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The buyers market for lawyers may change in 2010

2010 A Law Space Odyssey? Law Firms Adrift In Legal Jobs Space

LawFuel - The Law Jobs and News Wire

The buyers market for lawyers may change in 2010

The current market for lawyers, placing law firms in the box seat, may be short-lived, according to recruiters spoken to by LawFuel, the law jobs board.

The tight law recruitment market has seen law firms take their time, picking through a large selection of experienced, legal talent. But in taking their time to make a selection they also risk losing out altogether, according to some recruiters who see a lift in the law market next year.

LawFuel’s conversations with legal recruiters show they are generally more optimistic about opportunities within the legal business in the coming year, saying that the tightening position in London and elsewhere has seen an influx of returning lawyers, while job opportunities at home are slowly increasing also.

Although the law jobs market remains a ‘buyers’ market with employers largely holding the cards so far as SimplyLegal recruiter Damian Hanna observes. Law employers are doubtless enjoying their current position of strength, he says.

“When they need someone, they can be very confident that they will be able to find someone with relative ease. As an example, the HR Manager of a very desirable employer told me that when they put out a vacancy recently, they had 29 applicants. 18 months ago, for the same vacancy, they received 1 and that person was unsuitable.”

However the current situation where employers are in the box seat is unlikely to last as the market improves, including the overseas legal market.

“The overseas markets are starting to bounce back, salary reviews and bonuses will be negligible this year and some people will just have had enough of their current situation,” says Damian Hanna.

“The consequence of this is that regardless of whether the NZ economy improves or not, there will be a lot more movement in the market early in 2010 than there has been in all of 2009.”

Beyond Recruitment’s Shane Burton also sees a marked improvement in the employment outlook for lawyers next year. He says there are considerable vacancies arising from maternity leave and general travel plans with people moving overseas, but also more opportunities in areas like litigation and even property.

The credit crisis created a downsizing of law firm property practices, with many lawyers moving into other areas of law which remain busy. The result has been the need for new property lawyers again.

“I’m very optimistic about 2010,” Shane Burton says. “There’s definitely more confidence in the market with law firms happier about using recruiters again, certainly compared to the beginning of 2009,” he said.

H2R’s Joanna Schmelz observes that lawyers returning from overseas, who often have ample experience, must be prepared to take real salary cuts in order to re-enter the local market. Meanwhile other lawyers who have a good client base are being seduced by attractive offers from firms offering partnership positions and other benefits with a general move towards greater creativity in the legal sector, she observes.

LawFuel’s query to recruiters and law firms notes that there are very few increases in salaries being offered and indeed at partner and senior lawyer level there are low- to no increases.

But that may change, come 2010.


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