Within professional practice the candidate shortage continues to be a major challenge for employers and positions can be open for prolonged periods. Consequently firms, especially those in the top tier, are more willing to sponsor candidates from overseas. This trend is most obvious in transactional areas such as corporate and banking & finance given the shortage of quality candidates in the local market.
The in-house market is active, and when new positions are created employers typically request candidates with experience in particular practice areas relevant to the particular industry that the organisation operates in. This is outside of or in addition to general commercial law experience. Therefore in-house teams are becoming somewhat more specialised and are completing more work in certain niche areas rather than referring it out to external firms.
Skills in demand
In terms of skills in demand for the October to December 2015 quarter, we’re seeing high demand within professional practice for Senior Associates and Associates in commercial litigation, Senior Associates and Associates in commercial law, and Senior Associates in corporate. Practices are very keen to secure Lawyers at these levels who have local experience and can quickly establish themselves as a revenue generator for the business.
Senior Associate and Associate Finance Lawyers are also sought. Employers look for candidates who specialise in corporate finance, project finance or property finance. The top tier firms in particular are looking for these candidates and often have to compete for the best talent.
Competition Lawyers at the Associate level are in demand at a number of top tier law firms.
Corporate M&A Lawyers are also sought across top tier, mid tier and the boutiques in response to an increase in the number of high value corporate/M&A transactions in Australia.
In the in-house market, Property Paralegals who want to remain in this area long-term are in high demand, as are Licensed Conveyancers. This is in response to increased activity in the property market.
For similar reasons, Property Lawyers with a strong level of PAE are sought.
In terms of candidate trends, we continue to see candidates at the associate level move overseas, especially to London. This creates a gap in the local market at this level. The UK’s market has improved and Australian lawyers are aware there are now more opportunities available to gain international experience.
Finally, boutique firms are becoming more attractive since they offer better work-life balance and more realistic billable hours.