Australian law graduates’ double degrees, their exemplary language skills, and the great number of graduates’ with ancestral connections with Asia are the dangling carrots attracting international law firms to the graduate fair next Friday. The firms thus see Australia as “fertile ground” for good recruits.
Because students in Australia have to take a double degree in order to do law, whether it is a bachelor of commerce, finance or art, together with a law degree, international firms are scooping up graduates in this country.
HR officer at Allen & Overy in Hong Kong Julia Sheng told Lawyers Weekly that “we are interested in getting trainees with this kind of combined degree”.
Ruby Ng, an HR officer charged with graduate recruitment for Herbert Smith, Hong Kong, said the international firm had always looked upon Australia as a “fertile ground” for good recruits. “Australian graduates are appealing because most students have double degrees,” she said.
Similarly, Australia has many Asian students who were “born and bred” in Australia with the all-important second language so essential in the Asian legal market, be it Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai or Indonesian.
Clifford Chance HR officer Jane Kirkby said that a lot of the international firms’ trainee solicitors, who move to Hong Kong and other international offices from Australia, were Australian born Chinese. “This is not just because of their familial connections, but because they are well educated and they have the language skills we need,” she said.
Allen & Overy’s Sheng agreed that Australian students’ language skills were a factor attracting the firm to the graduate fair this year. “They must have the language skills to work in Hong Kong,” she said. “Hong Kong is a region of China so we have a lot of clients in China. Trainees’ ability to speak the language is a necessary skill,” she said.
Also, for Thai or Chinese Australians moving out of Australia to work in firms in other counties, it can be an opportunity to “return to their roots”, said Kirkby. People may have family overseas, or they may just be wanting to learn more about the country their families were from, she added.
Australian students’ good results are another factor attracting international firms to the fair this year, said Sheng. The firm takes on 10 trainees each year and from that they select about four from Australia. “We are employing trainees two years in advance.”
Herbert Smith did not come to the graduate fair last year predominantly owing to the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong, which meant that the firm was avoiding unnecessary travel. However, the firm had previously visited Australia’s sandstone law schools for the previous three years in search of future fee earners, Ng said.
Ng also pointed to the common jurisdictions found in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia as an obvious plus for Australian students, who can accordingly travel between the three relatively easily.