Delayed overseas travel and post-pandemic issues have led to changes in New Zealand’s legal job market, with law firms raising salaries and offering bonuses and flexible working conditions to retain and attract legal skills, LawFuel survey of recruiters shows.
The LawFuel A survey of some of the nation’s leading legal recruiters shows that the profession continues to struggle to find lawyers in many fields, while new opportunities are also emerging for those who are up for the challenge.
Our recent report on the opinions of recruiter Louise Hall-Strutt (left) of Altitude Recruitment pointed to some of the same issues, but the current shortages have clearly worked to the advantage of young lawyers who have received significant salary increases and have been offered a range of flexible working arrangements, signing bonuses, wellness benefits and other benefits offered by corporations and businesses.
The talent shortage has seen an ‘abundance of opportunity’, says a recruiter with excellent opportunities in the corporate/commercial field and increased opportunity for litigators and labor lawyers who have also seen a surge post-covid demand.
Family law and relationship lawyers are also in demand at the moment, LawFuel investigation showed.
Hays Personnel recruiter Lorraine Zenzic said pay rises over the past six months had been significant which had reduced lawyers’ motivation to change jobs just for the money “but (they) are generally motivated by other factors”, when changing jobs. , she says.
Lawyers who could not travel during covid were now undertaking their EO, creating staffing shortages for law firms and commercial businesses, she said.
The “missing link”
In particular, there has been a wider range of PQE attorneys who are now in demand, ranging from two to seven years of PQE. Previously, the most in-demand legal jobs were reserved for lawyers with a PQE of 2 to 4 years
“Law firms are aware of the need to fill their pipeline in these areas so that they can continue to have staff to progress to leadership levels over the next few years,” says Lorraine Zenzic.
“We saw a massive exodus, two years of travelers leaving at the same time, leaving an even bigger hole there,” she says.
“What that means for those who aren’t looking to go overseas is that they have options and a lot of them, it’s a great time to take advantage of that market and for young lawyers ambitious looking to climb the career ladder, there’s never been a better time to go.:
The shortage of lawyers has also paved the way for less experienced lawyers to take on more difficult tasks.
“ . . junior lawyers in some cases operate at a much higher level and do work traditionally reserved for seniors, due to the gap at that level. Areas that are occupied and will continue to be; corporate law, real estate and litigation,” explains Louise Hall-Strutt.
Changes in law firms for legal jobs
Zenzic also said there has been a shift in the demand for lawyers for boutique roles and smaller law firms, which is often driven by the greater flexibility and opportunity offered by these practices.
“These lawyers often tell us that they are also making the move to work in a more positive environment where there is still career potential and continued development,” she says.
New legal opportunities
Among the new roles offering opportunities for lawyers are niche practice areas such as technology, banking, intellectual property and resource management and environmental law, according to recruiters.
“In this market, companies are slightly more open to candidates changing practice areas and I’ve recently helped a few candidates transition, so a good opportunity to take advantage of this talent shortage,” says Hall-Strutt.
Jennifer Williams, internal recruiting specialist, notes that internal teams are increasingly focusing on innovations in legal operations and technology.
“So if you’re a young lawyer who could bring those skills or interests to a team, that would definitely be a plus,” she says.
Other recruiters said TMTs, public law, resource management and human rights were in-demand fields suffering from candidate shortages.
Robert Walters recruiter Sarah Wilson notes that there are some great roles on the South Island including local government, resource management roles and she also says there has been a noticeable increase in internal roles on the South Island, often offering substantial and flexible working arrangements.
Inside roles are plentiful, says Jennifer Williams, but attracting the right lawyers for inside roles is often difficult, says Inside Recruitment Specialist Jennifer Williams (pictured below).
Given the increase in the number of in-house lawyers in New Zealand, where the number of in-house lawyers in New Zealand continues to increase from 23% in 2016 to 28% in 2021 according to NZ statistics Law Society.
“Internal teams remain very busy and struggle to keep up with service requests and workloads. Finding new talent in today’s market is very difficult and highly competitive. The most in-demand lawyers for in-house teams have 3-8 years of PQE with a background in corporate and commercial law.
She says there is an abundance of in-house opportunities for mid-level lawyers, primarily in Auckland but also in Wellington and Christchurch. Some are new roles and others are intended to replace lawyers who have typically gone overseas.
Recruiters say government agencies and departments continue to recruit legal staff, along with companies seeking in-house staff in areas ranging from construction to health care and general affairs.
Recruiters surveyed suggest that those looking to grow internally would ideally have good business and corporate experience to prepare for a good role internally.
“We have also noticed an increased demand for positions related to the company’s secretariat at all levels,” says Jennifer Williams. “This reflects the increased focus on governance issues and the complexities of the current regulatory environment. Candidates with specialist skills in this area are in high demand.
“We also find that employers are willing to hire more experienced lawyers on a part-time basis to take on the same role that a mid-level lawyer would have filled full-time. This opens up good opportunities for senior lawyers looking to return to their careers after some time away,” says Jennifer Williams.
The changing landscape of legal jobs in New Zealand continues to provide opportunities, even after the challenges of the pandemic, which have exacerbated shortages of lawyers in the same way as for hospitality, construction and other sectors of the economy.