Australian Lawyers in conversation walking through office

The comings and goings of Australian lawyers

All but two of the Top 6 Australian firms lost more talent than they hired in the first quarter of this year. [1] Why did these two top tier firms hire more Australian lawyers than they “needed” to, and where did they find these lawyers? The Insource data provides some of these answers, so we took a deep dive into the hiring trends of these Top 6 law firms in Australia.


These firms hiring in excess could be a result of growth, an increased workload or preparation for the “mass exodus” of legal talent. After years of lockdowns and uncertainties, lawyers who have put off their O.E. during the pandemic are likely to be feeling more confident in overseas travel. For firms, this could result in losing two to three years’ worth of cohorts rather than the usual one. The savvy firms are preparing for this. Partners who have typically run lean teams, are beginning to hire (or at the very least engage with talent) prior to receiving a resignation or winning work. Firms may be bulking up their busiest practice areas early to avoid burn out of remaining staff.


Insource tells us that 61% of the top 6 Australian firms’ hires were lateral recruits from another firm in Australia, the largest single source of incoming talent in this quarter.[2] Despite the candidate short market and constant reports of lawyers “not moving, even on approach” the statistics tell us that firms are hiring talent locally. How? One answer is Pipelining. Australian Lawyers are moving firms, but they are doing so on their own terms. Savvy firms are making the effort to learn what those terms are, well in advance, and aligning firm and candidate timeframes. Insource allows firms to not only identify lawyers, but also easily keep track of their motivations and timeframes for a move. It is the ultimate pipelining tool.


Together, alumni and overseas returners also make up a noteworthy portion (21%) of recently hired talent by the Top 6 firms in Australia. Aussie’s are trickling home from across the globe including from London, Madrid, Hong Kong, Dubai, Shanghai and Singapore.

“Boomerang” employees often have a history of strong performance and can be relatively straight forward and reliable hires.  They require minimal training and often have established relationships across the firm and clients.  These employees often perform well and have high retention rates. Firms can use Insource to quickly track and keep in touch with their globe-trotting alumni, increasing their chances of hiring a “Boomerang”.

Australian Lawyers – Keeping it local

While confidence in overseas travel is building, more Australian lawyers moved locally (either In-house or to another Australian top 50 firm) than went overseas in the first quarter of this year.[3] In this market, a move between local firms may have resulted in a pay increase, sign on payment or promotion for a lawyer who may not have received it otherwise (or didn’t think they would). As a result, firms should be revisiting their employee value propositions (EVP) to ensure they are as attractive as they can be. Last year we wrote an insight on effective and attractive flexible working policies, which aims to prompt more lateral thinking about providing the best work environment firms’ possibly can. The one thing more effective than a good pipelining strategy is a good retention strategy!

Insource is a pipelining tool empowering firms to identify and connect with the best candidates for future roles, build relationships and analyse the rich data contained on all Australian practicing lawyers at a Top 50 firm.  We’d love to hear from you and discuss how an investment in Insource could deliver better hiring decisions for your firm both now and in the future.

[1] Top Six Firms include Allens, Ashurst, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), King & Wood Mallesons (KWM), Minter Ellison and Clayton Utz. Difference between hires and leavers: Allens +27, Ashurst -2, Herbert Smith Freehills +18, King & Wood Mallesons -6, Minter Ellison -10 and Clayton Utz -3.  

[2] 110 out of a total of 179 hires across the Top 6 firms between Jan – March 2022, were from a Top 50 firm or boutique / specialist firm.

[3] Out of the 153 lawyers who left a Top 6 Firm between Jan – March 2022, 22 moved to an Inhouse role and 66 moved to another firm (31 to a Top 6 firm, 30 to a Top 50 firm, 3 to a non-Top 50 firm and 2 to boutique / specialist firms). Only 13 lawyers left to overseas.

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