The legal market in the UK seems to have softened on a temporary basis. Both clients and candidates are cautious in light of the China slowdown and plummeting commodity prices. And the EU referendum is also looming large (a June date is mooted) with polls suggesting it could be a close call. The upshot is that there is not a lot of hiring taking place at the moment. However we also saw a slowdown pre the general election last year, which was followed by a rush of hiring once it was out of the way.
In 1998/1999 I worked as a legal recruiter in London. The market was hot and law firms over there tried to address the shortage of local talent partly by pursuing Australian and New Zealand qualified lawyers quite aggressively. We were placing Aussies at the major firms in London, but also in regions like Bristol. It almost became a rite of passage for Australian and New Zealand lawyers to spend 2 years working in the UK. Aussie firms were actually giving lawyers 1-2 year leaves of absence to enhance their chances of getting those lawyers back upon their return.
Clearly the landscape has changed dramatically since then. Back then it was really only corporate and finance lawyers from the Australian/New Zealand top tier firms that were getting a look-in. And back then the UK firms had not hooked up with the ANZ firms to the extent that they have done today. Law firms in London today are happy to hire ANZ lawyers in fields as diverse as litigation, insurance, IT/IP, construction, and employment law. Corporate, and finance are still major areas though.
The UK market has fluctuated in recent times. A few years ago the market there crashed. Many firms in the UK made redundancies and it became extremely hard for ANZ lawyers to secure roles over there. In 2014 and 2015 things improved substantially. Strong ANZ lawyers were again at times securing multiple offers, often via video conference. It was however still much easier for lawyers to secure roles if they did not require sponsorship and if they were actually on the ground in the UK.
So 2016 has started in an interesting way. At this very moment there is not a great deal of hiring activity. But many firms are planning on hiring again as soon as things settle. And there are still roles for ANZ lawyers with the right skill-sets.
If you are planning an immediate or future move to the UK please feel free to email me at [email protected] to discuss things more specifically.