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While statistics suggest that the UK economy is no longer in recession, the draw of foreign climes is still strong and many lawyers continue to be attracted to the expat lifestyle.
“The global market for expat lawyers, while by no means as buoyant as it was in late 2007, has been steadily expanding for the past six months,” comments Guy Adams, director of private practice, Europe, at Laurence Simons. “A combination of increasing transactional work outside the UK and the general shortage of English-qualified solicitors following the downturn has led to organisations in various jurisdictions looking to hire expats once more.”
As for the best opportunities, it depends what you are looking for, notes Fred dos Santos, a senior consultant at JLegal.
“It depends on the kind of lifestyle that is sought and, more importantly, the practice area of the lawyer,” he says.
Certain jurisdictions are particularly buoyant right now, he adds.
“If you are a construction lawyer Qatar is likely to provide an abundance of high-quality work in the coming years; if you are a mining or oil and gas lawyer places such as Perth in Australia or Brazil will be busy; or if funds or high-net worth private client is your area Singapore is an attractive destination,” he says. “More widely, international arbitration will gather steam everywhere, regardless of the economic outlook.”
As for the level of experience required, it tends to be at the mid-level, according to Adams.
“Most firms are looking for lawyers with at least a couple of years’ experience so that they can hit the ground running,” he says.
However, associates approaching partner level may find it more difficult to find a position, he adds.
“Associates on the cusp of partnership or starting on the partnership track can be difficult to accommodate because there are more limited partnership opportunities and these candidates will struggle to show they have a portable client following,” he says.
What about the in-house market then?
“It’s much less easy to move overseas in-house than in private practice as these departments generally favour lawyers already based in their jurisdictions with experience in the relevant market,” stresses dos Santos.
There is some potential for work in this area in certain circumstances though.
“The exception may be for talented lawyers who have already taken the plunge by moving to their preferred location,” says dos Santos. “Less-developed legal markets like some in the Middle East or Asia - outside the financial centres - may also be more open to expat hires as their local pool of candidates is smaller.”
For Adams, local know-how and a solid client base is what will make you stand out the market.
“Not surprisingly, expat partners with local experience and strong books of business are always in high demand,” he concludes.