A New Financial Year, Brexit, and the Legal Recruitment Market

By Principal Consultant Ciara Lui

Based on my team’s experiences (and conversations with our counterparts), overall the 2015-2016 financial year was a good year for the legal market in Australia.

We saw steady levels of recruitment in-house across both the financial services and commerce and industry sectors (including a number of General Counsel and Company Secretary moves), though Perth is still quite a struggle for senior lawyers. Law firms continued to recruit at a steady rate across all levels, with a mix of growth and replacement roles. Unsurprisingly, given the number of projects across the Eastern seaboard, firms have been rigorously looking to grow their environment and planning and property teams.

With regard to remuneration, the majority of our contacts have reported pay increases. As has been the case in recent years, those have been incremental and generally reflect CPI. It’s good news for those with a bonus structure - we’ve been hearing that most discretionary bonuses are due to be paid out.

So in theory, we should be able to expect this steadiness to flow over into the new financial year and beyond. However, there’s been plenty happening globally and nationally over the past few weeks, leading me to think “what’s really in store for us?”

Amongst the Brexit madness of resignations, market dips, pound drops, dollar drops and a divided UK, one thing is certain – uncertainty. For the UK and Europe, this has had a real and immediate impact on the job market (several banks with UK operations are looking at offshore options and a snap survey by the UK’s Institute of Company Directors indicated there will be a hit to recruitment). Our UK contacts even reported prior to the vote, that legal recruitment in the banks was being affected, as was recruitment in the UK law firms. This has not changed post-vote.

But what about the impact downunder? I’ve spoken to a number of General Counsels over the past weeks, and so far, in some sectors, noone seems too worried, their businesses aren’t saying very much. The general view was that it will be quite some time before Australia is affected, if at all. For financial services and professional services, there has been a focus, but more in the context of providing advice to clients/customers.

I was a little surprised by this – there is a significant amount of commentary about how hits to the UK/EU economies, will impact the global economy, and in due course then, the economy and the job market in Australia. Ultimately, the message seems to be that only time will tell in terms of the impact here, and until that time, maybe the next financial year will be just as steady as the previous one (and maybe I have succumbed to some scaremongering).

At two weeks into the new financial year and with the new Australian Government now in place, our clients certainly haven’t slowed down with their recruitment strategies and we continue to be busy with a range of mandates. In the interests of “keeping calm and carrying on”, I'll go on to say that we do expect the legal recruitment market to continue to be strong and steady over the next 12 months.



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