CORPORATIONS ARE tending to take on an increasing amount of legal work in-house and are doing so by adding to their corporate legal teams, recruitment agencies have announced.
There is a positive feeling in the market, according to recruitment agencies Hughes Castell, Mahlab and Hays ZMB.
In an interview with Lawyers Weekly, Peter Gosden, manager of Hughes Castell’s Sydney office, said that although there had not been the level of activity that was hoped for this year, there had been an increase in activity. “There has been a marked but not significant change in in-house recruitment,” he said.
Senior consultant at Hays ZMB, Kirsty McLeod, agreed there had been considerable activity in the past year in in-house appointments.
This was largely due to the creation of new roles, she said. “There have been some replacements but departments are busy and are needing extras bodies.”
A recent Mahlab Recruitment survey found that an increasing trend in the corporate market over the past year has been the emergence of newly created roles or ‘greenfield’ opportunities. Several organisations have recruited their first in-house lawyer during the past financial year, the survey found.
“In some instances, this has been on a contract basis initially, with the company adopting a ‘try before they buy’ approach to recruitment,” Mahlab’s survey revealed.
The most notable activity and increases were in IT over the past year, Hughes Castell’s Gosden said.
Over the previous couple of years, the IT area had been particularly quiet. Mahlab’s Survey found this was due to the downturn in the global economy which resulted in redundancies and recruitment freezes. But the re-emergence of in-house IT opportunities has been “of significant interest”, the survey found.
In-house salaries are getting closer to private practice, Hughes Castell’s Gosden told Lawyers Weekly. He said it used to be that you would come out of law school and go straight into private practice. “But now in-house is equally advantageous but the demands are slightly different.”
According to Mahlab, increases in corporate salaries were reasonably conservative over the past year. The average percentage increase for corporate lawyers was 5.22 per cent, which compares to 5.5 per cent the previous year.
Seventy-nine per cent of corporate lawyers surveyed by Mahlab said they wished to stay in the corporate sector, with 65 per cent saying they were not considering leaving their current employer.
While their pay may not be dramatically increasing, corporate lawyers are working just as hard as their private practice counterparts, Mahlab revealed. “The average hours worked each week was 50.3, up from 48.6 last year,” it said.
The majority of corporate lawyers are satisfied with their careers, Mahlab’s survey found, with 59 per cent advising they are “mostly satisfied”. Only 4 per cent were unsatisfied.