2011 saw a welcome improvement in activity in the in-house market compared to 2010. In-house teams that had postponed recruitment in 2010 pending some clarity in the wider market decided that they could no longer manage on a skeleton staff, that uncertainty was the new “certainty” and looked to recruit (although not at the same levels as the firms). Within Commerce & Industry it will come as no surprise that industry sectors associated with the resources boom had the most activity (mining, energy, construction infrastructure) and that demand for lawyers in these sectors in Perth and Brisbane remained strong. With NBN getting under way and continuing changes in technology, the IT and Telco sectors also saw demand,particularly in outsourcing. General commercial lawyers with the ability to draft good commercial agreements have also been in demand as many smaller businesses look to recruit their first lawyer to reduce their external legal costs. Within Banking & Finance the market was steady, particularly within funds, insurance and investment banks. However, towards the end of 2011 activity at the banks diminished as the Euro crisis continued and the big four made dramatic staff cuts.
2012 – Despite the gloomy media predictions, at EA International we expect the in-house market to remain steady in much the same way as the latter part of 2011. In Commerce & Industry the resources boom looks set to continue and accordingly demand for lawyers that support that sector – i.e. infrastructure, construction and energy – should remain strong. In NSW, there will be increased demand for project and infrastructure lawyers,as the state government is expected to announce infrastructure projects that will most likely take the form of PPPs. As more and more organisations seek to lower their labour costs by pushing work overseas (think Qantas), IT outsourcing will continue to grow. The trend of recruiting a sole legal counsel to reduce legal costs will continue in much the same way as 2011. The retail, media and FMCG sectors will remain sluggish as they come to grips with the digital age and cautious consumers. In Banking & Finance, recruitment at the big four banks will remain subdued for the foreseeable future as they once again chase record profits. Funds and insurance should remain steady as these sectors are well-insulated due to compulsory super and necessity of insurance.
Moving forward, the good news is that all the in-house teams are exceptionally busy and would like to add additional lawyers to their teams but are waiting on head office approval. Should “certainty” return to the market in the form of a resolution to the Euro crisis, we would expect in-house recruitment to surge as companies make up for lost time.