COVID-19 has thrown the global economy into uncertainty, and the legal profession is no exception. However, as New Zealand and Australia emerge from coronavirus lockdowns, is it really all doom and gloom for lawyers? Insights spoke to career expert Lisa Gray, Founding Partner of Tyler Wren, about what our international-commended health care response means for economic recovery.
Observe trends as lockdown lifts
Panic and anxiety have understandably influenced some commercial decision-making. As we cautiously emerge to our “new normal”, Lisa urged legal professionals to take a long-term view of the situation.
“What we are seeing as of today is not necessarily a downturn in the whole of the legal market,” said Lisa. “We are very unsure of what the long term outlook will be. Hiring, particularly in general practice, was hit hard in May, but it’s worth keeping a close eye on the housing market, as this will likely have a knock-on effect.”
Consider risk/compliance, family law, and litigation
As with the GFC, not every area of law is experiencing a downturn. Indeed, some areas are likely to expand.
“In the next few months, we will get a better gauge as to how deep the downturn is,” said Lisa. “If you are a new lawyer, it’s best to be flexible to expand your work opportunities - consider Australia as an option, and think outside of traditional paths.”
Several areas on the rise include risk and compliance, which covers issues including corporate governance, conduct, government policy, and regulatory knowledge.
“New laws regulating the New Zealand Financial Services sector will drive demand for lawyers who understand risk and compliance,” said Lisa. “Litigation, insurance, insolvency, and family law are likely to grow. Regulatory work and property law are also likely to grow due to government investment in the sector,” said Lisa.
Expand your network and reflect your expertise to attract business
In addition to updating your CV, be clear about what projects you’ve worked on, providing examples of the high quality of your work wherever possible.
“Demonstrate cases you have worked on - de-identified to preserve confidentiality, of course - and use your cover letter to show off your writing style,” encouraged Lisa. “If you are pursuing work in a non-traditional legal career, IT and reporting skills are always of interest.”
Make the most of your public profile via services like LinkedIn, which allow you to expand your professional network online and attract business.
“Firms want to hire people with extended networks from which they can leverage business,” said Lisa. “Join business groups, promote yourself in your local community, write online articles on LinkedIn - do all you can to simply raise your profile as a lawyer.”
She is confident the market will recover, though business models may evolve.
“We may see diversification in the skillset of new lawyers, along the lines of the UK model of “seats”, rather than having lawyers stay in one area,” said Lisa. “When we see a downturn, specialists tend to need to flex their skills and go where the work is to adapt.
“At the end of the day, New Zealand has fared fairly well,” said Lisa. “Strong university transcripts and solid CVs will secure roles as the economy recovers.”