Law firms and in-house legal teams have typically organised their budgets for the new financial year and now have a clear strategy for future recruitment.
The new financial year is also typically a time when there is an influx of candidates in the legal market who are looking for a new role.
Candidates tend to look at this time of year because they might not be happy with their salary, bonus arrangement or career progression post-performance review. (As Lawyers Weekly has reported in earlier editions, certain employers have imposed a salary freeze this year.) We have also seen candidates whose increased workloads are taking their toll as team members have left and not been replaced.
Another factor that will influence business activity, and in turn legal hiring, is the federal election, but its anticipated that it will take some time after the election for there to be an upturn in transactional work (such as M&A and banking & finance). In the meantime, a number of firms have said that they are sitting tight or keeping steady, with a reduction in graduate intakes and flexible work policies being implemented to reduce or avoid potential redundancies.
While the large firms have been cutting numbers, mid-sized players have been more active on the hiring front.
There have been many notable top-tier partner movements to mid-sized firms.
The Australian legal market is also influenced by the international legal market and international economic activity generally. It is expected that local legal hiring will be encouraged when the international firms start hiring again.
Many of the global firms, as well as our large domestic firms, are rethinking their structure and making structural changes.
While it is anticipated that the market will remain conservative and there is unlikely to be a surge in legal hiring, employers will be looking to fill specific skill gaps in their teams (both in-house and private practice) and firms will continue to seek lawyers with a potential client base.
The legal hires that employers make this new financial year are expected to be extremely well-considered and strategic as they seek to maintain or improve their position in the market.