I don’t think anybody genuinely knows the answer right now. Undoubtedly there are fewer legal vacancies and opportunities across the board in all state capitals in comparison to six months ago.
Perth is really the only location that hasn’t been significantly affected by a more cautious approach being adopted by law firms and companies across the rest of the country.
The continued slowdown in many law firms’ ‘bread and butter’ areas of corporate and banking has resulted in the overwhelming majority of firms taking a risk-averse approach to hiring in these departments. This caution has spread to the mid-tier firms who were previously making opportunistic hiring decisions and faring very well as a result.
The in-house recruitment market is also fairly flat. There has been little recruitment all year into the banks and financial services companies, whilst recruitment into other industry sectors has been steady at best. Obviously companies in the energy and resources market have performed better than others and demand remains high for lawyers with this background. Opportunities for senior lawyers with around 10 years’ experience are particularly rare right now.
There remain small pockets of international recruitment, with opportunities for triple-A rated candidates in London, New York, Singapore and the Middle East.
So what to do if you’re job hunting? Notwithstanding the above ‘doom and gloom’, there are roles out there. Competition for roles will be more intense than in previous years and clients are certainly taking advantage of the bigger pool of prospective candidates by being more selective.
It may be sensible for candidates to recalibrate their expectations in terms of salary and the type of work or organisation that they would previously have discounted. For some, playing a waiting game in the hope that the new year brings improved market sentiment may be more realistic. In any event, excelling during the interview process is critical.
We all hope that the legal recruitment market gains some momentum in future months but only time will tell.