The demand for in-house lawyers is looking strong in 2010, according to the latest Taylor Root In-house Commerce and Industry Market Survey
Companies are demonstrating a renewed optimism in early 2010 leading to a steady increase in recruitment across most in-house sectors with Brisbane and Perth taking the lead.
Taylor Root's 2010 Market Survey has revealed that over the last 12 months, Brisbane has emerged as the market offering the highest volume of newly created opportunities for in-house lawyers, reflecting the growth in primary industries such as infrastructure and mining, as well as the large increase in LNG projects and joint ventures established in the Queensland region.
Typically, Sydney and Melbourne represent the locations where the bulk of recruitment occurs but Brisbane, along with Perth - which has maintained a steady flow of demand due to the influence of oil and gas companies based in the area - are starting to out perform the others.
According to the survey, the geographic disparities in supply and demand and the traditional differences in regional salary levels have been reduced within the commerce and industry sector, bringing Perth and Brisbane more in line with salaries in Sydney and Melbourne.
On the supply side, the survey confirmed that an increased number of lawyers are returning from overseas with many interested in exploring in-house roles, bringing a strong transactional focus in M&A, projects, energy and construction.
Common reasons for such a move, according to the survey, include a desire to work in a more commercial environment; lack of perceived or real opportunity to progress to partnership in private practice; a strong wish to become involved with the business and gain "ownership" on matters; as well as an ultimate goal to move out of the law and into a business role.
The survey also revealed that in-house salaries have consolidated rather than risen over the last 12 months. An increase in well-credentialed candidates returning from overseas combined with the shortage of attractive opportunities has resulted in little or no upward movement in salary levels.
Despite this trend, certain industry sectors, such as the resources and utilities sectors, have seen salary increases as the ongoing supply/demand imbalance has continued. The survey revealed that while these increases have not been at the rate of 10 to 12 per cent of previous years, five per cent and above is not uncommon in Brisbane and Perth.
Overall, 2010 has seen a steady increase in demand for in-house lawyers in the commerce and industry sectors in general, particularly in the engineering, construction and infrastructure industries. According to the survey an increase in M&A activity across many market sectors is expected, leading to further demand.