While the world has been obsessed with the possibility of sovereign default, Greece leaving the Euro, Spanish Bond Yields, Tom Cruise’s divorce and other relatively unimportant matters, our clients have continued to build their global legal businesses, many in Australia for the first time. During the last 12 months we at EA have also seen considerable growth, with the expansion of our Local and In-House services to compliment our leading reputation in international markets. We have continued to develop our fantastic research team, rolled out what we hope is a very honest and frank newsletter, and as of this week moved into the best new digs in the industry.
The year in the legal recruitment market was one of significant change. Global law firms like Linklaters, Clifford Chance, Ashurst, Herbert Smith, Squire Sanders, King & Wood and most recently Clyde & Co all created offices in Australia, engaged in joint ventures, merged with local practices, or announced soon to be completed mergers. It has represented the biggest shift to the market in living memory; it is abundantly clear that the progress of international firms in Australia will march on unabated. Obviously there are winners and losers with these expansions and the next year will continue to see interesting transformations. Beyond the firms’ anticipation of an increase in competition for their roles, firms will have to resolve how to develop proper bonus structures as a result of these new partnerships. Furthermore, expectations regarding the partnership track will require some adjustments, as will the pressure on non-performing practice groups. Nonetheless there will be plenty of fresh prospects for lawyers at all levels as market shifts such as these will always result in new opportunities.
Although it has been a real roller coaster ride of a year in the recruitment space, the positive upturn since April and the very fact that firms have continued to grow in difficult times points to a far better 12/13 financial year and even more opportunity for Australian and New Zealand lawyers whether overseas, or within these markets. Rallying against the constant negativity from the daily press cycle, we have strongly maintained during the last year that our clients have needs. Sure enough, early financial results from international businesses have affirmed this view, with average turnover increases of 7 percent (and up to 13 percent in profits) reported at firms such as Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance. Those opportunistic enough to work out that they can get ahead financially [even with a strong Australian dollar] have benefited from great opportunities in New York, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Roles in the local market have proven to be more of a mix, with Perth and Brisbane continuing to impress in the last twelve months. The proximity to the Asian markets as well as the continued work in mineral wealth has prompted aggressive growth in the area, particularly in insurance, construction, litigation, property, infrastructure, and of course, energy and resources. Sydney and Melbourne haven’t shared the optimism and verve of their Northern brethren, but continue to thrive on litigation, competition and insolvency work. Overall, the local market has been patchy in the 2011-2012 financial year due to the drop-off in demand for M&A, construction and projects. The in-house market, we’ve seen consistent interest from businesses across a variety of sectors – Samsung, Woolworths, Liang O’Rourke, and Booz & Co – to name a few. We anticipate the sustained strengthening of the In-House market as teams look to expand.