This is a tricky one. It’s not impossible but neither are the odds in your favour. For most, it’s a notoriously difficult move to pull off whether through an agent or directly. In simple terms, you’re up against huge numbers of US qualified attorneys with no visa requirements, so a firm is going to need a very good reason to hire you. (In fairness, US attorneys get much the same reception over here). To muddy waters further, when roles come up that suit a Common Law lawyer, you will probably find yourself competing with internal applicants (for firms who have a UK presence) whilst the availability of the E3 visa1 puts lawyers from Australia right at the front of the queue.
So, it’s not easy. But as we said, it’s not impossible either, particularly if you are able to meet some of the following criteria:
- You will need to be in the right practice area. Experience of high-value Corporate, Finance, Funds or Regulatory work is likely to help, particularly any exposure to core US markets such as High-yield, US Securities, Leveraged Finance or Hedge Funds.
- You will need outstanding academics. Only the leading US firms (or US offices of UK firms) are likely to hire ex-pats and their barriers to entry will be high.
- Similarly, you will need a background with the right type of firm. This will probably be a UK/international heavyweight or an overseas office of a US law firm.
- You are likely to need at least a couple of years’ relevant post-qualification experience.
If this describes your profile, then you’re in with a shot. If it doesn’t you will need to explore alternatives. Perhaps the clearest route is to secure a role in a relevant practice within the London office of a UK firm. This by no means guarantees an internal transfer but your chances certainly improve significantly. Likewise, secondment opportunities can exist with the Magic Circle firms.
We’re often asked whether sitting the New York Bar is the answer. Clearly it can’t hurt but we would urge caution. It isn’t cheap, it isn’t easy, and it isn’t a guaranteed ticket to a career in New York, particularly if completed overseas without the benefit of building up contacts through internships or classmates.
1 The E3 Visa entitles Australian professionals with an offer of employment to relocate to the US with minimal difficulty. It is a two-year visa and easily extendable.
If you would like to discuss this or any other aspect of an international move, please get in touch. You can contact us on the details below:
Jason Horobin ddi. +44 (0)1206 233 514 [email protected]
Charlotte Hooper ddi. +44 (0)1206 233 515 [email protected]