While many sectors continue to be impacted by the events of this year, Malaysia’s legal sector has remained a key function through times of crisis. Particularly now, organisations need to be sure that all the steps they are taking to cut costs or manage their finances are legal and compliant to the local labour law – thus making the legal function more essential than ever.

Steady and continued growth seen across the legal function

These are some of the findings from The Inside Story of Malaysia, a monthly regional recruitment analysis undertaken by global recruitment expert Hays. Focusing on the Legal sector, the analysis found that while Malaysia’s lockdown has directly impacted the hiring market, the legal function has become more indispensable than ever. The increased importance of regulatory oversight as part of recent reforms, for example, now also applies to non-financial businesses, leading to an increased demand for legal professionals with experience in the field of ABAC (Anti-Bribery Anti-Corruption). Similarly, the rapid digitalisation of workplaces in light of movement restrictions has led to a heightened need for legal counsel with domain knowledge in GDPR and PDPA regulations. The legal function has also seen a healthy and continued demand in tandem with the movement of human capital in the market as companies continue cutting costs to weather the downturn.

Hybrid roles increasingly prevalent

The buzz generated by the enforcement of Section 17A of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 combined with lean hiring models has led to the emergence of more hybrid legal roles. Previously, the legal and compliance functions were distinct and segregated, with compliance centred around the areas of corporate compliance and governance, anti-bribery and corruption. In contrast, the general legal function was centred around day to day drafting and providing legal services to businesses. But as a direct result of cost cutting measures and the latest development in laws, there has been an increased demand for and creation of hybrid legal & compliance roles within the corporate and commercial sectors.

Organisations ramp up benefits

Organisations are currently refreshing their benefit packages to attract more senior candidates, which includes rolling out ‘lifestyle’ allowances that are not restricted for use. While it is common in Malaysia to see allowances offered for things like dental or optical, more companies are moving away from this and offering ‘lifestyle’ allowances that come in the form of an annual lumpsum. These are preferred by employees who can use them for anything from travelling to shopping or gym memberships. More organisations are also expanding their learning and development offerings, particularly the areas of PDPA/GDPR, governance and compliance.

Tom Osborne, Managing Director of Hays Malaysia commented, “With the current global situation, more and more organisations are embracing work from home measures. The legal function will also experience more flexibility and fluidity as this trend progresses. Organisations are currently willing to pay above market average for top legal, particularly in the fields of compliance and PDPA/GDPR. I would advise legal candidates in the market, particularly those impacted by pay cuts or redundancies, to look at these areas for their next career step for a sustainable future career. Shifting to a new industry to another will always entail a steep learning curve but if you can find a point of similarity, you will find that legal skills are actually very versatile and transferable, particularly in the current climate.”



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