Introduction

“I’m keen on an offshore move but will I be able to come back?”

“I’m keen on an offshore move but will I be able to come back?”

“I’m keen on an offshore move but will I be able to come back?”

It is the question we get asked most consistently by people looking for legal jobs offshore. The answer is unequivocally yes, although with one caveat…in our experience, people rarely want to!

It is easy to assume that it’s the island lifestyle, a better work-life balance or the lower tax bill that keeps people offshore but there are a myriad of professional reasons too: technically complex and fast-paced work, smaller teams affording greater responsibility, real client contact and an opportunity to build your network leading in many cases to far better career progression. 

Furthermore, if you tire of the more relaxed pace of life, offshore lawyers are no longer limited to a small island. Opportunities are as likely to come up in Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai or London as they are in the Channel Islands or the Caribbean. And when they do, your skills, experience and contacts will transfer more easily than might be the case with a similar onshore move.

Having said all of this, there are reasons - personal or professional - why some might want to return ‘home’ eventually. If you do, you are unlikely to have too many difficulties. Yes, there will inevitably be roles where a hiring partner wants someone moving directly from another firm down the road, but there will also be roles where your skill set and experience is what sets you apart. Many offshore lawyers have expertise in high-value Corporate, Finance or Funds work, whilst litigators will tend to have exposure to financial services, insolvency or trust disputes, all sought after in the UK.

You may even find that you don’t need to look for a job. Working offshore will see you routinely being instructed by Senior Associates and Partners from the pick of the onshore firms. If you do a good job it probably won’t be too long before they’re tapping you on the shoulder and quietly asking you when you’re coming home.

There are a few things you can do to keep your options open:

  • Target the best known firms in the larger jurisdictions – a high-profile firm in Cayman or the Channel Islands sells better in London than a less well known outfit in a lower profile jurisdiction;
  • Aim to maximise your exposure to work that is relevant and sought after in the onshore world;
  • Take time to review your long-term goals - a plan is useful even if it will inevitably change;
  • Think of timing – if you are planning to shoot for partnership in the City, aim to be back in the market two or three years in advance since you will inevitably need time to build your practice;
  • Give yourself time to find the right role on your return – we would recommend starting your search six months in advance.

Taking these points into account, a typical offshore lawyer who has done a stint with a good firm is sure to have options if they do decide to head back to the UK. Perhaps the hardest decision is what type of employer to target since the relative freedom of the offshore firms can make life in a large team at a City behemoth look less appealing. This may in part explain the tendency for returnees to look at boutiques or smaller firms with high-quality practices where they can keep some elements of what they enjoyed offshore…albeit not the nice low tax-rate!

Jason Horobin has 17 years’ experience of helping lawyers to make international career moves. To find out more about making a cross-border move, or to discuss current opportunities, please contact him at [email protected] or connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonhorobin/

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