With 30 years of uninterrupted growth, a sophisticated legal market and an unrivalled lifestyle, the “lucky country” has always been a magnet for lawyers qualified overseas looking for international experience. Over the years, we have successfully assisted numerous lawyers from around the globe with their moves to Australia, placing them in some of the country’s most successful firms.
Although Australian universities are producing a substantial number of graduates every year the Australian market becomes incredibly candidate-short above the 2 years PQE mark and firms have always been keen on international talent from other common law jurisdictions to fill the gap.
However, the Government’s policy on immigration, coupled with less robust economic growth, has made the Australian market more complex to navigate for foreign lawyers. This doesn’t mean that an overseas lawyer looking for a position in Australia should give up, but any potential move to Australia should be carefully planned, as mass-mailing CVs is unlikely to work and would be detrimental to even the best candidates.
When exploring moving to Australia as an international lawyer, it is important to consider the following points:
- Practice area and level of experience: Australian firms will only recruit in practice areas where there is a shortage of local lawyers, and in practice areas where skills are easily transferrable from one jurisdiction to another. Although there are some exceptions, law firms will generally only look at overseas lawyers in transactional areas such as corporate M&A, projects/construction and banking & finance (including debt capital markets) and will require at least 3 years of experience post-admission.
- Jurisdictions of experience: Unsurprisingly, lawyers from the UK are clearly at the top of the list. London experience is highly regarded, but lawyers from large regional UK firms with solid experience are also very much in demand. There is also interest in lawyers from other common law jurisdictions, in particular, offshore lawyers with experience in the funds industry or senior South African lawyers with top tier experience. UK qualified lawyers with experience in jurisdictions such as Singapore, Hong Kong or Dubai are also highly regarded. For non-common law qualified lawyers the opportunities are more limited, however in some very specific practice areas (in particular within the Banking & Finance space) they do exist.
- Targeting the right firms: Only a small number of firms in Australia, whether international or domestic will be keen on hiring overseas qualified lawyers. Many, but not all, are global firms and domestic top tier firms. Among those firms, some are hungrier for international talent than others, since those positioned at the very top of the market are more able to rely on their brand to attract local talent.
- Personal ties & commitment to the country: On top of these main criteria, Australian firms will also look positively at individuals that can evidence ties to the country (family, friends or prior experience working or living in Australia for example), and stability in a career, as this will reassure them about commitment to staying in Australia for the mid to long term. Hiring a lawyer from overseas is more expensive and time consuming than hiring a local, hence law firms will look more closely at a variety of factors when making a hiring decision.
Over the years we have supported numerous international lawyers and Australian returnees with the process of moving to Australia and we have an in-depth knowledge of this market. As such, we are able to assist prospective candidates on their moves down under, as well as Australian firms in the recruitment of high-calibre overseas qualified lawyers.