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Do New Zealand Law Firms Need To Look At The Bigger Picture?

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I am so fascinated by the obsession with Academic transcripts in the legal sector in New Zealand...

I recently wrote a post on LinkedIn that gained a lot of interest and thought I would write an article on this, as it is such a hot topic right now in this candidate short and incredibly hot legal market we find ourselves in, where firms are competing for talent and yet unwilling to budge on this, preferring to leave roles vacant. Speaking with agencies overseas in London and Australia firms are beginning to flex on their requirements, so is it time we shake things up here?

After nearly two years feeling trapped in New Zealand, a number of candidates have itchy feet and it is looking likely that when borders re-open we may see a mass exodus of young lawyers heading over to Australia, the UK and some even the US and Cayman Islands in search of pastures new. Some top lawyers are getting headhunted as many as 15 times a day by overseas firms and a number have already left. We are also seeing more movement in the market locally, with those that have decided not to go overseas or have not been happy with their firms covid-response, or just needing a change after a stressful couple of years now exploring other opportunities. This has created an incredibly hot legal market that doesn't seem to be showing any signs of slowing down. Whilst it is great to see some more movement in the market, there are just not enough candidates to fill the gaps and so all we are seeing is roles being filled and then more pop up.

Now sure, I get it at graduate or junior solicitor level, you don't have much else to go on and there is an over production of law students so firms can afford to be picky when it comes to the academic transcript...

But surely, once someone is more experienced and has 5 to 10 years plus of post qualified experience, will it really tell you much about the person? Are they even the same person anymore than when they were studying?

I have to confess, I myself am a straight A student, but is it my academics that have helped me progress in my career? Maybe in part, but I would argue it is the softer skills I have learnt along the way; relationship building, resilience, negotiation, creativity, time management, ambition... these are all things you learn and develop along the way as you grow both as an individual and in your career...

Some people just aren't great at exams but thrive in the real world of work, or some students have to work two jobs to afford to put themselves through law school thus affecting the time they can dedicate to their studies and their overall grades, should they be penalised for this for the rest of their career?

Do we need to change the way we consider candidates and start looking at the bigger picture?

What do you think, I would love your thoughts on this?