Law firms claim there are too few legal job opportunities to allow for a "mass exodus" of employees beginning in February, after a survey by consultancy Chandler Macleod found 95 per cent of job candidates in Australia were looking for work.
The survey of 930 employees found 73 per cent were actively looking for work, 22 per cent passively, while 57 per cent were confident of finding a new job within three months. The top reasons for eyeing greener pastures were limited career progression opportunities (41 per cent) and feeling undervalued (24 per cent).
Freehills human resources director Gareth Bennett said there had clearly been a pause in career progression opportunities in the legal market over the past 12 to 18 months, causing a "build-up of demand in people wanting to move".
However, because law firms have cut back or frozen their recruitment programs, there are still few jobs available for them to go to, leaving them bottled in current positions.
"It's a basic demand and supply equation", Allens Arthur Robinson people and development director Susan Ferrier said. "Not a lot of organisations are recruiting heavily at the moment, so the roles aren't there to go to. I do think perhaps there are early signs of better conditions, but it's still too early to tell", she said.
Ferrier said the firm had "started to see a little bit of turnover, but nothing like at the height of the bull market". In mid-2007, the firm experienced a 25 per cent turnover rate, which ticked up to 30 per cent in extremely buoyant job categories.
She said current turnover was a result of lawyers looking to travel or pursue further study, rather than moving to competing law firms in Australia or abroad.
Bennett said that as business confidence starts to return and law firms begin to open up positions, lawyers will be able to move and see more opportunities on the horizon.
- Ben Abbott