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“God of Nations at Thy feet”

We have noticed a trend over the last few weeks and months with candidates asking more and more about opportunities outside the main New Zealand cities. There has always been some movement in that direction as people seek to move ‘home’ to be closer to family or to get more of the kiwi lifestyle. Increasingly disillusionment with what the city, and in particular Auckland, have to offer has also entered the conversation.

At the same time as rising housing costs and congested roads are reaching epic proportions, Gen Y and Millennials are choosing a more balanced approach to work and career. The prestige and machismo of long hours with a big firm don’t hold the same allure. Most lawyers want more responsibility and more client contact as well, both much more readily available at a regional firm. Young lawyers today are less turned on by the number of noughts on the end of a deal and more interested in the contribution they were able to make.

The make-up of the New Zealand economy, with primary industries and exports dominating, also means that a move out of the city does not mean the end of challenging and complex work completely. It is also likely to mean more diversity in what you get your hands on – the lack of opportunity to try different things is a common complaint we hear from large firm lawyers.

On top of all that the maths simply makes sense. If you are an Auckland home-owner there is the genuine prospect of becoming mortgage free. If you are renting the prospect of home ownership is that much more realistic. Of course there will be a pay cut but when you factor in the relative cost of living then you could still have more disposable income. For example, at the end of 2015 the ratio of median income to median property price in Auckland was 9.1, and we know things have only gone down-hill since then. In Hamilton it was 5.1 and in Palmerston North 4.1. Evidence also shows that the drop in salary is far less than the drop in living costs. For example, renting a 3 bedroom house in Hamilton is 38.5% cheaper than in Auckland, but salaries are only 14% lower.

Of course there are challenges for people contemplating a move to the regions. We have encountered a number of high flyers who think that they can move to a smaller town or city and walk into a job, or even a partnership. The challenge can still be seniority and congestion at the top, as well as generally being more specialist than regional practice tends to need. A respectful and flexible approach will surely pay dividends, and pay off your mortgage if you play your cards right.