Make strategic hiring decisions by pipelining the right talent and don’t rely on overseas returners

The number of hires and leavers in the third quarter of 2022 for Australia’s Top Six firms’ are in. It’s clear that recession or not, firms must pipeline future talent.  As discussed recently in Lawyers Weekly “the market has record high levels of demand for staff and record low levels of candidates.” [1] Finding staff, more than any looming economic slowdown, will continue to be firms’ major challenge over the coming year. [2]

Hires are up, but were they strategic?

This quarter the top six firms in Australia collectively hired more lawyers than they lost. [3] This is a very different story to the first quarter of 2022, during which the majority lost more than they hired. [4] Firms were feeling the pressure of high workloads and a talent shortage. However, reactive recruitment in a competitive market can result in a “bum on seat” rather than hiring the right, often difficult to find, specialists. “Firms are hiring staff even if they don’t fully suit the brief because they are afraid they won’t get anyone and that can sometimes make things worse because… you end up with a bad fit and you’re back to the recruitment drawing board”. [5] While firms may have hired more lawyers than they lost, it’s likely firms are still lacking the specialists they need that are in short supply. [6]

Firms need to continue to pipeline specialist lawyers

To attract specialist lawyers with an in-demand skillset firms must identify them in advance and invest time into building an ongoing relationship, recession or not. Of the total number of hires made by the top 6 Australian firms in quarter three, just 40% came from another top 50 firm – a decrease from last quarter. [7] Unlike the 2007 Global Financial Crisis, where there was an oversupply of talent and a lack of vacancies, firms continue to hire and there remains a short supply of talent with the required experience.[8]   With or without any live vacancies, firms must be actively sourcing the right lawyers, taking note of their individual time frames and motivations for a move. This is the only way to win the continuing, and next, war for talent.

Overseas still a drainer

While slightly higher than previous quarters, overseas returners still only made up 9% of the total number of hires made this quarter by the top firms in Australia.[9] While 17% of the total number of people who left these firms headed overseas. That’s almost double the number of overseas leavers than returners. Aussies offshore may also be tempted to extend their time overseas, given the interruptions the pandemic had on their experience over the last few years. This means we may see Alumni return at a more senior level than previous years. Australia will continue to lose talent to higher paying markets like New York, London and Dubai. It’s clear we shouldn’t hold our breath for those people to return or rely on them as a steady stream of talent in the next few years.

How Insource can help

Insource enables firms to identify their ideal future talent from the complete legal talent pool. Firms can build talent pipelines for future vacancies, get insights about the talent movement and composition and strengthen retention and future workforce planning strategies.  Insource gives firms back time to build relationships in advance of hiring, ultimately reducing the time and cost to fill your future hiring needs.  Insource is used by leading top 50 Australian law firms, as well as innovative mid-sized and specialist law firms across all states.  Insource is affordable for all firms big and small.  We’d love to hear from you and discuss how an investment in Insource could deliver better hiring decisions both now and in the future.  To book a demo, contact us here.

[1] Lawyers Weekly, The nexus between recruitment and legal education podcast, Alex Giannopoulos – Leo Cussen manager of industry engagement and careers at 00:03:42 / 00:25:03.

[2]  Law.com International Australia’s Corporate Law Firms Upbeat in Face of Slowing Economy Anthony Foley – Managing Partner at Baker McKenzie.

[3] Total number of hires made by Allens, Ashurst, HSF, KWM, Minter Ellison & Clayton Utz = 147, total number of leavers = 109 according to Insource data as at 6 Dec 2022.

[4] Difference between hires and leavers between Jan – Mar 2022 for Allens +27, Ashurst -2, HSF +18, KWM -6, Minter Ellison -10 and Clayton Utz -3 according to Insource data as at 6 Dec 2022.

[5] Lawyers Weekly, The nexus between recruitment and legal education podcast, Alex Giannopoulos – Leo Cussen manager of industry engagement and careers at 00:07:36 / 00:25:03

[6] Partner at top 6 firm recently advised Insource that despite high recruitment activity, their firm is still lacking the specialists they actually need.

[7] 2nd quarter hires from a top 50 firm made up 45% of the total number of hires.

[8] Insource subscribing firms report roles that continue to be difficult to fill include construction, property, and insurance amongst others.

[9] 1st quarter overseas hires = 6% and 2nd quarter overseas hires = 2%

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