate partner from Clayton Utz. In the same month, DLA Piper brought in a partner from Gilbert + Tobin.

To get an insight into the current state of play, as well as determine whether competitiveness will continue to ramp up and see others switch firms, Lawyers Weekly spoke to two recruiters.

According to Jesse Shah, director at nrol, during COVID-19, firms began seeing growth, yet movement faltered due to fears of job insecurity.

Whilst movement has always been normal, especially for junior lawyers, explained Mr Shah, the high level of growth that firms have experienced has produced talent shortages and compelled firms to compete for senior legal professionals.

“There’s a massive shortage of talent, yet firms are still growing rapidly,” said Mr Shah.

“Post-COVID, the movements have been incredible. People are being poached a lot more. It’s a crazy time.

“There’s never been movement like this before, and such a shortage of talent.”

Similarly, Mr Shah said candidates have never been presented with so much choice.

“Since I’ve started recruitment, I haven’t seen this — firms competing with each other at such a level where the candidates will have five or six different options, when before COVID, they maybe had two,” he explained.

“It’s been rare in the past, but a lot more movement has been happening at senior levels.

“I’m seeing a lot of senior associates approach me looking for a move, which has not been the case in the past … It’s your market as a candidate.”

Doron Paluch, director at legal recruitment firm Burgess Paluch, echoed a similar sentiment, noting that salaries are becoming a lot more competitive to lure in talent.

“Within four or five months of COVID hitting, many law firms saw the demand for their services escalate. Recruitment started and continued at a dramatic pace from then,” he said.

“We’ve seen the number of legal professions moving between law firms increasing [in] numbers.

“Towards the end of last year and early this year, salary offers were getting unsustainably high. Firms were paying very, very big dollars, and the salaries increased substantially.”

Recession fears

With many unknowns on the horizon when it comes to global financial markets, Lawyers Weekly asked Mr Shah and Mr Paluch: How might this trend of high growth and competitive recruitment look in the future considering the predicted recession?

“A lot of firms who are experiencing incredible growth, they’re not looking at a recession, they’re looking at growing,” Mr Shah posited.

“Most law firms, even if they’re consolidating, rather than being aggressive at the moment, do anticipate continued recruitment over the next six months,” Mr Paluch illuminated.

For BigLaw firms that operate in many practice areas, it’s normal for practices to fluctuate in accordance with the market, Mr Paluch explained, noting they might slow down recruitment in particular areas, or change the areas in which they are recruiting.

“Even while firms become more cautious and recruitment in corporate and M&A is down, many firms continue to recruit in construction, property, employment, insolvency, and other areas.

“Most law firms, even if they’re consolidating rather than being aggressive, do anticipate continued recruitment over the next six months,” Mr Paluch posited.

“Firms saw what the market did with the legal sector in COVID; they came through that and were shown that they were robust enough and had incredible working clients and policies and brand names,” stated Mr Shah.

“That’s given them the confidence that come recession — if we can fight through COVID, we can fight through that.”