As 2009 draws to a close Australian lawyers are wondering what next year holds and whether there will be opportunities to work overseas. Markets such as London and New York once presented prime locations for Australian lawyers, so how promising will such markets be for Australians in 2010?
Here's a snapshot of how the job markets of the main jurisdictions that attract Australians will fare in 2010 - and what you should do to make sure you are best placed for that dream job when it comes up.
The private practice market is starting to recover with firms considering mid-level and senior lawyers from Australia (predominantly returners) in areas such as restructuring, corporate, finance, energy and shipping.
The signs are that demand will slowly increase as the UK economy moves forward in 2010. On the in-house side, an oversupply of quality redundant lawyers means it will be unlikely that companies and financial organisations will need to look overseas to hire, for the short term at least.
The effects of the unprecedented redundancies over the last two years will be felt in 2010, although improvements in the US economy has meant the long-term future is looking rosier. It is likely to be six to 12 months before firms start to recruit from Australia again and they will only want to take on the best of the best, given the talent available.
Even in good times, Europe has largely been inwardly focused and while there have been increased workflows it hasn't translated into significant external recruitment yet. Over the next year, both inhouse and law firm clients are likely to continue to want locally qualified candidates with fluent language skills, although exceptional individuals with strong connections to Europe will have options.
This market is starting to improve slowly, largely for litigators with strong insolvency, banking and trust experience.
In the last six months, the markets have shown some promising signs, with fluent Mandarin and Japanese speakers (at the mid-level) being recruited across the areas of corporate, finance, insolvency, projects and litigation. If this trend continues, demand will extend to those without language skills.
The in-house market is also getting busier, with our financial services and multinational clients getting the green light to recruit again.
Hard hit by the downturn, job losses both in-house and in law firms have continued this year. Recently, there has been an increase in local recruitment activity in the region. Clients have also been happy to recruit from Australia if the local market can't satisfy their needs in terms of quality and experience. If this continues, the Middle East could also be a market for Australian lawyers to target in 2010.
What you can do to get there
If you want to work overseas you need to put yourself in the best position now and because the markets are so competitive this means looking at:
- Your current position - Are you in an internationally recognised firm or company? If so, you are in the best place to make the move when options exist. If you are not, make the step up domestically;
- Different options - It's great being focused, but the world is a different place and you need to be realistic about your chances; talk to an expert on what your chances are; look at different opportunities, locations and roles because they may not only give you a great job but also that regional experience that gets your international career started; and
- Language skills - Will you require language skills for the markets you are interested in? Obtain these skills now because it will make you a stronger candidate in this tight market. Australian lawyers will always want to go and work overseas for the quality of work, culture and remuneration. The GFC has meant that high-calibre individuals who previously would have been flooded with opportunities have had to bide their time. As we approach 2010, there are encouraging signs that such lawyers will have options
again, which is hopefully some good news at the end of another hard year.
Sandra D'Souza is the manager of Taylor Root in Sydney