Job Watch: Overseas-qualified lawyers, part 2

The demand for overseas-qualified lawyers in London has waned in recent years, but what are things like elsewhere in the UK and in the in-house market?


“We have seen a select number of roles arising recently in cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester,” comments Guy Adams, a director at Laurence Simons.

“Larger law firms in Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester have been open to overseas-qualified lawyers looking for an alternative to the rat-race of London,” adds James Gavine of RedLaw. “Bristol continues to grow as a legal centre, with Simmons & Simmons entering the market in 2012. Corporate, funds and IP are the skill sets that travel best.”

Ricardo Bonegio, a director at Garfield Robbins, notes that overseas-qualified lawyers in certain areas are particularly in demand.

“In specialist areas, such as energy in Scotland, firms and companies may consider overseas people,” he says. “Also, as large organisations outsource from London there may be roles in Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester where high-level overseas experience is considered.”

As for the in-house market, companies with an international focus often look to overseas-qualified lawyers, comments Victoria Harris of RedLaw.

“A handful of banks have in-house teams that, although based in London, have a non-UK focus – usually emerging markets,” she says. “We’re seeing more demand for overseas-qualified lawyers in-house in the UK, both for their language skills and their experience. Overall numbers are still small compared to the demand for England & Wales-qualified lawyers, but there’s a trend

among global corporations for international talent to be based in London and the UK.”

Jonathan Firth, managing director at Michael Page Legal, says the demand for overseas-qualified lawyers in-house falls into two categories: those who have common law experience and those who bring language skills and jurisdictional experience.

“Australia and New Zealand-qualified lawyers have long been popular in-house, but recent changes in visa allocations have reduced supply,” he notes.

The demand for lawyers qualified in some European jurisdictions has also been on the rise, he adds.

“We’ve seen a marked rise in demand for candidates with central European language skills and qualifications, particularly if qualified in Germany or France, although at least some UK experience is preferred,” he says.

Firth argues that overseas-qualified lawyers may find even more opportunities in-house outside London.

“In-house is the area in the regions where there are arguably more opportunities, particularly in the South East,” he notes. “We see foreign-qualified lawyers going in-house as paralegals, contract managers and legal counsel. This is more likely to be the case where there is an international remit to the role or a requirement for languages.”