For at least the first half of this year, planning any career move well in advance is advisable. The end of last year saw international firms downsizing some teams and the top tiers are likely to remain bearish in their hiring outlook.
There remain, however, opportunities at national and local mid-tier firms and smaller CBD firms, with some actually looking to grow.
Across the field, law firm clients are putting downward pressure on fees and many clients are out shopping for a better deal. This results in a general downward flow of work throughout the market and creates growth and opportunities. If you would usually only consider a move to a large firm, you may instead look at firms the next level down. You might be surprised to find more opportunities for growth and work of a comparable quality.
In order to seek out the best opportunities coming up at these firms, you may need time to stake out the market. The right opportunity will be one that offers enough work to meet budget (and therefore justify salary increases) as well as room for personal career growth within the team. Those that have more flexibility will pick up opportunities faster than those that are narrow in their focus in terms of location, salary and starting time.
Keep an eye out for areas that may become more in demand as the year progresses. While certain practice areas remain busy, such as insurance, insolvency, family and commercial disputes, be mindful that other areas might experience a spike in demand due to upcoming events.
As the election draws nearer, for example, is the industrial relations landscape likely to change? If so, firms will gear up their workplace teams in response.
Another example is the Royal Commission, which should provide litigators with a few options. Prepare your resume early, get it checked and ideally get it out there just before the roles hit the public domain.
Plan carefully, do your research on the changing shape of the legal market and be prepared to move quickly when a good opportunity comes along. Despite the signs still pointing to a flat market for the first quarter or two of this year, we are still seeing plenty of opportunities that will allow you to progress your career.