MOST OF the international law firms that attended the Sydney Law Careers Fair last year will be absent from today’s event, many of them opting instead to return to targeting individual universities in order to get the best candidates.
Only two non-Australian based firms, Coudert Brothers and HellerEhrman, are attending the Fair. Last year Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith, Linklaters, Richards Butler and Simmons & Simmons were represented.
Many of these have chosen instead to stick with targeting particular universities, as was the practice before the Sydney Law Careers Fair was launched in 2003. The majority of the multinational firms use their HK offices to target Australian graduates. Most this year attended the University of NSW Hong Kong Law Careers Fair, held as part of the International Careers Expo on the UNSW campus in Sydney yesterday.
Linklaters HR adviser, Katie Gledhill, said they are specifically targeting students from the UNSW and the University of Sydney and had already attended “marketing presentations” at those universities in March and had set up two days of interviews.
“So we are doing that as a more specific, targeted approach rather than doing a more general law fair. I think the feedback from previous years is that [the Sydney careers fair] is a very general fair for anyone interested in a legal career … [and] the feedback we’ve had is that the targeted university law fairs are better.”
She said from Australia, Linklaters tend to just recruit from UNSW, Sydney, Melbourne and Monash universities. “We want a wide mix of applications and in past years those tend to be the best candidates we get. [Recruitment is] very expensive, and it’s better spending our money in those specific areas.”
Ruby Ng, HR adviser at Herbert Smith, had a similar view: “Really, what we found was the Sydney Law Careers Fair was not quite relevant for the people we want. What we would prefer to do is more targeted recruitment.”
Gledhill stressed it was important they identify potential candidates early in the year before Australian firms begin making offers in May and only this year had switched to picking candidates and conducting interviews from March.
“Because the Australian firms are making offers in May, we have to be able to make offers at the same time. We’re interviewing at the same time as doing career fairs, but the career fairs will probably be for next year’s applicants.
“I think what we’ve found in the past was that we’ve missed the boat because … national firms are making offers to people and we used to make them in September time, which is a whole six months late … when the best candidates have already made decisions to join Australian firms.”
Catherine Pang, HR manager at Allen & Overy’s HK office, said they would also be attending the UNSW event rather than the Sydney careers fair. “We have a limited budget and we don’t think that in going to the international law careers expo at UNSW that we still need to attend the law fair.”
Both Gledhill and Pang said they hadn’t ruled out attending the Sydney event in future, but it would depend on the results from this year’s recruits, their budget and the timing of events.
Ann Ng, a legal consultant at Jacinta Fish Legal, said most of the big firms in HK were now looking for candidates that had at least three languages — Mandarin, Cantonese and English. She said this meant there would be less interest in Australian law students, with more sourced from China or Hong Kong.