LAW FIRMS will need to find creative ways of attracting and retaining staff as the employment market for lawyers continues to thrive in 2007.
Recruiters predict this year will be just as competitive as 2006, meaning strong candidates will be highly sought after as lucrative opportunities overseas continue to fuel a mass exodus of local talent.
Lawyers at the two- to six-year level will be most in demand according to Rosemary Galic, senior consultant (NSW) Private Practice and International at Mahlab.
“A lot of lawyers we’re dealing with are Generation Ys and the strong ones are never on the market for very long. Firms have had to pick up the pace and act quickly. Some of the strategies the firms have adopted include increasing the involvement of partners in the recruitment process;, offering candidates the opportunity to meet with their teams; responding to individual requirements by taking into account their motivators; offering flexible work arrangements; secondment opportunities and new opportunities for promotion,” she said.
Performance-based bonus incentives, attractive relocation packages and sign-on bonuses are also being used to sweeten already competitive offers.
While firms are rethinking their recruitment strategies, Galic said they won’t be compromising on the quality of candidates and may increasingly look to other common law jurisdictions.
“Firms have done a lot of successful recruitment with New Zealand lawyers, and they are also looking at Canada and South Africa. The firms aren’t compromising on quality but are a bit more open-minded about what to look for,” Galic said.
Greg Plummer from Dolman believes salaries could also jump as firms try to prevent their lawyers being enticed overseas. Indeed, magic circle firms are getting more aggressive in their search for Australian talent, holding biannual recruitment drives whereas previously they travelled to Australia only every second year.
“There may be salary increases in the two- to five-year brackets because of increasing demands for lawyers at those levels as activity overseas has contributed to a shortage in those areas. A lot of those lawyers have very high expectations of the market. And, in particular, good corporate lawyers are often the ones who sort of feel that they should be paid more,” Plummer said.
In terms of practice areas, mid-level lawyers in corporate, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, banking and finance, capital markets and fund management will be highly sought after. There has also been an influx of opportunities in projects and construction work nationally.
Elvira Naiman from Naiman Clarke says the demand for lawyers will differ across Australian states.
“Victoria and New South Wales are in negative growth at the moment and the reason Australia as a whole is experiencing positive growth is that we are being pulled along by Perth and Brisbane. Perth has ongoing recruitment needs and there is a very big demand for all types of lawyers — Brisbane is likewise. Sydney is more buoyant than Melbourne because it’s the banking capital but Melbourne has never had massive peaks and it just goes along doing what it does and is more steady than the other states. Also, the ACT market has become really slowed. Corrs has left the market there and there are only a handful of firms doing really well in the country’s capital,” Naiman said.
John Edgerton, manager Corporate (NSW) In-House Recruitment from Mahlab said demand for in-house lawyers at the three- to five-year level will remain buoyant.
“Corporations are looking to add to their legal teams, rather than outsource legal work. Companies are keen to reduce external legal costs and also recognise the value-add that an in-house lawyer can give to the organisation as an employee that knows the needs of the business. They are only going outside for specialist legal advice or for assistance on particular projects such as a major litigation or corporate transactions.”
The financial services industry is expected to offer a range of opportunities in-house with high levels of demand for lawyers in banking and finance, funds management and compliance areas. Property and construction are other areas where demand for in-house lawyers is strong.