New figures from the New Zealand Law Society show that corporate counsel now account for 24 per cent of the nation’s legal profession, consistent with global trends.
Data compiled by the Society, for its monthly publication LawTalk, shows there are 3,206 lawyers working in an in-house capacity, making up almost one-quarter of the 13,530 practising lawyers based in New Zealand. NZ Law Society in-house section president Sian Wingate said the steady increase of in-house lawyers was consistent with overseas trends, such as in Britain, where findings last year from the Law Society of England & Wales showed that 22 per cent of practising lawyers there were working in in-house roles. The findings from both NZ and Britain are consistent with reports from Australia, following a report from recruitment firm Hays showing that Australian companies are set to reduce rates of outsourcing of legal work, as well as a need for relevant industry experience, there will be a need for more legal counsel in the coming year.
In-house legal activity is growing steadily across Australia, Hays said, as companies cut down on outsourcing their legal function. Ms Wingate noted, in conjunction with the NZ Law Society, that the growing percentage of in-house lawyers across jurisdictions reflects the ‘desire of many lawyers to be strategic business partners’ who can gain experience across a variety of skill sets. Opportunity, she argued, was among the main reasons that lawyers enjoy in-house work, ‘the diversity of work or the chance to roll their sleeves up and help their organisation thrive by working in, around and with business and commercial teams on a daily basis.’ She added, ‘there are also many opportunities to move into non-legal roles if desired. Put simply, it is viewed by many in-house lawyers as offering a broader and more fulfilling career than the traditional private practice model.’