Find a Job >


A blog with tips and insights into the practice of law

Why can’t I find a new role?

As a very seasoned recruiter, I had thought up to 4 years ago that I had seen it all, the ups and downs, the consternations and the highs, but nothing could have prepared any of us for what we call the GFC and its effect on the recruitment market. It appeared for a while there that things were looking to pick up – but the market on any measure of activity is flat. That’s not to say that roles aren’t out there – they are – they are just very prescribed and only in certain areas of practice. Outside of Brisbane and Perth the top tiers aren’t really hiring. It doesn’t help that most of them are in the grips of merger fever. The in-house market is not much better with many large corporations experiencing hiring freezes.


For the first time in my 16 year recruitment career I have genuinely been left scratching my head as to why perfectly placeable candidates aren’t being placed. Litigators, finance and corporate lawyers, particularly at the senior end, are not in mode. Firms which might traditionally be recruiting at the $200K+ mark for a senior lawyer are trying to make do with a $130K- 5 year lawyer. Traditionally it is also not unusual for firms to be opportunitistic and pick up senior level “stars” even if a role doesn’t exist. “Creating” roles for these kinds of people was de-rigueur in a normal market. We are seeing very little if any of this kind of opportunistic behavior. In fact we are seeing for the first time (and not just in Sydney) a real ceiling placed on the level and salary at which a firm will recruit.


It doesn’t help either that the industry is structured in such a way that from 1-10 years pqe the roles are delineated, structured and tiered and everyone from 10 years – 40 years pqe are lumped into a big group called “senior lawyer”. As a rule no recruiters are briefed on a 20+ pqe role unless the firm is recruiting a partner with a practice. Even Special Counsel are assumed to come in at below this pqe level. What this means in a depressed market is that the junior roles are generally prescribed, and the firms assume that the market is filled with top tier lawyers (which is isn’t) and at the senior level it means that everyone in the pool of 10 – 40years pqe are fighting it out for the very few roles in the market.


Now is really the time to start a relationship with a good recruiter to career plan and prepare for when the roles come back. And when they do I suspect they will do so thick and fast.