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The emerging markets are the bright spots in the global economy right now, but is legal recruitment as buoyant in these markets?
“The Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) economies, and the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META) regions are all busy, with many multinationals and law firms looking to these markets to set up local operations and capitalise on their growth,” says Naveen Tuli, global managing director at Laurence Simons. “This has led to a demand for talent, with employers seeking individuals with on-the-ground experience and cultural sensitivity.”
So where are the best opportunities?
“The South East Asia markets are becoming more buoyant - Singapore services most of South East Asia, while Jakarta is on a lot of law firms’ radars - many UK firms such as Ashurst, Herbert Smith Freehills and some magic circle firms have offices in Jakarta or tie-ups with local firms,” notes Roz Etkind, co-head of private practice in Asia at Pure Search. “Bahasa-speaking associates are becoming hot property in Singapore, while partners with a following of Indonesian clients are also in demand.”
There is also increasing demand in Africa, adds Tuli.
“Expansion in Africa has fuelled demand for high-calibre lawyers and compliance professionals, with many businesses viewing such appointments as paramount in their risk strategies,” she says.
In other markets, such as Brazil, there has been a strong surge in demand for legal expertise, particularly in the in-house sector, Tuli adds.
“Due to the flow of foreign investment into Brazil there has been a shift in the legal recruitment market, especially in-house, as legal departments have become more strategically positioned,” she says. “Implementing strategies whereby legal departments outsource less to law firms and handle more work in house benefitted multinationals, not only from a cost-cutting perspective but also due to the fact that their attorneys know their businesses better than any external firm.”
In-house jobs in emerging markets can differ from the traditional role we are accustomed to in the West, comments Liam Richardson, head of Pure Search’s in-house legal division in Asia.
“Given the smaller sizes of legal teams in the emerging markets roles can be more encompassing and less siloed,” says Richardson. “There tends to be a demand
for senior lawyers who are comfortable in autonomous roles. Given that the market is emerging there are many more options for candidates at the general counsel level as organisations look for their first legal hires.”
Language knowledge and compliance know-how are both key to making your mark in these markets, stresses Tuli.
“Fluency in the local language as well as English will stand candidates in good stead,” he says. “There’s also been a notable increase in demand for compliance professionals for understandable reasons, making this an important skill set.”