Beyond London: The Booming Associate Talent Pool

The associate recruitment market has really taken off since the beginning of the year. With law firms having numerous needs to fill and candidates getting multiple offers, firms are already facing a talent shortage.

A wider talent pool exists outside of the traditional "good university and top firm training" model and law firms should consider looking outside of the local lateral talent options. We are seeing an increasing number of clients looking at hiring associates from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and, in some instances, continental Europe. Interestingly, in-house legal departments have really embraced the concept and, given the often niche credentials they require, our in-house clients tend to open their search globally as a matter of course.

So what is stopping more firms from engaging in this pool and why does private practice differ? This is not particularly ground-breaking; we have seen examples of such recruitment trends in the past. We estimate that at least 80 percent of law firms are not actively recruiting from this legal talent pool, while those who do are able to more easily up-scale their teams to handle an increasing deal flow. At the end of December 2014, cross-border deal values stood at $1,287 billion, surpassing every year on year record excepting 2007.

International candidates are arriving from globally recognised firms where local economies may not be as buoyant as London. From the candidate perspective, there is an opportunity for an increase in salary, exposure to high-quality, international work and a new life experience – the majority of them are Generation Y after all and their drivers are different. The key for them is the experience, travel, exposure and development, not prestige and perks.

If you need talent in your team, do consider looking internationally; the benefits abound. From the hirer's perspective, the process is quick. With a smooth interview process, the associate can be at their desk within three months from start to finish. In the London market that is a standard notice period. Due to time differences, video conferences can be done in the evening for the candidate, causing no issues of leaving the office unannounced, meaning fewer interviews are rescheduled. Notice periods also tend to be more akin with the U.S. (around 4–6 weeks in Australasia). The associate has a medium- to long-term commitment to the market (2 to 5 years) before returning home, little concern about a partnership track, their training and work ethic is outstanding and little training is required upon arrival. Also, not every candidate will require a Tier 2 Visa (which does carry complexities for hiring); a good number have access to ancestry visas or EU citizenship and can arrive without any need for immigration processing.

Working with a search firm, such as Major, Lindsey & Africa, can help facilitate the growth of your teams and introduce you to candidates you may never have considered on your own.

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Nathan Peart is a Search Consultant in the Associate Practice Group in the London office of Major, Lindsey & Africa. Nathan works closely with associates to help them make a lateral move into law firms in both London and across the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. He can be reached at +44(0) 207-448-9994, or npeart@mlaglobal.com.

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