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Back to research & insights Published by Alex Gotch - 2 years ago

Essentials when relocating to the USA

In the last 18 months we have seen increasing demand for Australian lawyers from US firms we work closely with. Beacon Legal is assisting more lawyers than ever before in securing roles in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin, to name a few.

Here are some essential things to consider when thinking about a US move:

1.   Timing

It’s crucial to keep in mind the time involved in preparing for the move. Generally, you should allow at least three months to be “boots on the ground”. The time taken will include connecting with an experienced recruiter, getting their advice on your CV, interviewing with firms and obtaining your visa.

There are normally two interviewing stages with US firms, and our experienced US team provide you with detailed preparation for each of these stages.

The E-3 visa will be available for Australian passport holders. Whilst these visas can generally take some time to process (particularly in busier periods), there have been numerous workarounds we have developed with our clients that have been successfully used to make that process much more efficient.

 2.   Experience

The “sweet-spot” for US firms tends to be those Australian lawyers who have been in practice for between two and six years. We have placed those that are more junior and senior than those levels, and in such circumstances, it is even more essential to have an experienced recruiter advocate for you and leverage their client base in your favour.

 3.   Area of expertise

It will generally be easier to move to the US with a background in specific practice areas. Firms tend to have much higher demand in areas such as M&A, PE, Capital Markets, Securitisation, Banking & Finance, Project Finance, Transactional Real Estate and Technology (including Tech M&A). There is however the scope for those with Restructuring, Litigation and IP skillsets, for example, to make moves during busier periods.

4.   Your Current Firm

US firms have quite specific hiring requirements from both an academic and training perspective. We tend to find that candidates tend to get most traction if they have gained experience working in or are currently working in top tier or international firms in Australia. Thinking about this further and speaking to a recruiter as to how to structure a future move (perhaps as a step-wise approach) can be invaluable.

5.   The Bar Exam

Once you’ve arrived in the US, it is generally expected that you will sit the next available bar exam. This tends to be subject to your arrival not being too close to when the exam will be conducted. The exam windows are February or July and firms pay for the exam and preparatory courses, and are willing to offer paid study leave to ensure the best chances of success.

Concluding Points

Whilst all these elements are crucial to consider when relocating to the US, the true takeaway is that gaining experience in the US as an Australian lawyer allows your CV to truly shine. Australian lawyers who have gained experience in fast-paced and high-pressure US firms come back as better lawyers and are highly valued by prospective employers.

Interested in finding out more? Speak to our experienced US Team (Alex Gotch and Chad Weerasinghe), who would be delighted to assist.

You can also check out our USA and London Salary and Market Reports.