Working in Asia
Working in the Middle East
Working In London & Europe
Do I need a work permit?
Many Australians and New Zealanders have access to European citizenship through their parents and grandparents.
Those who have a European passport or right of residence will find it easier to work (and obtain access to social services) than those who require sponsorship. However, many major firms in Europe are prepared to sponsor Australian and New Zealand lawyers to work in London or elsewhere in Europe. The recession has meant that in London in particular, it is much more difficult to obtain sponsorship given the numbers of redundant lawyers in London, so having a visa or European citizenship greatly increases your chances of obtaining work.
Please ask your SSQ consultant for more information on sponsorship.
Qualifying in the UK
Lawyers admitted to practice in Australia and New Zealand can obtain qualification in England and Wales by taking the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS). This is not a pre-requisite to working in the UK; firms will generally support Australasian lawyers in obtaining this qualification upon joining the firm.
For further information on the necessary requirements, please visit the Law Society's website or the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The legal profession in the UK
Like most common law countries, the legal profession in the UK is divided into solicitors and barristers.
Solicitors have rights of audience before the courts that are similar to those available in Australia and New Zealand and solicitor advocates are becoming increasingly common in the major firms.
To qualify as a solicitor, UK law graduates complete the Legal Practice Course (a 12 month practical course) after their degree and undertake a two year training contract.
It is possible to become a lawyer in the UK without having completed a law degree. Those non-law graduates looking to become lawyers can take the Common Professional Examination or Graduate Diploma in Law of Law (a 12 month practical course) after their degree, followed by the Legal Practice Course and then undertake a 2 year training contract.
The international law firms
A number of the largest firms in Europe are the result of mergers between UK and continental European firms which give these firms a presence in virtually every major legal centre in Europe.
Many of these firms also have foreign qualified lawyers in many offices, giving their offices a truly international feel.
There have also been a number of mergers between European and US firms which adds immeasurably to the types of working environments available.
For those Antipodean lawyers who speak a European language, opportunities are available with international firms throughout Continental Europe.
Please ask your SSQ consultant about your options if you are interested in working in a non-English speaking country.
The large firms
One thing you cannot help but notice when arriving in the UK to practise is the sheer size of many of the firms. Where a large Australian firm will have around 200 partners, the major practices in London may have almost 600 partners (such as Clifford Chance).
The good thing for those from the southern hemisphere is that there are many Australians and New Zealanders working at these firms (including partners) so you will always find a familiar accent if you join one of these firms.
The mid-sized firms
A mid-sized firm may well be much larger than the leading Australian firms and many times larger than the top New Zealand firms. Some will have foreign offices and many will have offices in other parts of England such as Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Leeds.
Ideally, to be most attractive to the UK market, you will have between 3-7 years experience in Australia or New Zealand. It may be possible to make the move outside these parameters but the range of options will be greatest for those lawyers who fall within that band.
Strong academic results are necessary. It is worth making sure you have a copy of your original academic transcript when you arrive in the UK and include it with your CV.
Salary levels (as at January 2010)
|PQE Level||Mid tier Firms||Magic Circle/Top Tier Firms||US Firms - depending on current exchange rates|
|£62 - £65,000||£75 -£96,000|
|1||£58 -£70,000||£68 - £72,000||£80 - £110,000|
|2||£64 -£75,000||£76 - £85,500||£90 - £125,000|
|3||£70 - £80,000||£79 - £90,000||£95-135,000|
|4||£74 -£85,000||£84 - £100,000||£105-145,000|
|5||£78 -£90,000||£88 - £110,000||£115-160,000|
|£89 - £125,000||£125 - £180,000|
Most firms will make contributions into a pension (superannuation) scheme, provide private medical insurance and provide 5 weeks annual leave. Some may pay for sports centre membership and provide concierge services. There may be a relocation package available to assist with the move, however the size and availability of this is entirely dependent on the firm.
In addition, some of the larger firms have an array of on-site services and facilities such as gyms, swimming pools, restaurants, doctors and shops. Of course, in the City (as the main business area of London is known) there are restaurants, bars and shops galore around the offices so there is always a new place to try.
Living in London
As you would expect from one of the world's greatest cities, the range of things to do is endless.
The restaurant and bar scene is vibrant and constantly changing. The quality of food available is truly world-class and the variety of cuisines on offer is broad.
Those interested in the arts will find London a wonderful environment - from museums like the V&A and the British Museum to the amazing Tate Modern gallery or the Saatchi, there is always something to see. The variety of shows in the West End is world renowned and features some of the best actors from around the globe. Those interested in dance and opera have the joy of Covent Garden and Sadler's Wells to look forward to.
Of course, the biggest bands and singers are regularly in London so whatever you are into, you will find an act to enjoy all year round.
The parks and gardens around the City are beautiful - there is nothing more wonderful than a picnic in Hyde Park on a sunny day.
If shopping is your recreational activity, London will never disappoint. From the top end of Bond Street and Gucci and Prada, to the joys of Top Shop, Zara and H&M, there is something for everyone and many labels not available in Australia or New Zealand are easily accessed. Something more familiar to Australasians but a new-ish addition to the London market is Westfield Mall in Shepherds Bush – a great place to spend a rainy Sunday.
Although much maligned by locals, the public transport system (particularly the London Underground rail system or 'Tube' as it's known) is efficient and by far the best way to get around London. It is safe, relatively cheap and easy to navigate. The world's best cab drivers are in London - anyone used to the nightmare of Sydney taxis will truly love the thrill of getting into a black cab and being guaranteed that the driver knows your street without having to ask directions.
One of the greatest attractions for Australians and New Zealanders in London is the easy accessibility of other countries. If you want to spend a weekend in Rome, it is only 2 hours from Heathrow and you can get to Paris on Friday afternoon in time for dinner on the Eurostar. New York is an overnight flight away and the exotic north of Africa can be reached in as little as 3 hours.
Truly a life changing experience, London offers the best and most exciting experiences the world has to offer.
Working in Asia
Opportunities exist with leading UK and US firms in Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Toyko for lawyers with experience in a variety of disciplines such as projects, energy and financial services.
Mandarin language skills are highly sought after for positions in China especially when combined with a common law education. Japanese skills are useful but not essential for positions in Tokyo. The emphasis is on good quality practical experience and strong academic results.
Working in the Middle East
Although demand is not as strong in the Middle East as it was in previous years, there are still good opportunities with leading US and UK firms for finance, construction, energy, corporate and IT lawyers with up to 6 years’ post-qualification experience.
Arabic language skills are extremely advantageous but not essential.