Career Guide: Legal jobs abroad
Are you a lawyer considering applying for legal jobs abroad? If so, you’re not alone. Our 2019 Audience Insight Report revealed that out of 3,000 legal professionals, 48% are willing to relocate for the right career opportunity - 59% of whom would consider an overseas move.
The Middle East was a popular destination attracting the attention of 13% of potential relocators thanks to its lucrative and often tax-free opportunities. 30% of those willing to relocate indicated preference for a mainland European country, while a further 9% were interested in job opportunities in Asia.
So why not apply for an international legal role?
Nowadays, it is rare to train, qualify and retire at the same firm. There is an increasing acceptance of moves on lawyers’ CVs that may have been a cause for concern in the past.
If you’re a legal professional thinking of relocating, there are several options available:
Firms tend to offer secondment opportunities to trainee lawyers, typically lasting for a temporary period of 6 months to two years. Aside from client secondments, which take place in-house, the firm may offer you a secondment at one of their international offices.
Secondments are an ideal way to learn about different clients, sectors and business strategies. However, before embarking on an international secondment, make sure that there are solid career development prospects attached. If you’re at a more senior level, consider whether taking time off will affect your internal promotion opportunities.
As a qualified lawyer of England and Wales, you can continue to practice English law in a range of other countries. There are English Law practices all over the world, with the Middle East being a popular destination. In locations such as Dubai, most of the work is English-law governed.
As a result, you may find yourself doing very similar work to your role back home. However, making a lateral move to an overseas firm gives you the chance to experience a whole new culture, climate and customs, an opportunity that may not have been offered to you at a previous firm.
The law practiced in many Offshore jurisdictions, such as the Channel Islands or the British Virgin Islands, is broadly similar to English law.
Offshore legal authorities largely adopt the principles of Common Law principles in addition to their own legislation. The native legislation is relatively easy to get to grips with, and key documentation (including SPAs) bears a high level of resemblance to Onshore documents.
The benefits of such a move include exposure to innovative legal frameworks with a helping of influential English case law. Aside from this familiarity, an exotic location as well as a low or no tax salary is a real bonus.
With this is in mind, you should still take the precautionary measure of maintaining your client contact network back home. Although the transition from Offshore to Onshore is usually smooth, there is no harm in setting yourself up well for opportunities in the UK, should you decide to return.
Re-qualification in a completely new jurisdiction is definitely the most challenging option. This process is lengthy and requires a lot of dedication and commitment. You need to start from the very beginning in terms of studying, examinations and training in order to gain the local qualification.
Finding work can also be challenging – you need to ensure that a firm is happy to take you on without a solid background. The reasons for taking the steps to re-qualify need to be worthwhile as this is certainly no easy ride. Often, the reasons may take the form of personal / family related matters.
Is making the move worth it?
• Option to practice English law in many jurisdictions
• Broadening knowledge of other legal systems
• Low / no tax salaries at Offshore firms
• Opportunity to experience a new culture and environment
• Expanding / testing your world view
• Adapting to different local customs / legal principles
• Different financial and tax implications
• Language barrier
• Obtaining necessary work permits
• Implications for family and friends
The weight of the positives and negatives will differ for every individual. It’s always great to expand your horizons, but make sure to keep in mind the personal, financial and career-related implications of a move abroad.