Firm bucks trend by hiring more grads

by Hannah Norton08 Apr 2015
One of New Zealand’s largest firms has revealed it is increasing the numbers of law graduates it hires this year.
That’s in contrast to many firms who are either reducing graduate hiring levels, or keeping them small.
Simpson Grierson human resources director Jo Copeland told NZLawyer the firm is planning to slightly increase the quantity of graduates it employs this year – a trend she expected to see start happening across the board.
“Firms have generally been reducing the number of grads they take over the past few years but I think we are starting to see a change.
“The Australian experience in this regard serves as a salutary lesson. Five years ago they cut numbers back dramatically and are now finding it incredibly difficult to find people with four to five years’ experience so they're increasing numbers again.”
And with a graduate oversupply, the firm is spoilt for choice.
“This year we've had over a 25 percent increase in applications for our graduate roles. And they are of a high calibre so it is very hard to distinguish between them.”
So Simpson Grierson is drawing on different methods to screen applicants.  Only 10 percent are interviewed, with the firm utilising psychometrics to help make the final cut.
Clerks got a major foot in the door, with the firm aiming to hire all summer clerks as graduates each year - keeping clerk numbers tight in order to do that.
“The accountancy firms and some of our competitors are a lot more ruthless in this regard and take on far more summer clerks than they have jobs for and as a result, lots of good people find themselves out of a job after finishing law school,” Copeland said.
“We try not to do that to our people.”
Meanwhile, Bell Gully has a scholarship programme which helps the firm identify star young talent.
A scholarship is offered to a small number of top second year students from around New Zealand, who are also taken on as clerks, the firm’s new human resources director Louise Alexander told NZLawyer.
These scholars are taken into account when defining the number of clerks the firm is looking to hire, and this year the firm planned to recruit a similar level of clerks for the 2015/16 summer, as in the past three years, Alexander said.
“Each year we review our number and feel that our current recruitment level is the right for the firm.”
There had been a small but steady increase in the number of law clerk applicants each year, for the last three years, particularly in the number of students looking for graduate positions during the following year.
As with Simpson Grierson, the firm was impressed by the calibre of students coming through.
Another trend to note was the increase of junior lawyers heading overseas, which could prompt firms to carefully consider their graduate numbers in the near future.
“There has been a mild increase in the past six to 12 months,” Alexander said.
“We have been expecting the UK market to pick up so are not surprised by the trend and we continue to see our alumni return to New Zealand at a similar rate as in previous years.”