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Foreign opportunities with English law degree? Watch

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    Hi there, I'll be starting a law degree this year and although I have a good idea of some career paths, I've always liked the idea of working and living in another country.

    Now, I've heard this phrase that 'law doesn't travel', which is annoyingly true. However, I know that there are a number of countries whose legal systems are based on the English system, the commonwealth countries, such as Singapore, where having a qualifying English law degree is helpful and a 'shortcut' in getting to practice law there.

    Is there much opportunity for working abroad with an English law degree? Which countries most accredit an English law degree? How does qualifying work?
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    The good news is that English law is used globally, and not just in Commonwealth countries. Along with US law it's probably one of the most common legal systems used for global legal matters.

    That means there are many English qualified lawyers working in every main commercial large city. They don't always have to dual qualify to the local law, as they can just work in English law matters and get a local lawyer to sign off any matters in the jurisdiction they are not qualified in.

    Whether your English law degree alone is enough to allow you to cross qualify is too complex and varied to discuss here - you'll need to look into the process for each country/state at the time you want to qualify. With some it will be relatively straight forward, with others you may need to take further PG study + local bar exams.


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    The large corporate law firms all have offices in the Middle East and Asia. Many of them regularly send English lawyers to work in somewhere like Dubai or Hong Kong for a few years, or even permanently.

    Opportunities are more based on work type than on the country. Something like being a solicitor advising on cross-border mergers and acquisitions, or a solicitor advising on international arbitration, allows a lot of international opportunities. The reason for this is that you can agree the law which will apply to a particular contract and many large cross-border contracts apply English law, even if England nothing to do with the subject matter of the contract.

    On the other hand, if you work in an area such as criminal litigation or employment law, it is much more difficult to work abroad. Unlike the situation with a contract, you cannot choose which law applies to your employees, so your knowledge of for example English employment law is less transferable to work in other countries.

    Areas of practice based on EU law - i.e. human rights law and competition law - tended to lend themselves to opportunities in Europe, though I suppose that will disappear after Brexit.

    It is pretty straightforward to get qualified as a lawyer in New York or California with an English law degree. Although finding a job and getting a visa is another issue entirely.

    Work as a barrister is probably not that transferable to other countries unless you specialise in international arbitration, with the exception of places like the Cayman Islands, BVI and Jersey where law firms always seem to be looking for English barristers.
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    (Original post by Abstract_Prism)
    Hi there, I'll be starting a law degree this year and although I have a good idea of some career paths, I've always liked the idea of working and living in another country.

    Now, I've heard this phrase that 'law doesn't travel', which is annoyingly true. However, I know that there are a number of countries whose legal systems are based on the English system, the commonwealth countries, such as Singapore, where having a qualifying English law degree is helpful and a 'shortcut' in getting to practice law there.

    Is there much opportunity for working abroad with an English law degree? Which countries most accredit an English law degree? How does qualifying work?
    What sort of paths are you looking at? Do you intend to qualify as an England & Wales solicitor, and then get seconded/ move to another jurisdiction? Or are you looking to train and qualify in another jurisdiction altogether?

    Secondments are fairly easy to obtain if you work in an international law firm but are dependent on specialty and experience. Trainees get seconded for 6 months to an international office fairly often. Beyond that, it's down to firm/ practice needs.

    If you want to train and qualify in another jurisdiction, you'll have to check them individually, but it is possible. I have an English law degree, currently train at an MC in Hong Kong and will (hopefully) qualify as a Hong Kong solicitor in 2018. On the other hand, you can't get admitted to the Singapore bar with an English law degree unless you're a Singapore permanent resident or citizen.
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    (Original post by mishieru07)
    What sort of paths are you looking at? Do you intend to qualify as an England & Wales solicitor, and then get seconded/ move to another jurisdiction? Or are you looking to train and qualify in another jurisdiction altogether?

    Secondments are fairly easy to obtain if you work in an international law firm but are dependent on specialty and experience. Trainees get seconded for 6 months to an international office fairly often. Beyond that, it's down to firm/ practice needs.

    If you want to train and qualify in another jurisdiction, you'll have to check them individually, but it is possible. I have an English law degree, currently train at an MC in Hong Kong and will (hopefully) qualify as a Hong Kong solicitor in 2018. On the other hand, you can't get admitted to the Singapore bar with an English law degree unless you're a Singapore permanent resident or citizen.
    Oh hey there. I am planning to get a trainee contract in Hong Kong too, but I hold a Singapore citizenship (though my father is a Hong-Konger). So I'm just wondering if I would need to be a Hong Kong PR/Citizen in order to work there... since the law industry is highly oversaturated in Singapore right now.
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    (Original post by btchls)
    Oh hey there. I am planning to get a trainee contract in Hong Kong too, but I hold a Singapore citizenship (though my father is a Hong-Konger). So I'm just wondering if I would need to be a Hong Kong PR/Citizen in order to work there... since the law industry is highly oversaturated in Singapore right now.
    You don't need Hong Kong PR/citizenship to qualify as a Hong Kong barrister/ solicitor.

