Can you work internationally as a lawyer?

Law firm or as an attorney in a law firm. Another option you may want to consider is to seek an international opportunity through a U.S. UU. Consider applying for a position in the Department of Foreign Affairs from a U.S.

law firm. Establish contacts with lawyers with an international background that you currently know or that you can meet through international committees in bar associations to learn about opportunities. Consult your law school's professional development office for information about opportunities in international courts or tribunals, or about scholarships in international law of public interest. These types of positions, while often temporary, can help you establish contacts in the country of your interest and refine your permanent relocation goals. You might be surprised to learn that there are legal jobs abroad for UK lawyers, jobs where you can continue to practice English law.

There are English law firms all over the world, and the Middle East is one of the most popular destinations. As for the titles or the license, that will depend on what you specifically want to do abroad. However, in my experience, most of the opportunities available to American lawyers abroad don't require anything special. But of course, there are credentials that could help in a particular jurisdiction. In that sense, language studies can also be a good way to start living abroad.

While there are likely to be restrictions on admission at this time, there are many institutions in China (and elsewhere) that offer very affordable language programs. In many cases, participants may reside in dorms or other accommodations offered by the institution. They can also sponsor students to obtain visas, which can be a problem if you want to stay in a place like China for a longer period of time without work. A deep academic immersion in a country's legal system can also be useful for those interested in working abroad.

Even after working in China for half a decade, I still benefited greatly from my master's program in Chinese Business Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Today, my understanding of the Chinese legal system is indelibly shaped by the education I received there. Many potential employers will appreciate the fact that you know a little about their legal system. Even an introductory law school class can be an advantage; if one isn't available, check to see if your school allows students to design a course themselves.

And just as important, don't discount the value of having basic legal experience in your home country. As an American lawyer working abroad, you will most likely use some legal skills to a large extent that can be honed in almost any American firm, such as legal research, contract review, and client relationship management. Lawyers from the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries are even better placed in this regard, as they could end up working in a jurisdiction whose legal system closely resembles that of their home country. Everyone's situation is different, but having a strong interest in a particular country or region goes a long way.

This will give you that extra motivation to accept career opportunities that aren't ideal, but that can be a useful platform. For example, many Americans in China start out teaching English. This gives them the opportunity to learn the terrain, improve their language skills and establish contacts. Those looking for work opportunities abroad should be clear about what they really want to get out of their experience. This will help when making certain important decisions that may entail significant concessions.

In an ideal world, you can work for a firm or company that you like, with bosses and colleagues that you like, in an office space that you like and in a city that you like like it. But that's not easy in your own country, let alone abroad. Keep in mind that, as a foreigner, you are practically always at a disadvantage when it comes to the labor market. In my experience, this is true in all countries, to varying degrees.

If you're interested in exploring opportunities working abroad, be prepared to eat bitterness, as the Chinese say, at least for a while. Teaching English in a Chinese provincial city probably isn't an attractive prospect for most law school graduates, but it can be the gateway to exploring opportunities in the country (though you don't want to stray too far from international cities like Beijing and Shanghai, where most jobs are located). And if you do it in a legitimate way, your employer is likely to take care of your visa and even help you with housing. In the meantime, you'll have income and a platform from which to establish contacts.

All that said, be very careful about the offers you accept to teach. In the same way, if your goal is to stay in a certain place, then make peace with that reality and act accordingly. A particular job may not be as inspiring, but it may be fine in the larger scheme of things. I once met a Canadian lawyer who worked for an immigration consultant in Guangzhou. Back in Canada, he had been a corporate lawyer at one of the Seven Sisters and he didn't find immigration law interesting. But overall, he was happy in South China, and it was in the immigration field that his credentials as a Canadian lawyer had the most value in that environment.

At the same time, you need to be realistic about what each location offers. Although I've always liked Hong Kong, living in southern China, I met more than one foreigner who wasn't particularly interested in the city, but who eventually ended up moving there. The bottom line is that, from a professional point of view, Hong Kong has offered and will probably continue to offer more opportunities than the mainland for foreigners (even if the cake is getting bigger smaller). Places like Hong Kong and Singapore may lack some of the energy present in nearby countries, but they can ultimately offer a more sustainable lifestyle.

Don't lose sight of the fact that someday you might have or want to return to your home country, in which case having worked in an advanced economy could make a big difference, in terms of savings, skill portability, etc. Once again, as the pandemic drags on (and perhaps even longer), much of the above will not be feasible, at least not as far as China is concerned. However, there are many other places in the world where lawyers in the United States and elsewhere can find opportunities. Keep up to date with news and knowledge about Chinese legislation by subscribing to the blog. Evaluating and applying for international legal jobs can seem intimidating, but there are several approaches you can take to get positions in attractive locations.

International law jobs are so appealing to many American lawyers because of the excitement, the opportunity to live and work in a different culture, and so many other reasons. Law students have many opportunities to gain international experience while studying (from working as foreigners in a national government office of law or international politics to interning at U.S. embassies abroad), and recent law graduates and experienced professionals have even more options for pursue an international career. Most major international law firms limit their hiring to candidates with the best credentials from American schools and firms, but if you can find one of these positions, it's a great way to work abroad and make your legal education work for you.

If you're at a higher level, consider whether taking a break will affect your opportunities for internal promotion. There are also employment opportunities abroad for lawyers practicing in the growing fields of international arbitration and in matters related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and money laundering.

Dawn Launiere
Dawn Launiere

Amateur beer evangelist. Professional bacon aficionado. Total social media maven. Typical travel fan. Social media junkie.