Working in the UK, especially in London, is a rite of passage for many antipodean lawyers. Working and living in such diverse and culturally rich cities in the UK, coupled with the incredible work that lawyers will be immersed in has resulted in swathes of antipodean lawyers migrating to the UK.
It’s been well documented that post-pandemic, the UK legal recruitment market has never been stronger. Demand for qualified lawyers has far outstripped supply and we have seen firms out-compete one another with salary hikes and bonus payouts.
The legal recruitment market is extremely buoyant, and despite the predicted recession looming, the UK is a highly attractive proposition for antipodean lawyers as much as antipodean lawyers are attractive to UK legal employers.
So what do antipodean qualified lawyers need to know about working in the UK? Read on to find out how MAP Legal can assist you with your next career move in the UK:
Before you start looking at flats and deciding if you want to live in Clapham or Chelsea you need to work out if you are eligible to work in the UK. The UK government has an online tool which is a great starting point. In the main there are three visas which apply to antipodean lawyers relocating:
- Youth Mobility Visa – This is currently a two year visa applicable to those aged up to 30 years old who have at least £2,530 in personal savings. However, as part of the UK’s post-Brexit trade agreements it has been stated that the Youth Mobility Visa will be extended by an additional year and applicable for those up to 35 years old. Details and timescales have not been drawn up yet but are expected to be made public in 2023.
- Ancestry Visa – If you have a grandparent who was born in the UK you may be eligible to apply for this visa which allows you to work in the UK for five years.
- Skilled Worker Visa – if the above visas aren’t applicable then you could apply for sponsorship from your employer. How to go about this is well documented here.
What work can I undertake?
This ultimately depends on what you want to get out of your time spent in the UK. Some will want to seriously enhance their legal experience whilst others will view the work as a means to travel and see other parts of Europe. The main areas of work are as follows:
- Fixed Term Contracts – this is arguably the most common type of role that Antipodean lawyers secure on arriving to the UK. Many law firms and in-house legal teams will look to hire qualified lawyers into FTC roles ranging from one to 12 months in duration. Opportunities can be found across the breadth of the sector so from Magic Circle and US law firms right through to West End and boutique firms. Many FTC roles mature into permanent roles or are extended. In these roles the lawyer is employed directly by the law firm/company and you’ll receive the same salary and benefits as an equivalent PQE permanent contract lawyer.
- Document Review Lawyer – The Document Review market is London centric in the main and we place many, many antipodeans into these temporary roles. Lawyers with a litigation background will be preferred for these roles. Ranging in duration from a week to many months, these roles are almost always paid on an hourly basis and often will pay an enhanced overtime rate. These roles are popular with those who wish to have more flexibility in their work to allow more travel.
- Permanent Private Practice or In-House – The holy grail for those seeking career enhancing opportunities. Private practice opportunities are more likely to be secured than in-house roles, although both can be attained by well trained, high pedigree antipodean lawyers. Generally speaking it’s the biggest City law firms who will hire permanent antipodean lawyers and your success will be dependent on your practice area; corporate, banking/finance, real estate and employment are far more in demand than litigation. For in-house roles previous in-house experience is almost always needed.
What are my chances of securing a role?
I have recruited lawyers in London for more than 12 years and have always has a great deal of success in assisting lawyer from Australia and New Zealand. There are opportunities for all lawyers who have gained at least three years’ PQE. Why three years? In the main, a UK employer will discount 12-18 month’s experience from an antipodean’s CV; so if you are a 3PQE in Australia you will likely be treated as a 1-2 PQE in the UK.
As stated above, in areas where there is high demand and low supply your chances of securing a role will be better. Examples of ‘in-demand’ disciplines at the moment include: corporate, finance, employment, tax, real estate, construction. Having said that, if you are a litigator from a good pedigree firm there will most certainly be opportunities for you.
Many of the fixed term contract roles we fill require an almost immediate start which is why so many are filled by antipodean lawyers who are already based in the UK and chomping at the bit to commence a new role.
What will I be paid?
This is very much dependent on where you work geographically and also what type of firm you join. London lawyers are the best paid in the UK and have the pick of the bunch when it comes to the number of law firms recruiting. Within the London market there are the major City and International firms, West End, boutique and more general commercial practices. The US headquartered firms will pay the most but it’s far more likely that a mid-tier firm will offer a greater work/life balance. Typically, a lawyer with upwards of two years’ PQE looking at roles within the top 50 law firms in London should achieve a salary of no less than £70,000 and that figure could be as high as £180,000 in respect of some of the US firms.
Firms in the regions pay far less than those in London, however, we have recently seen regional salaries increase and with a lower cost of living regional roles can be attractive.
MAP Legal is a recruitment agency which has a successful track record of securing legal jobs for antipodean lawyers. If you are a New Zealand or Australian qualified lawyer looking to work in the UK please get in touch with us to have a confidential discussion.