This year has brought weakened business conditions and therefore a weakened job market throughout Australia and particularly in WA, as the mining and resources boom slows from its record levels.
Furthermore, business efficiencies such as outsourcing, restructuring by employers and technological change have resulted in a permanent loss of jobs – these will never be replaced.
As employers, including the large law firms and corporate departments, have consolidated their businesses, lawyers on the move have reported job search is taking longer. There are fewer permanent roles than in previous years and an increasing number of contract and part-time opportunities. This is now about to change.
Interest rates and the Australian dollar are both falling and the election has passed. These factors will work to create greater certainty and improve confidence. This will result in a slow, steady increase in job opportunities for lawyers.
New South Wales, Victoria and Brisbane are now showing signs of steady improvement. Mid-tier law firms will continue to grow, as will in-house and government teams. Employers will remain conservative in hiring. Hiring approvals are now linked to being able to prove a business case, namely, to replace departing lawyers and to resource teams where incoming work requires additional permanent support.
As the job market improves, lawyers will show greater confidence and mobility as they use these improved conditions to investigate their options in the market. They will be seeking career development, training, advancement prospects and better financial rewards.
Those lawyers with specialist skills, quality training and experience, and strong communication and influencing skills will benefit.
As the economy improves, demand for lawyers with skills in areas such as corporate and commercial law, restructuring, infrastructure and major projects, commercial litigation, employment law, commercial property development, insurance law and regulatory and compliance law, as well as energy & resources, will provide opportunities.
The final quarter of 2013 will end with greater confidence, optimism and new job opportunities — a much stronger position than it’s weak, subdued start. It will be the kick-start the legal employment market needs for 2014.