AUSTRALIAN LAW firms are taking the challenge put to them by overseas firms, which have for so long poached Australian lawyers looking for interesting and valuable experiences. Unwilling to accept the resultant vacancies as London, Hong Kong and Middle Eastern firms recruit our lawyers, Australian firms are launching recruitment drives overseas to give international opposition a taste of its own medicine.
London, Hong Kong and the Middle East, which for years have been sourcing quality lawyers from Australia and New Zealand, particularly at the two to five year post admission level, according to Hays Legal, are now finding Australian firms looking for similar talent on their home grounds.
Manager of the Melbourne legal team at Hamilton James & Bruce, James Pfahl, told Lawyers Weekly that Australian firms lost a lot of lawyers to the UK and Hong Kong in the late 1990s and at the beginning of this decade, “so now they are being proactive, as they don’t want this gap to continue”.
“Law firms are getting creative,” said Pfahl. “They are looking at the national market but also overseas, and are replicating what the UK-based firms have been doing here for some time.”
Allens Arthur Robinson has recently returned from a one month recruitment drive in London. This major recruitment and advertising campaign was aimed at drawing in both London lawyers, and Australian lawyers planning to return home.
Allens staff partner Ross Drinnan said the one month stint in the UK was for the purpose of conducting a series of interviews over one week. But the firm also saw it as an opportunity to keep in contact with its alumni. “We do our best to stay in touch with our people [in the hope that] when they decide to come back they will come and talk to us,” he said.
Australia is an attractive place for English lawyers planning to work overseas, said Drinnan. “Just as Australian lawyers have for many years liked to explore the opportunity of working in London, similarly English lawyers are interested in working here,” he said.
Also, the firm was eager to speak with lawyers coming to the end of their British stint and wanting to return home. Allens spoke to a large amount of English people who have hooked up with Australians and are planning to relocate Down Under, said Drinnan.
Mallesons Stephen Jaques is also on the lookout for UK lawyers and Australians returning home in a number of areas of law. The firm is using Dolman Legal Search and Recruitment to run its recruitment campaign, and it is understood opportunities exist in a number of offices in Australia. “This is an opportunity to gain access to high quality, cross-border work in the Asia Pacific region with this award winning firm,” runs the recruitment brief.
Top-tier firms need to run these campaigns, argued Pfahl. They also have some ‘best friend’ agreements with magic circle firms in the UK, in which Australians wanting to go overseas can find positions, and at the same time the Australian firms can keep an eye on those lawyers. “This way Australian firms can keep track of [those lawyers] rather than losing them altogether,” Pfahl said.