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Firms' hiring confidence back

Firms' hiring confidence back

Signs that the economy is on the road to recovery are filtering through to the legal market, with recruiters saying business is again pumping.

SIGNS that the economy is on the road to recovery are filtering through to the legal market, with recruiters saying business is again pumping. 

Taylor Root Global Legal Recruitment is just one of the recruiters to have seen a noticeable turn around in law firm confidence in the last month.  

Taylor Root consultant, Matt Harris, said the agency had seen more and more firms turning on the “recruitment tap”. 

“As soon as we tipped past the new financial year there was a definite sign of improvement- that started to gain a bit of pace- and about a month ago we started getting jobs coming in every day.”

“In terms of the types of firms that are recruiting again and the types of people they are looking for - all of those transactional disciplines that were very quiet earlier this year, such as corporate law and finance law, have really bounced back.” 

An unexpected fall in the jobless rate to a four-month low of 5.7 per cent earlier this month is further evidence of the recovery. Economists say employment grew by a hefty, seasonally adjusted 40,600, which was largely made up of 35,400 full-time workers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data suggests the jobless rate will peak at substantially below the May budget forecast of 8.5 per cent by June 2011, if it hasn’t topped-out already.

Harris said he is confident in the sector's upcoming rebound and said it was unlikely this was an artificial bubble in the market.

“These firms are going to be recruiting because of what they perceive to be their pipeline of work. And they will be only recruiting new people and paying us to find people if they have a high degree confidence that this is going to last long enough to make it worthwhile to pay our fees.” 

The latest growth figures show Australia had a 1.7 per cent increase in August, the first positive reading for the index since September 2008. 

“We haven’t got the number of vacancies we would have had 18 months ago,” said Harris. “But all the firms are recruiting again, they are saying 'now we need three or four new staff'. The numbers are lower, but its only going to go one way.” 

Firms are turning to Taylor Root to fill roles within all areas of practice, including transactional, which was one of the areas worst affected by the global economic downturn. 

Corporate law, banking law and property law are all showing signs of improvement, said Harris. However, top-tier firms were not showing the same level of confidence as mid-tier firms. Harris puts it down to the mid-tier firms being leaner and needing to recruit on mass more quickly. 

Recruiter EA International managing director, Edward Andrew, agrees that the market has picked up a little, but he is still cautious about its growth. 

“I think, what we are seeing is now is that from a period of virtual inactivity, firms are starting to be a bit more positive about their recruitment needs and are beginning to look for new staff," Andrew said. 

“We are seeing internationally more banking and finance jobs coming through, transactional practice groups are coming back more slowly, there have been quite a few roles in employment, insurance etcetera. But the firms are still being fairly selective about who they are taking on board.” 

Andrew added that the September and October time of year was traditionally a busy time for firms to be recruiting, before quietening down at the end of the calendar year. 

“I’m pleased to see a slight uptake in recruitment in the legal sector, but we need to see it over a sustained period of time before I can see it as a recovery.” 

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