Times are tough globally right now but speaking to our key clients, including many premier international and global law firms, they are recruiting and are keen to see CVs of excellent Antipodean lawyers.
Below are some insights as to why this is the case:
- As a financial centre, London is doing extremely well and the need to hire top tier lawyers is still growing. This is at a time when the resources based economies in Australia are not performing. London law firm partners believe that for career focused lawyers they can offer better work and a stronger deal flow than these lawyers could get at home.
- The quality of work undertaken by many law firms in London is second to none, with many firms boasting top domestic and international instructions and a client list of the most impressive blue-chip and household names. There are also many opportunities to work as an in-house lawyer with asset managers, investment banks through to FTSE 100 companies. While the economies of most countries are being effected by the covid-19 virus, many of the big firms/organisations are still giving out the message that it is business as usual, are very busy and are recruiting.
- Some hiring partners in London are surprisingly sceptical about lawyers moving from one top tier firm in London to another. There is a preconceived idea that people could be underperforming at their current London firm and are being managed out. However they understand why lawyers would move from Australia or New Zealand to this world leading financial centre. It's a big step up in terms of scale and lawyers generally can't move with their own law firm.
- Hiring partners, particularly in transactional groups are more inclined to hire a lawyer with a top tier law firm background and strong academic record from Australia or New Zealand, than they would a lawyer with a less stellar academic record in the UK or from a lower tier firm in the UK.
- There's also the visa situation that comes into play. Australian and New Zealand nationals have special visa rights for the UK and can gain entry relatively easily through a Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa.However, to work in the UK in a permanent role you need sponsorship from a UK firm, an Ancestry Visa, or Permanent Leave to Remain.The top tier London firms are used to sponsoring lawyers and this can be arranged relatively easily with this type of law firm.
Earning potential in London
The exchange rate for both the Australian and New Zealand dollar to the pound is still favourable and with the higher London salaries generally it makes financial sense why Australians and New Zealanders would want to work in London. Salaries for a newly qualified lawyer start at £110,000 in the Magical Circle and £145,000 in the top tier US firms. As a rough guide, a lawyer from Australia and New Zealand with 2 years’ pqe will have 2 years discounted from their level of experience to fit in with their UK trained contemporaries and will be viewed as the equivalent of a newly qualified solicitor. The biggest demand in London firms seems to be junior to mid-level lawyers who will join firms as 1-3 pqe lawyers.
However it should be noted that for most lawyers taking a haircut in class year doesn't mean a pay cut. It's mostly still an increase in their current remuneration package back home, particularly when bonuses are taken into consideration and with exchange rates playing a part.
Is now a good time to make applications to London law firms?
Yes! Bonuses have been announced and at most firms either have been paid or will be paid imminently. This is when the firms have resignations and need to replace people. It's traditionally the hiring season.
Transactional lawyers are still the lawyers who are most likely to be successful in making a move to London. M&A, Private Equity and Funds teams are all very busy. We know we can place specialist and generalist banking & finance lawyers. We now also have clients who will consider strong Australian and New Zealand lawyers in Real Estate Finance, Litigation (particularly white collar crime), Tech Transactions and Corporate Insurance.
What are your long-term prospects?
Very recently one of the senior hiring partners, from a City law firm which has a strong record of taking Australian and New Zealand lawyers, was talking to me about the lawyers we had placed with the firm who had returned home. He was proud to say that they had all returned to really prestigious jobs: both in in-house and in private practice.
Top London firms want to know that they are recruiting the best. They operate at the top of the market and they pay extremely well for the privilege of knowing they are buying the best people. They are comforted by the fact that you were a top performing student at a top law school and now you're working with one of the best firms in your market. If you fall into this bracket of lawyers, we would like to talk to you about your career in London.
For careers information about London which is personal to you, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on LinkedIn.