Not All Kiwi Lawyers Leave For Offshore Jobs

LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – The New Zealand Lawyer reports – One could be forgiven for thinking that all lawyers with one to two years’ experience are desperate to join the exodus overseas for pastures greener. However, I have it on good authority that not all New Zealand-trained lawyers hunger for the world beyond our shores.

So, for those lawyers who have chosen to remain in New Zealand, or those who have been away and long to return home, we thought it was time to find out from those who know best – New Zealand’s legal recruiters – what the situation is like in today’s legal market.

The impact of overseas recruitment
When Simply Legal consultant Damian Hanna started in recruitment in 1998, he says it was really only the magic circle firms and a handful of others that were recruiting regularly in New Zealand. At that time, they were primarily looking for candidates from top-tier firms, with excellent finance and corporate experience. Things have now changed.

A growth in international demand means the overseas market for New Zealand’s junior lawyers has become much more buoyant, resulting in an increased shortage of junior lawyers adding to the existing mid-level candidate scarcity, says Keith Surgenor of Hays Legal. The knock-on effect of this, he says, “is that some of the large law firms are showing flexibility in where they will recruit from domestically, including an increasing willingness to hire lawyers from smaller firms and more general practices.”

Another knock-on effect, explains Law Staff’s Sean Murphy, is that junior lawyers who leave New Zealand for overseas firms have very little New Zealand work experience. They are also in danger of becoming too specialised for the New Zealand market. So, while it may seem that these lawyers, on their return to New Zealand, should have the choice of the best jobs, they may not find it quite so easy.

Karen Courtney of Legal Personnel agrees. While overseas experience can bring benefits, especially if it is relevant to the role the candidate is wishing to return to, in some instances it can have little impact on their desirability back in New Zealand. Furthermore, she says, “sometimes a returning person may not get the equivalent of what their contemporaries who stayed behind would. This is because they have to come up to speed with changes in jurisdiction and with the general commercial market.” Also, having left as young lawyers, it is unlikely that they had time to develop valuable client networks before leaving.

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