It’s not you, it’s the market

In June 2013, New South Wales (and our other States) experienced the lowest level of business and consumer confidence in 30 years.  We had hoped that 2014 would herald a new market, with renewed vigour and with the bleak business conditions of 2013 behind us.    While that has been the case particularly with our top-tier firms recruiting again, unfortunately we continue to hear ourselves stating the old “catch cry” of 2013, “It’s not you, it’s the market”.  This continues to be the case for junior lawyers, litigators and those without local experience.  There still remains an oversupply of litigators given that there was a real dearth of litigation roles in 2013 and only two or three in the first half of this year.

Such a “catch-cry” encompasses the time that the recruitment process now takes.  We have seen turnaround times improve (reminiscent of recruitment in the pre GFC Nos 1 and 2 eras) in the areas of law where talent is short, particularly in property and Corporate/M&A.  Recently, we have had three offers being made by mid-tiers within a week.  However, it is not unusual for us to see a process take up to 3-4 months, and sometimes 6 months.

While it is very hard to educate our lawyers in relation to the “new norm” which we experience on a day-to-day basis and have done for some 18 months (which makes us more atuned to the economic conditions of Australia and the World), it often has to be experienced to be believed.  We are at the “coal face” of these economic challenges that affect our States differently.

Our Brisbane and Perth offices have been affected by the mining boom and now, the drop in iron ore prices is a new challenge.  However, Perth and Brisbane have a shortage of lawyers and an oversupply of roles.  Up until this point, we have had an oversupply of lawyers (in some areas of law) in New South Wales, with our clients wanting to see some 15-20 CVs for one position, and making sure they exhaust the market before making a decision, so that they can be assured they have the “best in the market” at the time.    Interestingly, for the first time in a considerable period, we have been able to place our public sector lawyers straight into our top-tier private practices.  In addition, given the structural change in the market (with many mergers), our top-tier Australian and International clients have an added wish list.    From a cultural perspective, those clients want their lawyers to be engaging, able to win work and be a motivational fit.  It is not good enough to be a technical lawyer any more.    They want to see overseas experience from the Magic Circle.

Our New York counter-part has informed us that the US market has picked up however there is still some conservatism.  As is the case here, clients are wanting to see lawyers who only want to continue practising in their area of expertise, and particularly at the 3-6 year level.

We continue to adapt and change with this exciting market.