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Are we in for a legal recruitment storm?

Are we in for a legal recruitment storm?

Some forecasters have predicted Australia is set for a legal 'recruitment storm' With Australia's r

Some forecasters have predicted Australia is set for a legal 'recruitment storm'
With Australia's rollercoaster unemployment rate rising to 5.8 per cent in October, legal recruiters and HR professionals are in two minds about the future of the legal recruitment market.

According to ABS labour force statistics released on Thursday, unemployment rose 0.1 per cent in October, up from 5.7 per cent in September, and legal recruitment experts are divided in their views about the likely timing, and degree of the legal recruitment market's resurrection.

After grinding to a standstill last year, and remaining practically comatose for the first half of 2009, there is general agreement that the market is now starting to show signs of life. However, views diverge markedly on how quickly this reinvigoration is occurring, and whether it will reach the dizzy heights the market was experiencing two to three years ago.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Mallesons Stephen Jaques executive director, people & development, Kate Rimer, was cautious about the recruitment market's likely rate of recovery, particularly given prevailing conditions in former recruitment hot spots overseas. "I think overall we will see a gradual pick-up in recruitment activity, but nothing significant until at least the middle of next year," she said. "Historically we have lagged much of the economy going into and coming out of downturns. We are seeing a similar pattern with the GFC, where law firms are lagging many of the economic indicators by six-plus months.

"As the economy picks up there is likely to be some lift in recruitment activity, but markets such as London - which have historically been the destination for many lawyers - are not likely to provide many opportunities for at least the next 12 months, given the severity of the GFC in the UK."

In contrast, Taylor Root consultant Matt Harris presented a much more opportunistic outlook, suggesting that the market was already feeling the first winds of a "recruitment storm".

"About six weeks ago things started to dramatically develop and increase and improve. A number of firms - in fact quite a large number of firms - that had made it very clear that they had put recruitment on ice returned to the market, and in some cases have returned to the market aggressively," he said. "I think we've already started entering a recruitment storm. I think everyone was expecting it to take place over the next six to 12 months, but I think it's happening already."

Harris said practice areas which had seen the most dramatic improvement include corporate, private equity and banking and finance - particularly among the larger mid-tier firms - which he said indicated a very strong confidence in economic recovery. "As soon as one section of firms start [recruiting in those areas] then that's a very clear indication that the market has improved dramatically and it's going to be like a snowball."

- Zoe Lyon

For the full report look out for Lawyers Weekly issue 462 hitting desks on Friday, or read the >> full cover story here

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