Working in the UK and further afield both offer many advantages for lawyers trying to break into the energy sector.
The Middle East, West Africa and the CIS are some of the best overseas locations for energy associates to gain experience, according to Chris Cayley of First Counsel, who notes that there is also a number of emerging markets that associates should keep their eyes on.
“The trend over the past 12 months has been for firms to expand their capability to deal with emerging markets work,” Cayley says. “Clearly there’s a lot of activity in the emerging markets, where demand for energy is growing rapidly, so the Gulf markets, China and India are all active.”
Carl Merrick of Taylor Root says: “The main benefits of looking overseas are that there are more opportunities [compared with the UK market]. You’re also likely to be involved in cutting-edge work and benefit from enhanced and sometimes tax-free or low-tax remuneration packages.”
James Franklin of Robert Walters also notes that secondments abroad can provide associates with valuable experience that will give them the edge when vying for jobs in the UK marketplace.
“Recruiting employers typically look for upstream experience and we’ve seen a continued interest in people who’ve worked in western Africa and the Middle East,” says Merrick.
However, he stresses that associates should not become complacent upon returning from a stint abroad.
“The flipside to this is that it can be difficult to find a suitable in-house role in the energy sector when returning to the UK,” he warns. “Losing an ex-pat package and paying income tax and NI again can have its issues.”
While associates may have their hearts set on working in a glamorous location, Cayley argues that they should stay flexible and keep their options open.
The most important thing, according to Cayley, is for associates to “get as much commercial experience as possible so that they have knowledge of the energy industry [as opposed to black letter law experience]”.
“I’d also advise them to be flexible on location,” he adds. “Professionals who are prepared to relocate outside of Central London or even internationally are more likely to secure roles.”
Cayley, though, believes that lawyers should not ignore the opportunities on home soil.
“There are also some excellent opportunities in the UK, with London acting as an international hub and Aberdeen focused on the North Sea,” he says. “So I wouldn’t necessarily say that all the best prospect are overseas.”
Similarly, Husnara Begum, a consultant at GR Law, notes that, although having worked abroad is a always a plus point, “candidates should be willing to relocate
to less glamorous places such as Aberdeen”.