The reality of the economic crisis can be sobering, writes Michael Bromley of EA International, but once redundancy processes are complete, overseas firms will be turning their minds to hiring again.
The US has seen housing values fall in some states by nearly 50 per cent, the UK has witnessed the effective failure of its leading banks, Japan has contracted at an annualised rate of 12.7 per cent and Spain's unemployment rate has gone from 7.5 per cent to 13.9 per cent in just two months.
The consequence for Australian lawyers has been an effective freeze on hiring by the leading international firms into transactional practice groups. On the flipside, however, we have seen a subsequent improvement in the opportunities for insolvency and restructuring specialists and anyone with a contentious practice. As such, even in this present time of global upheaval, real opportunities are still out there.
With specific respect to the UK market and those firms undertaking a redundancy process, the majority of lawyers affected have come from real estate, finance, capital markets and corporate practice groups.
However groups such as employment, insolvency, commercial litigation and restructuring have all seen significant practice growth. Many of these groups have had their hiring needs put aside while the firms work through their redundancy processes, but from what our clients continue to tell us, once these are complete, partners will have the flexibility to hire.
Accordingly, in contentious practice groups we can only see an upside during the next 12 months throughout the UK, the Middle East, Asia and offshore jurisdictions.
While that is positive for litigators and corporate restructuring specialists, transactional lawyers will continue to experience a difficult - but not impossible - market. Once the redundancy process is completed we expect most firms will return to hiring, but at reduced levels.
Our advice is to be opportunistic when roles arise, patient with the time it will take to obtain a role and have the flexibility to consider different jurisdictions. Looking further afield to places as diverse as Abu Dhabi, Doha, Bangkok or Jersey should provide many more opportunities over the next 12 months.