International hiring resurgence exacerbates local talent shortage

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Improving conditions in commercial centres overseas are expected to exacerbate talent shortages in Australia, with the flow of Australian lawyers to law firms overseas regaining pace.
“What we’re seeing is more lawyers being able to make those moves overseas because there’s more opportunity and greater interest. You’ve got a greater interest on the part of lawyers, and they’re now getting to secure jobs,” observed Mahlab NSW managing director Lisa Gazis.
Many senior associates with internationally transferable skill sets, such as banking and finance, who were already in demand locally, are being hired by London firms. “There’s definitely a confidence in going back overseas. It’s not at the level that it was eight years ago or nine years ago, but they’re starting to see that being an avenue for candidates where it wasn’t for so many years. I think that will definitely increase in the coming year," said Signature Consulting managing director Steve Cole.
In Gazis' view the upswing in international hiring is exacerbating talent shortages in key practice areas. “What we’re finding is the international market is picking up, and because the international market has been picking up, it’s going to put pressure on Australian talent because you’ve got more lawyers looking to go overseas. The international market tends to pick up our corporate lawyers, or projects lawyers, and our finance lawyers, so the effect of that will be that Sydney and Melbourne, being the larger of the commercial centres, will have demand in those areas.”
Jason Elias of Elias Recruitment agrees, and flags the number of transfers between the Australian and London offices of global firms as an area to watch. Elias observes that Dubai is another good destination for Australian lawyers, but that Hong Kong and Singapore present greater hurdles than in the past. “Hong Kong is a lot harder now, unless you have Mandarin skills. A few years ago they were a lot more flexible; now, without those good language skills it’s a real struggle. In Singapore they’re being a bit tighter on visas.”