International legal recruiter Taylor Root is out this week with its annual survey of the General Counsel and in-House Legal Department job market in Australia.  Summing the report up in one sentence?  In-house lawyers Down Under are under increasing pressure to do more with less.

In-house hiring is flat.  The number of companies who recruited attorneys at all during the last twelve months was half the number who did so in the previous twelve months.  Only 8% of companies reported an increase in the size of their legal departments.  The vast majority reported no plans to add to their staff in the upcoming twelve months, with 90% citing cost containment and budgeting constraints as the reason.  Secondment–the practice where outside counsel temporarily park personnel at in-house departments so that those in-house departments don’t have to hire permanent staff–is up.  Taylor Root even reported a net migration from in-house back to private practice, reversing the trend of the past several years.

In some industry sectors–Construction Law, Energy Law,  IT/Technology Transactions, and Start-ups, the scenario is a bit brighter.  But the overal trend is flat for the foreseeable future.

At Brightleaf we see quite a bit of this.  Budget constraints suppress legal staffing while the pace of business and the costs of compliance  create more demand for legal services.  In-house departments use our legal document automation platform to get more work done more quickly with fewer resources.  From contract assembly and automated drafting tools to online document generators to advanced mark-up and negotiation modules to mobile client collaboration accounts, Brightleaf has a lot of ways to make legal departments faster and more efficient.

We don’t know from Taylor Root whether the aggregate compliance costs that Australian business face is rising faster than their in-house legal budgets.  But we’re volunteering to head over there for a month or so to find out.