Global aspirations

Who hasn’t spent some time considering a move overseas? At some stage in our life and career the vast majority of us have seriously considered it – usually on a cold, wet Monday morning in January whilst someone with a streaming cold invades your personal space on the tube.

So, in addition to the lure of the sunshine and the tax free salary, what should the key considerations be for a lawyer thinking of living and working abroad?

Is a move overseas achievable?

The short answer is yes! If you have a strong academic and training background and are working in a top-tier firm, you are likely to have a number of exciting career options worldwide. A really key factor in maximising your chances of securing a good role overseas is the point in your career at which you choose to do it. The ‘sweet spot’ in terms of the  level of experience when most options will be open to you is 2 – 5 PQE, as you have already gained at least a couple of years’ relevant experience, justifying the investment a firm will make in relocating you, bedding you in and bringing you up to speed.

What sort of work can I expect?

Globally, the ‘hot’ areas in terms of expertise required abroad are: finance (all areas), corporate, construction, projects and energy, TMT and IT.  If you join the right firm you will gain exposure to large, cross-border, multi-jurisdictional work. You will work with global clients on cutting edge work in emerging markets.

Is it a good career move, and will I be able to return to the UK?

It can be a great career move. Often teams will be smaller than their London counterparts, so you will play a more hands on role and get closer to clients. You will be able to return to the UK, although one watch out is if you are a corporate lawyer considering moving offshore it can be difficult moving back onshore in the future as your work is likely to be more advisory/regulatory rather than transactional.

Will I get paid well?

The days of big ex-pat or ‘hardship posting’ packages are over, and you need to bear in mind the cost of living in the place you are moving to. But packages can undoubtedly be attractive, and many jurisdictions have very low tax compared to the UK. The majority of firms will pay an amount towards your relocation costs (usually somewhere between £3k and £7k), and some will sort out accommodation for your first couple of weeks, pay for a flight home annually etc but this is no longer done as a matter of course. Some firms take the view that you knew where the role was when you applied for it, and therefore don’t pay a relocation allowance.

Where are my options?

The legal markets in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Offshore (Channel Islands and Caribbean) are strong and we are seeing more and more opportunities for good UK qualified lawyers abroad. Roles in mainland China and Hong Kong tend to require you to have fluent Mandarin language skills, and for a role in the Cayman Islands visa restrictions require you to have at least 3 years PQE. But otherwise there are plenty of opportunities out there, and if the time is right for you, and your family, to consider moving overseas please call me to chat through your options.


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