Legal Job Market Update

As a kid, in bed, I would hold my breath, not moving a muscle, frozen, so the monster with its tentacles and fangs under the bed wouldn’t eat me. Well, that is like the current legal job market and the monster is COVID.

A Government initiative, a “cluster”, or stimulus package can change a company’s fortunes in minutes. In this fluid environment, organisations are, understandably, reluctant to make changes to the size or structure of their in-house legal functions.  One study shows that in-house legal job ads are down 87% compared to this quarter, last year. 

Compounding the reluctance to make changes, is the logistical incapacity. Organisations and individuals are too distracted and busy adapting to new work environments, that they have little or no capacity to consider staffing levels, and even less to implement them. 

It won’t stay frozen forever…

It seems there’s a consensus by organisations to postpone legal resourcing decisions until 2021, by which stage the monster should have left the room and taken the commercial uncertainty with him. 

I anticipate the legal job market will become more buoyant, albeit from a low base, throughout the latter part of 2020, with significant improvement in 2021 after Australia Day. Barring any unforeseen events, the release of the pent-up demand for change, from both organisations and individuals, should drive a fluid and active job market. 

An Initial Emphasis on Interim Service Providers 

As organisations navigate volatility with flexible resourcing, the green shoots will initially be seen in the interim job market. Specifically, organisations will look to engage with lawyers as service providers rather than employees, which typically avoids headcount and HR, and allows lawyers to be engaged through the external legal budget.  We suggest that lawyers who are looking at the interim market, complete the Legal Practice Management Course so that, if necessary, they can engage as a service provider. 

The permanent job market should follow the same path as the interim market, just six months later. So, if you’re holding out for your next permanent role, it also pays to keep an eye on the interim legal market, as this will be the lead indicator for which industries, companies and locations will be looking for permanent lawyers. 

I would love to hear your opinion on the market, in particular, if you have a different view and am always up for a chat. Get in touch.

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