Want to practice overseas? Forget London

Peter Godfrey
by |
Thinking of working in London for a few years?  Unfortunately, you should probably be thinking of going somewhere else instead. 

According to Australian legal recruiters, the new international job market means that these days Australian lawyers have a much better chance of finding work in Hong Kong and in other Asian hubs, than in the UK.
According the managing director of Mahlab Recruitment Lisa Gazis, although the recruitment market has slowly been recovering since the low years following the GFC, positions in the UK are still hard to obtain.

“I think the overseas market was subdued for a number of years but it’s now showing signs of a gradual pick up,” Gazis told Australasian Lawyer

“We are seeing greater interest from UK firms, but an area of the international market that has performed solidly over the last few years is Hong Kong,” Gazis added.

Gazis explained that although the Hong Kong legal market was open for international recruits, only the very best candidates had a real chance of finding work there.

“One thing that is increasingly necessary for the Chinese market is skills in Mandarin.  But not only spoken Mandarin – firms are looking for people with writing and drafting skills.”

Paul Burgess, director of Burgess Paluch Recruitment, agrees that the Hong Kong market stands out as a strong potential destination for Australian lawyers. 

“In the last 18 months Hong Kong has been the best performing global market for Australians seeking work overseas,” Burgess said.
Burgess explained that there was strong interest from lawyers in leading Australian firms, typically coming from those who had 5-8 years of experience.

However, Burgess also explained that getting a job in Hong Kong was still no easy task.

“To get a job in Hong Kong you need top-tier or global firm experience and a clean CV that doesn’t  have any moves on it,” Burgess said. 

Banking and finance, M&A, insolvency and employment are currently all areas where lawyers can find work in Hong Kong.

Where do you think lawyers should be heading for international adventure?  Share your thoughts below.  
  • Shirley on 28/04/2014 6:50:00 PM

    Hi Julian and thank you for seeking my opinion on this one.
    I would join a Hong Kong Business Association, or the Hong Kong arm of the Chamber of Commerce, also apply to firms directly. I would also buy the book, "What Colour is My Parachute" and follow the exercises in that book. I trust you have started learning the language. I have loads of other ideas too but my boss is shutting the office! Not much time to write this! Good luck!

  • Julian on 20/04/2014 7:49:10 PM

    Shirley, i have been told similar negatives by recruitment agencies and wondered you would mind sharing some networking tips. I am interested in HK and learning Mandarin. I would be grateful to hear from you. Thanks.

  • Sarah on 16/04/2014 1:17:20 PM

    How can Australian lawyers "have a much better chance" of finding work in Hong Kong if Mandarin speaking and writing skills are important? While there are many Chinese-Australians who would have these skills, most lawyers I know in the Sydney CBD don't. Plus you need a "clean" CV with no moves on it (since when were moves on a CV "unclean"?). So, in summary, to snag a job in HK you must be a "very best" lawyer who has never moved from your (top tier or global) firm and you should speak and write Mandarin. Ergo,
    "much better chance" is really "not much of a chance at all".

  • Shirley on 16/04/2014 11:25:12 AM

    Recruitment companies are very disappointing when they play the "who can go where" game. I was once told by a top tier recruitment company that I could never work in-house. Well I worked in-house as a General Counsel for a national franchising company. The very same recruiter called me to congratulate me when I secured the role! Anyone can work in Hong Kong if they want to. Its about networking, finding out what the client wants so to speak and working towards the goal of securing a role. Other things shine on a resume like Masters in Law, MBA's, life experience and an attitude of thinking and supplying solutions outside this very narrow model of thinking.

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