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Five Phases of an International Career Move

Five Phases of an International Career Move

Five Phases of an International Career Move

The lightbulb moment… aka “there must be more to life”

No matter when it hits – nose-to-armpit on the Central Line, still in the office at 3am, viewing an ‘affordable’ flat in zone 6 – this is the dawning realisation that perhaps life as a lawyer in London isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Often this stage raises more questions than answers, a clear sense of what you don’t want but little clarity of what you do. Never fear, this is your first step to a better future, however unsettling that prospect might seem at this point.

Your objective should be to identify some potentially interesting alternatives to the status quo, so do your research. A good starting point might be to take a look at our article “I’m A City Associate…Get Me Out Of Here!” which outlines the wide range of escape routes (in practice and otherwise) available to a City lawyer seeking a change.

The seed is planted

If you’re still reading this, there is a fair chance that a change of location is at least among the options you have identified in phase one. For some, an international move quickly becomes a clear goal, but for others it is a consideration alongside others (e.g. moving in-house). The questions should become more specific; where can I go? where do I want to go? what will it be like? will it help/harm my career? will I still be able to watch the football/buy chocolate digestives/get home for Christmas?

This is the time for targeted research. You should define a list of realistic options (realistic both in terms of you finding a role there and you actually wanting to live there!) and really get into the detail of what it involves. Speak to people who have made the move and ideally, speak to us.

Let’s do it

Now we’re getting somewhere. You know (roughly) where you (think you) want to go, so how do you get there? This phase moves us from abstract to realistic. It is about looking at firms, talking about specific roles and coming up with a strategy.

Now really is the time to be talking to a specialist recruiter who can not only give information about current vacancies and trends but who can also advise you on the process and the best way to approach the market. Conducting a job search in the Cayman Islands or Abu Dhabi is a very different proposition and demands a different kind of approach to applying for jobs in London; it pays to have help.


We look elsewhere at the practical side of interview preparation. Our focus here is on the approach to the interview process. It is, to be frank, a bit of a ‘catch 22’. You will quite legitimately still have reservations, uncertainties, questions to be answered, but at the same time you need to come across as serious about making the move.

The best way to navigate this is to do plenty of upfront research (we can point you in the right direction). You should now be imagining yourself holding an offer and thinking about the questions you need to answer in order for you to feel comfortable accepting. Of course you can’t take anything for granted yet, but some firms move from first interview to offer remarkably quickly, and when they do, they will likely want an answer in days not weeks. It pays to ask the key questions now.

Offer and Beyond

When an interview is complete, we would usually expect a decision with a matter of days. Be ready for the pressure to come. If you have convinced them that you are serious about making the move, they will be expecting you to be excited at the prospect of receiving an offer.

It is of course fine to take a few days to negotiate details, iron out any queries and to make your final decision. What you should aim to avoid is extending the decision-making period in order to think through whether the move overseas is for you. This hesitancy can be a concern to a firm – not least because the received wisdom is that the longer someone takes to decide on an offer, the less likely they are to accept! Far better, if you can, to do your thinking in advance so that you can ask all of the relevant questions and be ready to make a prompt, informed decision if/when an offer transpires.


The Origin Legal international team have over 20 years' experience of helping lawyers to make life-changing and career-defining international moves. To discuss this article or to find out more about your options in general, please get in touch.

Jason Horobin - [email protected] or +44 (0)1206 233 514
Charlotte Hooper - [email protected], or +44 (0)1206 233 515

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