New Zealand trained lawyers heading overseas again

by Samantha Woodhill25 Feb 2015
The growing international legal recruitment market could lead to domestic talent shortages.

Karlie Connellan, associate director at Taylor Root, said the international demand is up, particularly for transactional lawyers.  While the demand is not quite as high as it was prior to the global financial crisis, she said international firms have finally become more open to hiring New Zealand trained lawyers again.

“Right across the board, we’re seeing increased demand for transactional lawyers, in particular corporate, banking, projects/construction, energy and resources, competition & TMT. In some locations contentious lawyers are of interest, especially those with experience in construction, banking, commercial, and Intellectual Property,” she said. 

“The increasing interest in hiring lawyers from New Zealand has revealed signs of a shortage of top tier lawyers at the 2-6 PQE level in the New Zealand market.”

The growing international legal market, coupled with the difficulty of encouraging international recruits into New Zealand, has meant an increase in jobs in the domestic market.

“New Zealand law firms have historically shown an interest in hiring people from abroad, however, it is a difficult market to encourage people to relocate to because it isn’t easy for lawyers to requalify to work in New Zealand and, whilst it is a lovely place to live, firms often don’t offer attractions… that other locations have,” said Connellan.

The long tradition of New Zealand trained lawyers working overseas makes them popular recruits internationally.  Connellan said younger lawyers are typically trained by more experienced lawyers who have worked overseas previously, making them attractive to international firms.

“The New Zealand qualified top tier lawyers are viewed as having high quality training. One of the reasons for this is that many of the Supervising Partners have themselves gained overseas experience,” she said.  “Typically a junior to mid-level lawyer from New Zealand will not be involved with extensive cross border work, however, the partners who have trained and developed them, more often than not, will have international and cross border experience which is highly regarded by the hiring international law firms.”

Connellan said it’s not all bad news for NZ firms trying to recruit.  While many New Zealand trained lawyers spend time working overseas, she said firms benefit from the fact that many lawyers end up returning to the firm they first trained in, bringing their international experience with them.

“New Zealand is a very open and encouraging place for lawyers to work and as a result, there is quite a strong alumni and people tend to return home to New Zealand and often to the firm that they originally trained with,” she said.