Legal market update – Australia construction and infrastructure

Author Alexandra Starke
August 12, 2020

Australian businesses, like much of the rest of the world, are currently facing major ongoing disruption and uncertainty due to the evolving COVID-19 global pandemic. The severe public-health risk, subsequent restrictions on movement and trade, and the resulting economic impact.

The impact of COVID-19 will vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction depending on a myriad of factors, including the severity of the pandemic, the nature and significance of government orders issued to address the virus, and the effect of government action taken to mitigate financial hardships resulting from the virus.

Lockdown restrictions in March 2020 brought the Australian economy to an abrupt halt, followed by a period of hibernation until May. Whilst many state governments have started to ease restrictions, the process has been gradual, rather than directing a full and complete end to lockdown status, thus eliminating any hope of an immediate return to the way things were. And with Victoria sadly going through its second lockdown amid the second wave of the Coronavirus, the impact of COVID-19 on the construction and infrastructure industry legal market does not have a visible end date.

The impacts resulting from COVID-19 have reached most sectors and have been far-reaching and varied in scope. Some sectors are experiencing particularly difficult challenges, both financially and in implementing the guidance and requirements received from regulatory authorities. Other sectors are better suited to face the impacts of the pandemic and might even see new opportunities as a result of the pandemic.

Despite the initial period of fear in the early stages of lockdown, businesses across Australia and globally adapted quickly to remote working for large sections of their workforce. At the beginning of the lockdown period, conversations with candidates largely shifted from vacancy-led discussions to career progression discussions.

So far, in-house legal teams within the construction and infrastructure sectors, have, to a certain extent weathered the COVID-19 storm. Some businesses have continued to recruit replacement and expansion positions that had already had budgetary sign-off pre-pandemic and have continued to progress. We have also seen businesses that have been forced into cost-cutting measures, resulting in restructures and retrenchment in some cases.

In the 12 months prior to COVID-19, we had witnessed a good flow of Legal Counsel and Senior Legal Counsel opportunities for front-end construction lawyers across the market with General Counsels actively recruiting for newly created roles or replacement positions but also opportunistically securing resources in anticipation of project work. Many of these positions have since been put on hold in light of the pandemic, with global companies headquartered outside of Australia, putting global hiring freezes in place. These teams in many cases are busier than ever before, due to both COVID-19 and the large investment across Australia in infrastructure from state and federal governments. Due to this increased activity, we have started to see an increase in legal recruitment in these sectors, which will continue in the coming months, however, when recruitment will return back to pre-COVID-19 levels, remains the big question.

Taylor Root currently has a variety of Construction and Infrastructure legal roles located across Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Click here to read more > Construction and Infrastructure.

For more details or to have a confidential discussion, please contact Alexandra Starke, Associate Director Taylor Root.

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