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Back to research & insights Published by Alex Gotch - 8 months ago

Relocating to London as a lawyer?

Thinking of relocating from Australia or New Zealand to London? Read this step by step guide to land a great role, including tips from a lawyer who made the move.

Our Director, Alex, was previously as a finance lawyer in London at Silver Circle law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. Alex’s first-hand experience as a London lawyer, as well as 6 years as a legal recruiter helping ANZ lawyers relocate to London, allows us to provide detailed, accurate and tailored advice to all lawyers interested in making the move.

In this article you will learn the steps to take to ensure a smooth relocation process.

Step-by-Step Guide for ANZ lawyers relocating to London

Decide when you want to start your London role

First off, decide when you want to arrive and start a role in London. This will form the basis for ensuring a smooth process, as you will work backwards from the desired date.

We recommend beginning the application process about 4 months prior to the desired arrival date. This leaves time for applying, interviews, obtaining visas and serving your notice period. The length of time from application to beginning a role is dependent on variables such as market demand and your personal profile; this time could be (and often is) considerably longer than 4 months. It’s rare that the process moves quicker than this.

Understand the London market

Arrange a call or meeting with an expert (Alex is always happy to speak and meet with any candidate interested in London) who can brief you on the various law firms and what they look for, general requirements of each law firm (ie academic grades, employment history, seniority level) and where you fit into the market.

Did you know that most London firms will discount the PQE of Australian lawyers by 2 years? Each firm has their own system, so ask Alex how your experience will be treated and whether you are at a PQE level where there is market demand.

Be realistic – we know what the various firms look for and how likely you are to be successful. We can provide you with an honest assessment of your chances and also advise you which firms you should look to target.

London firms generally have rigid salary brackets and there is limited scope to negotiate. You can ask us where you fit in for each firm as they vary greatly.

Tailor your CV for London

Ensure your CV is tailored for your segment of the London market. If you’re applying to a Magic Circle or large US firm, you should focus your CV on your largest and most complex matters as these will be the most relevant.

Ensure you clearly set out your relevant dates including grad positions and specific date of Admittance.

Manage your application process

Decide with your recruiter which firms you want to approach. We recommend ensuring that initial approaches are performed on a ‘no name’ basis by the recruiter as this allows you to keep the search confidential and to find out if there is interest in your profile before you officially send your CV. This also helps ensure that future applications are not prejudiced by your CV being sent to firms when there is no role or interest in your profile at that specific point in time.

It is important to keep track of where your CV has been submitted to ensure you do not duplicate applications. Use a spreadsheet to keep an audit trail.

Interviews are generally conducted by VC or Skype and due to the time difference, are usually conducted after your working day in Australia. We can help you prepare for interviews so you know what to expect. For instance, Clifford Chance conduct a 3 stage process which includes a case study.

Accept a role and get ready!

Once you have secured and accepted an offer, you can start to prepare for the move! The remaining items are generally: signing the contract, obtaining the visa relevant to your circumstances (the firm will usually complete this for you if you require a sponsored Tier 2 visa), resigning from your current position and making plans for your arrival in London.

The firm will generally include a relocation package in the offer which should include a reimbursement allowance and flights.

3 Tips from an Australian lawyer who has made the move

Be confident in your experience during interview – I was nervous that my experience wouldn’t impress when I interviewed at a Magic Circle firm. But, when I prepared I realised I had worked on some complex and high-profile matters and when these were discussed during interview, the London Partners were impressed by my level of autonomy, which London lawyers at big firms do not always get.

Be clear with why you want to move to London. The Partners really drilled into my personal motivations, especially as I was on the Tier 2 visa which only lasts 2 years.

Don’t leave it too late – I got a great role at Slaughter and May but it took me six months to land the role and the interview process took 3 months. Once you have decided you want to relocate, be proactive and start the process.

Click HERE to review our 2019 International Salary Survey for the London market.