BRISBANE lawyers are expecting a year propelled by the high-end corporate market, particularly in the areas of Mergers and Acquisitions, as the dollar continues to freefall and foreign investors take more of a shine to the property market.
Brisbane Legal spoke to Talbot Sayer, Piper Alderman and AdventBalance to discover their opinions about the year ahead.
According to Hays Quarterly Report, drawn-out recruitment is expected to continue ailing the upper rungs of the legal ladder, but the stress could be eased with more contract roles becoming available.
The Australia-wide report zeroed in on the legal sector and found that recruitment was becoming more rigorous for senior roles with multiple interview rounds required and the decision-making process taking an extended amount of time.
The search for general counsel, associate general counsel and company secretary roles in large organisations is widening overseas to reign back quality candidates.
In private practice, Hays claims a shortage in key areas such as Mergers and Acquisitions and Corporate Finance because of candidates moving overseas or working in-house.
The demand for working in-house is so strong that candidates are being lured via contracts of 12 months or less to get 'solid in-house experience under their belt'. As well, the graduate recruitment process is so competitive that 'most' entry-level and para-legal hires are being made on a temporary basis.
What do you believe the legal landscape will look like in 2016 opposed to 2015?
Esteban Gomez, Piper Alderman (pictured right): It's an increasingly competitive environment and I'm expecting more of the same. We're in an industry that is continuously changing, I don't really see that change slowing up. You have to be nimble and dynamic and see that as the market changes the best you have to take those opportunities and subscribe is by adapting.
Last year was a very interesting year to be a lawyer. I was asked throughout the year by clients what the market was like, and my response was quite often 'patchy'. There were people out there who were doing very well and others who hit troughs. The market was uncertain, which creates challenges but it also opportunities.
Tim Sayer, Talbot Sayer: My answer is probably coloured a little by the stock market route in the last few weeks, which hasn't been an ideal start to the year. With that aside though, we're very confident that there is going to be a lot more Mergers and Acquisitions activity. We think that companies will have stronger balance sheets and that the Australian dollar coming off helps in terms of overseas investors coming in, and sectors like agriculture will become more popular.
There is likely to be strong activity and consolidation in the tourism area, particularly off the back of that lower dollar. In the equity capital market and on the IPO side of things, we think it might prove to be a little more difficult, because the IPO window has been open for a long time now. This sort of volatility in the stock market won't help, and major private equity exits like Dick Smith heading south makes it difficult for the private equity players to get their IPOS away.
Where does the challenge exist?
Tim Sayer, Talbot Sayer (pictured left): While corporates now have strong balance sheets, I think the biggest challenge for the whole market is really just giving Mergers and Acquisitions teams within the corporate structure the confidence to go out and spend money. It's really just a matter of keeping confident in the face of these stock market troubles. To actually go out, make decisions and complete mergers and acquisitions, boards must really trust in the macro-economic climate.
What are some emerging pockets in Australian law?
Esteban Gomez, Piper Alderman: If you look at something like Allens Accelerate - a model that seeks to work more with startups and provide tailored solutions for services - I think that's very interesting considering the size, background and marketplace of such a firm. Everyone has identified the market changing very rapidly and sticking to a particular business model may not necessarily work. Challenges are created by participants acting disruptively, so we all have to look to not vying for work in a traditional sense.
Sandra Gibson, AdventBalance: Health and IT are on the upswing, and aged care is also an interesting area at the moment. We certainly noticed in Sydney and Melbourne that property is growing, and also to an extent in Brisbane. But it's a bit patchy at the moment. Property in relation to hospitals, aged care and schools is big at the moment.
Where do you believe key opportunities are in the near future?
Esteban Gomez, Piper Alderman: There are moves at the government level. If you look at what's happening in NSW with the privatisation of assets, you are led to believe that will unlock a lot of value down there and something like that could happen here. The privatisation of ports began in NSW and then carried through to Brisbane, Hastings and Darwin. Likewise, hopefully there will be a bit more stability in the QLD government going forward and therefore more infrastructure and construction activity. Also, free trade and the Transpacific Partnership with China and Japan - we are yet to see the real consequence of this.
Tim Sayer, Talbot Sayer: Innovation legislation is probably the biggest change that will assist in creating more work. We're seeing increased activity in that area as people are looking to raise funds and invest in tech businesses because they're going to get the great tax breaks.
What's changing on the client side?
Sandra Gibson, AdventBalance: There's so many law graduates now that many of them are looking at non-traditional careers. I think we will start to find more and more clients with legal backgrounds, which is a positive because it makes the system more collaborative.
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