A few people have been in touch this week to ask how current events are impacting on our efforts to help them secure an international move, so I thought it might be useful to jot down some of our early impressions. Clearly, it’s a developing situation so I will come back to this and amend if/when things change.
How is the Covid 19 pandemic affecting international legal recruitment markets?
With air travel virtually frozen and many clients around the world working from home, I think ‘business as usual’ in international legal recruitment would be stretching it! However, the response from firms has been measured – some caution, yes, but no sign of panic. There have been some delays to people who were due to start imminently but not a single example of offers being withdrawn or withheld, and ongoing business has been, well, ongoing.
It’s perhaps worth noting that offshore firms are particularly well equipped to handle this disruption since their business continuity plans are designed to cope with catastrophic natural events such as hurricanes. They can operate outside of their offices without skipping a beat.
What is the outlook moving forwards?
Simply, nobody can be certain but based on what our clients are saying right now, we would anticipate caution in the short term followed by a relatively quick rebound in activity, assuming that the markets in question get on top of the virus within the two to three month timeframes that are being widely suggested.
We are already hearing multiple reports of people in the insurance, litigation and insolvency sectors fielding a huge number of preliminary enquiries and there is also a lot of confidence amongst private equity lawyers that there will be significant activity as the market bottoms out. Private wealth is also on the agenda. Interestingly, all the strategic, senior level roles we are working on (which are generally ‘growth motivated’) have been unaffected.
Is it risky to move now?
I’ve always thought that people recruited in a downturn have less to worry about than those recruited in a peak. We saw it in the GFC – it was those who joined in the final months of the boom, when firms thought nothing could derail business, that turned out to be most vulnerable. Hires made in full light of a challenging market are generally essential, carefully thought out, and fully budgeted for, otherwise, they wouldn’t bother.
In addition, offshore and international teams tend to be smaller and leaner than big onshore firms which equips them well to adapt to the market. Corporate lawyers - don’t be surprised to see yourself listed as a restructuring expert sometime soon!
What to do now?
If the idea of an overseas move is on your mind, we’d love to talk to you. If it has been in the back of your mind for a while and you’d like to chat it through that’s great – you don’t need to be ready to send your CV. It takes time to get your head around a big move like this so if you’re at home and a bit less busy than normal, it might be a good time to set the ball rolling.
Equally, if you were about to get started on your search there is no reason to stop. Even in normal circumstances an offshore or international relocation typically takes around six months to complete so the likelihood is that this will be receding, if not over, by the time you get to the sharp end of things. Interviews are routinely done over skype so most of the process can continue as normal, just without the need for you to sneak out of the office!
Contact Jason on +44 (0)1206 233 514 or at [email protected] if you’d like to talk this through and in the meantime, stay safe and let's all hope this passes soon.