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Understanding current in-house legal job market trends

From relocation and remuneration considerations to where we’re at in the new financial year, there are numerous factors to bear in mind when interpreting the current state of affairs for corporate legal recruitment right now, writes Andrew Murdoch.

user iconAndrew Murdoch 22 August 2023 Corporate Counsel
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Like the financial market, the in-house legal job market fluctuates, has peaks and troughs, and has bear and bull markets. Understanding the changing job market and “buying” or “selling” at the right time can increase your chances of a successful recruitment process both as a candidate looking for a job and as a company looking to recruit.

Below are some trends we’re seeing in the current in-house market.

  1. July and August: The quietest months
A little-known quirk of the in-house recruitment market is that July and the beginning of August are the quietest months, and this year is no exception. We attribute this to a combination of:


  • School holidays/people travelling overseas and interstate to escape the cold weather/go skiing;
  • Lawyers waiting for their end-of-year bonuses before looking for another role; and
  • Exhausted from closing deals and finishing projects before the end of the financial year, everyone is taking a mental break before commencing their job search/recruiting for their team.

Don’t be concerned if you haven’t seen many suitable jobs advertised or applicants apply during July and August; the market picks up significantly from September – see below.

  1. September to December: Most active months
Every year, we see a surge in activity between September and December. Budgets reset, resolutions to change jobs come into focus, projects promised by the end of the year loom, and spring and summer bring a feeling of optimism. Additionally, this year, increased expectations of a “soft landing”, a backlog of job seekers following COVID-19, and a sense of stability with a new federal government have created a fluid and active job market.

Contrary to common belief, December is an incredibly busy month as companies seek to recruit to have new starters take their notice period over the Christmas break and commence fresh in the new year.


If you’re looking for a new job or to recruit, now is the time and don’t stop looking/recruiting in December.

  1. Lawyers are less willing to relocate
Five years ago, lawyers regularly moved between cities for jobs. We’re seeing this less frequently now. It seems COVID-19 has changed people’s perception of distance. Additionally, I think property price rises and associated stamp duty costs have reduced the likelihood of a lawyer moving cities for a new job.


Cities outside Melbourne and Sydney may struggle to find candidates, particularly outside the dominant industries in that city.

With the pool of applicants limited to a single city, consider “remote working”, which will significantly increase the number of suitable applicants.

If you’re a lawyer in a smaller market looking for a change of industries but worried you don’t have the experience, apply for the role, as clients are showing much more flexibility.

  1. Salaries
Last financial year, in-house salaries increased significantly – especially for lawyers at the junior to mid-level of experience. We’re seeing the increase taper as more lawyers enter the job market; companies stick to their budgets and, if necessary, recruit a more junior lawyer or change the role to part-time to fit within their budget. Conversely, lawyers with plentiful options are holding fast to their salary expectations. There is less movement from both parties.


To save time, money and frustration, salary and budget expectations need to be managed from the outset by jobseekers and companies. Proceeding through a process hoping that the lawyer will lower their salary expectations or the company will increase the salary is fraught. If you don’t know the company’s budget or the lawyer’s salary expectations – ask!

Andrew Murdoch is the managing director of Dovetail Legal Secondees & Recruitment.