The downturn is providing some unique opportunities for boutique firms who are positioning themselves as better-value alternatives to the top-tier.
Hynes Lawyers managing partner Robert Hynes said that the tougher economic climate has brought about a chance for the firm to snap up some top talent.
"Traditionally the biggest challenge for us, other than winning the work, has been getting the best quality people to do it," he said. "Now with some of the biggest firms slowing down ... and there's been a series of announcements about partner freezes ...you're seeing a whole lot of good quality lawyers within those firms saying 'Well there's no future here for the next three to five years', so they're looking around. They're now more comfortable looking outside what might otherwise have been a very limited circle."
The firm has recently recruited a five-person intellectual property team and a seven-person insolvency team and Hynes said he is in discussions with another teams.
As well as recruitment opportunities, Hynes said that boutique firms are also in a position to attract new work, as pricing becomes a more significant consideration for clients.
"The scales have tipped away from 'OK, we'll go with the big brand because they're safe' to 'We want a good job but we want good value for money'. It's not that we intentionally compete on price, but because we're set up differently to the large firms we are cheaper," he said.
Hynes concedes that there will be clients who will also be suited to having top-tier advisers - such as large, national public companies who require advice across the country - but he believes there are opportunities arising for smaller boutique firms who can compete on a similar technical level in their area of expertise.
"There's another category of clients, which for us might be a Queensland-based, listed company that only has need in Queensland, and they're happy to stick to a smaller firm because they can get better value. Those clients are becoming a little more savvy about the fact that, if you shop around, some of the smaller firms can do the same job for a bigger price," he said.
By Zoe Lyon