    The law industry in Hong Kong probably isn't significantly less saturated compared to Singapore's though. International firm TCs are just as highly sought after and the level of competition is comparable in my opinion to Big 4. Bilingualism (English and Mandarin Chinese) is also essentially a requirement (if not at least hugely advantageous).

    Local firms might be an option though if you speak fluent Cantonese.
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    (Original post by mishieru07)
    You don't need Hong Kong PR/citizenship to qualify as a Hong Kong barrister/ solicitor.

    The law industry in Hong Kong probably isn't significantly less saturated compared to Singapore's though. International firm TCs are just as highly sought after and the level of competition is comparable in my opinion to Big 4. Bilingualism (English and Mandarin Chinese) is also essentially a requirement (if not at least hugely advantageous).

    Local firms might be an option though if you speak fluent Cantonese.
    Putting the language factor aside and the saturation of the industry, doesn't the protectionism pushed by the Singapore Min. of Law (the fact that there are 10 approved UK schools only in comparison to how you can get a LLB from any school and still do the PCLL) imply that a Singaporean LLB graduate who studied in the UK might find better opportunities in Hong Kong? Especially since most of the 10 UK schools are essentially the top 10 British universities... and because of the protectionism for NUS and SMU graduates (even those graduates takes precedence over Oxford and Cambridge graduates in the eyes of the Big 4 and even those a tier below them).
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    (Original post by btchls)
    Putting the language factor aside and the saturation of the industry, doesn't the protectionism pushed by the Singapore Min. of Law (the fact that there are 10 approved UK schools only in comparison to how you can get a LLB from any school and still do the PCLL) imply that a Singaporean LLB graduate who studied in the UK might find better opportunities in Hong Kong? Especially since most of the 10 UK schools are essentially the top 10 British universities... and because of the protectionism for NUS and SMU graduates (even those graduates takes precedence over Oxford and Cambridge graduates in the eyes of the Big 4 and even those a tier below them).
    Not really.

    1) The protectionism actually helps Singaporeans - it effectively bars non-Singaporean citizens or PRs from applying for Singapore TCs. In contrast, anyone from any country can apply for Hong Kong TCs as long as they meet the academic requirements --> More competition. The GDL is acceptable in Hong Kong too so your competitors could include non-law students.

    2) Getting into PCLL isn't the problem - getting a TC is the hard part. In fact, the number of PCLL places outstrips the number of TCs; there are PCLL graduates who end up not qualifying as lawyers.

    3) Anecdotally, trainee intakes at the top tier international firms in Hong Kong are stacked with graduates from renowned universities (have a look at LinkedIn). It's rare (but not unheard of) for UK educated international firm trainees to have graduated from a school outside the MinLaw list. In particular, there are a lot of Oxbridge/ UCL/ KCL/ LSE grads.

    4) For what it's worth, I went to Oxford and back when I applied in 2014 (don't know if this is still true today given the increasing batch sizes), we were definitely given extra brownie points. I don't know of anyone who applied and failed to get a Big 4 TC, even if their grades and CV were only average. In contrast, I get the impression that the standards are much higher for NUS/ SMU students.
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    (Original post by mishieru07)
    Not really.

    1) The protectionism actually helps Singaporeans - it effectively bars non-Singaporean citizens or PRs from applying for Singapore TCs. In contrast, anyone from any country can apply for Hong Kong TCs as long as they meet the academic requirements --> More competition. The GDL is acceptable in Hong Kong too so your competitors could include non-law students.

    2) Getting into PCLL isn't the problem - getting a TC is the hard part. In fact, the number of PCLL places outstrips the number of TCs; there are PCLL graduates who end up not qualifying as lawyers.

    3) Anecdotally, trainee intakes at the top tier international firms in Hong Kong are stacked with graduates from renowned universities (have a look at LinkedIn). It's rare (but not unheard of) for UK educated international firm trainees to have graduated from a school outside the MinLaw list. In particular, there are a lot of Oxbridge/ UCL/ KCL/ LSE grads.

    4) For what it's worth, I went to Oxford and back when I applied in 2014 (don't know if this is still true today given the increasing batch sizes), we were definitely given extra brownie points. I don't know of anyone who applied and failed to get a Big 4 TC, even if their grades and CV were only average. In contrast, I get the impression that the standards are much higher for NUS/ SMU students.
    Right okay I see. Thanks for the info. One last thing, just wondering how NUS Law is regarded in Hong Kong? Just got shortlisted this afternoon.
 
 
 
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