Alissa Anderson, Sparke Helmore's Director of Human
Resources, looks at the current state of the recruitment market in
the legal industry.
Most legal media have been commenting negatively on the future
of the legal jobs market for graduates and established lawyers.
While it has definitely been a tough recruitment market for the
past few years, there seems to be a cautious increase in roles
available in law firms. The other apparent trend is a shift away
from permanent roles to contract roles.
It's fair to say that law firms appear to be offering fewer
graduate positions than what they have in recent years. Law firms,
like any business, are being prudent about how they manage their
businesses so they can remain competitive, respond to market
demands and deliver value to their clients. There will be an
improvement in job numbers over time; however, the way in which law
firms hire graduates might change.
The good news for people with highly valued skills and
experience is that they will be able to find jobs, regardless of
the state of the market. The trend for contract roles can suit
people who are returning to the workforce after time away or who
want to try a new role or industry without committing to a
Employers are looking for well-rounded candidates with
transferrable skills and the right attitude in applicants for legal
and support roles. We look for people with integrity, resilience,
an approach that puts clients at the heart of everything they do,
the ability to create solutions and identify trends, and
influencing and leadership skills.
In legal roles, employers are looking for good legal experience,
innovative approaches to client's problems, in-depth knowledge
of the business, legal and industry issues in the areas that
clients operate in and a proven ability to collaborate within a
team and contribute to successful outcomes.
For graduates, we look for a combination of a good degree with
great marks, an ability to understand what it takes to be
exceptional, a curiosity about world of commerce, the ability to
work as part of a team and a strong client focus.
In support roles (secretarial through to finance, marketing and
HR), we look for candidates who have good experience in a variety
of industries, who are dedicated to their clients (whether they are
other parts of the firm or external), have a good sense of
commerciality and work well as part of a team. The ability to
navigate and be successful in a partnership environment is also
Depending on career stages, employers may consider a
candidate's outside interests as part of the decision-making
process. If you are applying for a junior legal or support role,
then those outside interests can set you apart from other people
with limited work experience. Senior role candidates have many work
experiences that they draw examples from. At this level, employers
also consider involvement in the industry.
Questions have also been raised about what type of degree
graduate lawyers should have or whether post-graduate
qualifications are necessary. We don't differentiate between a
LLB and JD when making decisions about graduate positions. Instead,
it comes down to whether the candidate has the right capabilities
to be a good lawyer. Lawyers don't have to have post-graduate
qualifications to have a career in the law, but it can show a
particular interest in a specific topic and can give a candidate an
edge in the job market if they can translate what they have learnt
into being a better lawyer.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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