DESPITE signs of a shake-up in the national job market for lawyers, legal recruitment expert Alex Correa believes the tide may not be turning so radically for Brisbane-based job seekers.
The latest Hays Legal Quarterly Report indicates that top-tier firms are downsizing, partners are on the move and the contract work sector is in an upward growth spike, creating new opportunities for those looking to leverage the current environment.
While these findings are reflected in the national market, Correa believes job-seekers in Brisbane are playing a slightly different ball game.
"As opposed to down-sizing I would say firms are 'right-sizing' for the current state of the market," says Correa.
In contrast with restructuring by top-tier firms, she says Brisbane's spotlight remains on different firms with varied capabilities operating comfortably within their own key markets.
"A number of top-tier clients we act for are recruiting substantially in some specific areas, namely energy and resources, construction and mergers and acquisitions.
"We're also seeing a number of mid-tier and boutique firms who are highly active in areas including insurance and insolvency."
Within these specific areas, Correa says the main difficulty facing job-seekers is effectively setting themselves up with suitable work dependent on personal experience and skill set.
"The biggest challenge in the Brisbane market right now is finding the right kind of experience for those in the three to five-year employment bracket," says Correa.
"While we are certainly seeing firms recruiting at the senior end, it's the lawyers who have a few years under their belt and can safely take on new work with room to grow their careers that are sought after."
Entry to the Brisbane market remains much the same, however the Hays report indicates a growing turnover trend as a result of partners consistently changing firms and often taking legal teams and clientele as they do.
According to Hays' Queensland director Darren Buchanan, there are both positives and negatives in this trend.
"It's tricky when a partner leaves a firm and takes their team with them, due to the fact firms may lose a lot of business in one fell swoop as a result," says Buchanan.
"However, when partners or teams look for work elsewhere it gives firms the opportunity to bring in new skills, new ideas and new outlooks all at once which can prevent the company from becoming too staid in its approach."
Correa notes the relationship between firm and client is a delicate one to foster during these partner shifts.
"When you think about how much the legal services market has changed over the last 10 years, one thing that hasn't changed is the fact that there will always be that element of client relationship with the individual rather than with the business," says Correa.
This is an ongoing challenge for law firms, because the reasons why partners are choosing to migrate are more frequently coming down to a discord between personal values and those of the workplace.
"If firms are trying to address this trend they need to find a greater level of adhesion with their clients, not necessarily always looking for the most efficient service options but ones which will retain the soul, culture and ultimately the people of the organisation."
According to Correa, the ultimate advice for lawyers is to cultivate a personal brand which will adapt to an ever-changing employment market, regardless of their current commitments to firms.
"Nowadays lawyers need to be thinking of themselves as their own business," says Correa.
"That's what's going to get the high salary and progression opportunities. By thinking about the development of their own brand, job-seekers will be enabled to really make the job market work for them when it comes time."
Visit hays.com.au/report for a complete summary of the findings from the Hays Legal Quarterly Report.
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