Examining the change in job vacancies in the year prior to 31 May, there has been a 21% increase for solicitors and a 28% increase for judicial roles and other legal professionals.
These figures come from the Jobs Online
report which was released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) on 15 June.
The report looks at changes in job vacancies posted on websites such as SEEK, Trade Me Jobs and the Education Gazette.
We talked to Paula Watts, managing director of legal, HR & executive at recruitment firm Niche, about these trends and what they meant for those in the New Zealand legal field.
“From May 2015 we have seen a steady 18 to 25% increase in the number of professional roles available in the New Zealand market,” she said
In 2015, the number of roles fluctuated slightly and fell back down in December and January during the holiday close-down. This year however, there has been a steady increase in job vacancies with no drop off so far, she added.
“Provincial towns in New Zealand are also experiencing growth, and demand for legal staff in the provinces has increased at the same pace along with the main city centres.”
These trends are expected to continue, she said, especially with the rising challenge of globalisation, better access to technology and higher competition over client retention and attraction.
“Firms continue to streamline the need for office support and the role of the legal executive has changed to a chargeable function instead of a support role to the property team,” she said.
“Qualified legal executives remain in demand to handle the less profitable work. Other areas of work not considered profitable by large CBD firms tend to be handled by smaller practices that can keep overheads at a minimum.”
Growth in legal jobs has generally been seen at the mid to senior levels, Watts said. This trend can be seen across all specialities including property, commercial and litigation.
The outflow of 4-year PQE lawyers moving back to the UK for overseas work experience also places further strain on the New Zealand market with a number of firms offering higher salary packages to better attract and retain staff.
“This trend is not new,” she said. “It is simply a candidate driven market and law firms need to adjust their hiring strategies to interview efficiently and make hiring decisions promptly.”
Laws firms will need to understand that potential job candidates will likely have multiple offers at the same time given the current state of the job market.
As for lawyers wishing to move on, this is an excellent time to consider the options available, Watts said, especially for those with a solid academic record and employment history.
“If a candidate is seeking a new role, we suggest good research of the market to ensure you are armed with knowledge as to what you can expect at your current level before applying for any role,” she said.