Of all the reasons to not get a job, or even the opportunity to interview for a job, one of the most frustrating is being told that you are too experienced for the position. Why on earth wouldn’t an employer want someone who meets and exceeds the requirements of the job? It doesn’t make any sense!

In the last six months we have identified a lack of appetite from Law firms in both Australia and New Zealand to hire Lawyers with 8+ years of experience. So why is this?

Your salary expectations are too high and you don’t have your own client base

It is no secret that legal salaries have skyrocketed over the last two years. With this comes the pressure for Law Firm Partners, Senior Associates and Special Counsels to bring in clients. This is so that lawyers can service them and hit their billable targets to keep the firm profitable. If you have been in a large firm for the majority of your career, there is a very high chance you have been working on clients that are firm-wide and unlikely to move with you to your new firm. Therefore if there is not an active vacancy, it is a big risk for a new law firm to take you on.

We have also noted that those returning from overseas, mainly from the UK and Asia, have been paid extremely well by those firms. For some job seekers, this has created an over-inflated expectation of their salary. In some cases, we have noted those returning from overseas need to drop their expectations considerably in order to put themselves on a level playing field with their local peers.

Balancing the team’s equilibrium

Many firms have had staff working their way up the ranks throughout their career. These individuals are on a career trajectory with promotion targets in place. They have been given the tools and knowledge that they need to succeed. The firm’s leaders have invested time into these Lawyers and have done everything they can to retain their staff, or recruit their alumni back after their O.Es.  People stay around longer if they know they’ll get rewarded for good performance. They have also built solid relationships and reputations with their client base, leadership team, peers and those more junior than them.

Firms may be “top heavy” and therefore there will be a lack of promotion capability

A Partnership is made up of a select few individuals who have proven their worth to the highest standard and bought into the firm. Just like any business, there are fewer experts at the top of the pyramid. So the prospect of bringing in someone who is striving for that position when a business that is top heavy is a risk. If they are not hiring, they’re essentially telling you they know that they can’t give you what you deserve and are striving for. 

Influx of returning kiwis and alumni

Over the last few years, many kiwis returned from overseas. Often to settle down with their families many of these were 6+ years PQE. This has once again resulted in a top-heavy effect. These lawyers filled the skill shortages that were appearing and firms overhired in some specialities resulting in needs reduction. Of course, firms were going to take their alumni back who know the clients, the systems and the way things operate. Plus they come back with new skills after seeing the world. 

All these factors are creating a bottleneck at the top. Don’t get me wrong, there is still very much a skill shortage in the legal sphere with Lawyers at the 2-6 year PQE level heading overseas. But we are seeing difficulties for more experienced Lawyers to find new opportunities. Not all positions are upwardly mobile. As a result, firms are afraid you’ll accept the job, then dip out as soon as a better opportunity knocks at the door. I will add that there will always be a need in certain sectors at all levels.

Reasons to not get a job may not be obvious

My advice would be to consider your options before you hit the peak level where you are expected to bring in client bases and network. Find a role where you can move up the ranks, achieve your targets and succeed in your career. Finally, evaluate if you are happy where you are now. Get in touch if you are looking for tailored advice. Find out where you sit in the market and how you can achieve your desired goals.

For those Lawyers who can bring a client base firms are interested in discussion. This also needs to fit well into a firm’s current offering to their clients. And to also ensure that a Lawyer joining the firm has the right support from existing staff’s expertise.

If you want to discuss your next move then get in touch.  If you wish have a confidential chat call Stevie on +64 (0) 9 930 9828 or email me on  sdoubleday@tylerwren.co.nz

Know of somebody in your network looking for their next big move?

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