We help lawyers to relocate into legal roles overseas as well as return to legal positions in Australia, and our consultants have worked on everything from single placements in Austria to large consulting and recruitment projects in Ireland, the UK and the Middle East. So if you are dreaming of working in New York, Shanghai, Singapore, or anywhere in between, our consultants are uniquely positioned to assist, with anything from job updates, through to relocation and salary advice.
It’s important to note that the COVID Global Pandemic has resulted in regular changes to freedom of border entry and exit in Australia pending vaccination status. Up to date information can be found –
Although COVID has resulted in less travel for now, there are some really exciting changes to both visa specifications and re-qualification requirements in both the UK and Australia in the process of being finalised, you can read about this below.
Living and working in the UK has been a rite of passage for antipodean lawyers for many years. And although there is currently much uncertainty across the globe UK firms continue to rate Australian experience and work ethic highly.
We are seeing the main areas of demand in dispute resolution, banking and finance, information technology, and projects. There also continues to be residual demand in the UK magic circle for appropriately experienced M&A lawyers.
The Recruitment Process and Salary
The recruitment process remains unchanged in that it’s not uncommon for UK firms to discount up to two years’ of experience when considering the level of an Australian lawyer.
At present firms will hire remotely using video conferencing. It’s preferable if you have a visa lined up or ancestral working rights, although sponsorship still continues to be offered to suitable applicants.
The magic circle and major international players have also continued to demonstrate that they will pay top dollar to retain and attract top talent. Performance based bonuses are being used as an additional mechanism to acknowledge high performers at a more senior level.
Another consistent trend from last year is the remuneration disparity between US and UK law firms, with US firms generally offering higher remuneration packages.
Do I have the right experience for UK firms?
Generally speaking firms show a preference for candidates from the top tier in Australia with between 2 to 6 years’ practicing experience, although they will certainly consider appropriately experienced candidates from recognised boutiques. The common denominator is that you must have experience in Australia advising large listed corporates. Quality academics are also a must.
Visa Requirements for the UK
Unless you hold a recognised European Union passport you will need a visa to work in the UK. Common types include:
- Youth Mobility Scheme Visa (T5) (previously Working Holiday Visa): Available for Australian citizens aged between 18 and 30 years of age; enables a stay of up to two years from the date of issue. https://www.gov.uk/youth-mobility. **See below for anticipated changes to this Visa.
- UK Ancestry Visa: You may be eligible if you have a grandparent born in either the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or the Republic of Ireland; enables a stay of up to five years
- Highly Skilled Migrant Visa: Works on a points based system.
It’s important to note that with the changing nature of the pandemic the above visa requirements may be subject to change. It is also important that you consider the most up to date visa requirements before making a decision to move to the UK. The UK Border Agency website offers up to date information regarding visa options.
Am I qualified to work in the UK?
Firms will generally encourage re-qualification and will usually provide financial support and study leave, however it is not strictly necessary and you should be able to work as a foreign qualified lawyer in any of the big UK firms under supervision of a Senior UK practitioner. ** See below for anticipated changes to this arrangement.
Litigators looking to practise in London though will usually need to be admitted in England and Wales in order to have leave to appear in Court.
Working in-house in the UK
Many Australian lawyers have obtained amazing experience working in-house in the UK. Moving directly from Australia into one of these roles however is rare. It’s much more usual to first take a UK Private Practice role and then use this as a stepping-stone into the in-house area.
Proposed Fair Trade Agreement (FTA) between Aus and UK
Some really exciting changes are on the horizon for both Australians looking to work in the UK and visa versa. On 15 June 2021, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made an announcement on core elements of the FTA negotiations (https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/negotiations/aukfta) and on the 17th of December Australia signed the landmark agreement. It is hoped the agreement will come into force at some stage in 2022, with the following results:
- The Youth Mobility Scheme Visa (T5) (previously Working Holiday Visa), will now be available for Australian citizens aged between 18 and 35 years of age and the period of stay will extend to up to three years from the date of issue. “The FTA will improve on our already successful youth mobility relationship, raising the age limit on participation in both country’s programs from 30 to 35 and extending opportunities to stay up to three years. Consistent with treatment of Australians in the UK, Australia will remove the sectoral work requirement for UK nationals in our Working Holiday Maker program” (https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/negotiations/aukfta/australia-uk-fta-negotiations-fact-sheet#mobility)
- There will be mutual recognition of qualifications reducing the hurdles to practices in each country – “The agreement will guarantee Australian lawyers a right to provide legal advisory services in foreign and international law in the UK, including in arbitration, mediation and conciliation proceedings. The agreement will also include specific provisions for the peak legal profession accreditation and regulatory bodies to work together to reduce remaining barriers for lawyers from each jurisdiction to practise as a local lawyer in the other country’s territory.” (https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/negotiations/aukfta/australia-uk-fta-negotiations-fact-sheet#professional)
We will continue to provide you with updates on the above as it transpires – but once implemented we expect this to have huge impacts on both the Australian and UK markets.