Corporate and M&A to lead legal job market upturn

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A Sydney-based legal recruitment firm has predicted that increased corporate and M&A activity will boost legal recruitment in corporate and related practice areas.

Signature Consulting managing director Steve Cole says firms’ potential need for new lawyers will likely increase as the 2014 calendar year rolls on.

“This time last year up until about August was pretty gloomy, because the legal market is so reliant on transactions and there wasn’t much activity around at that time,” Cole says.

“At that time, corporate teams were wondering where their next deal was coming from.”

However, Cole says that since September 2013 the market has improved, and that Signature Consulting has witnessed demand for transactional and M&A lawyers increase.

“We have seen a strong need for M&A lawyers this year in comparison to the same time last year; there are now lots of firms looking for corporate and commercial lawyers.”

So this just confirms there was a slow down, and there is a slight increase in jobs for the year so far.

Seek data for the year to date points towards an improving market for lawyers in 2014. Though January is traditionally a quiet month for recruitment, February data shows that corporate and commercial legal job ads have increased by 8.2% month-on-month.

Seek data also confirms the lack of activity last year. In the 2013 calendar year, job ads for corporate and commercial lawyers declined by 33.5% when compared with the 2012 calendar year.

In fact, all categories of legal job ads declined during the 2013 calendar year, except for criminal & civil lawyers, family lawyers, and law clerks & paralegals. Of these categories, family lawyers fared the best, with a 15% jump in ads between 2012 and 2013.

Cole says that 2014 job briefs are being sourced from both large firms, who he says are always open to seeing strong candidates, and also mid-tier firms.

“That is encouraging because it means SMEs, mid-cap and private businesses are merging or are using transactional lawyers to do business,” he says.

Cole says much of the demand is in the 3-4 year associate and senior associate level, who with more deals coming in, are often the level of lawyer who do the ‘grunt work’.

“Law firms previously cut deep into their M&A teams, and they are getting deal flow now and haven’t necessarily got the headcount to carry the work,” he says.

With work-life balance increasingly important to law firm staff, firms are also wary of remaining under resourced, and making their current lawyers work longer hours.

Other areas of law firm demand in the current market include tax law, as well as lawyers with 3-5 years PQE in litigation according to Cole.

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