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International Attorney Jobs: International Legal Jobs for Americans
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International attorney jobs are out there if you know where to look.

The idea of spending a few years abroad can be very appealing. A stint working in another country can offer a richer experience than could ever be gained as a tourist. It is also, sadly, true that relatively few people act on such ideas. As the years pass, plans for foreign working adventures often get put on hold, before eventually sliding into the category of “what if?”

But you should not regard the idea of working abroad as being forever out of reach – even after your own career might seem to have established a more parochial pattern. Lawyers are, if nothing else, flexible. And there are many ways to achieve your goal.

  
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An obvious one is as an employee of a U.S.-based company. Corporations and law firms need American lawyers in their overseas offices. Another method is to go abroad with your spouse. A lawyer-spouse of an American executive transferred overseas is likely to find that the work permit issued to the transferee covers both husband and wife. A U.S. company in need of U.S. legal expertise might be particularly interested in the services of an expatriate lawyer. Such a “local hire,” would not incur relocation expenses for the employer.

Harrison Barnes, CEO of BCG Attorney Search, a legal recruitment firm that places American attorneys internationally, suggests that U.S. lawyers who want to work overseas should first decide where they want to go. The next step should be to compile an inventory of possible employers. It can be helpful, Barnes said, to list professional contacts, going as far back as law school, which might provide leads.

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Barnes said that people should not consider seeking work in a country unless they speak the language. “I have come across people who are trying to move to France and Germany because they think it would be a nice place to spend a couple of years, with no language skills at all,” he said. “It’s much harder to find a job in that situation.”

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 Everything You Need to Know to Relocate Internationally: Relocating Overseas

Barnes also suggests that lawyers who want to work abroad should equip themselves with appropriate skills. He said that knowledge of corporate law would, for instance, be more valuable in a foreign market than a successful track record as a litigator. Barnes added that the move by some American law firms in London into arbitration has put dispute resolution experience in demand. Barnes also believes that it may be easier to find a temporary, rather than a permanent, position, particularly in a tight job market.

A U.S. lawyer who lands in England should not, of course, expect to be able to don robe and wig and win glory at the Old Bailey. As in the U.S. – and other countries – entry into the practice of law is strictly regulated. The legal profession in England also operates under the burden of ancient customs and rules. Typically, major cases are prepared by solicitors and presented in court by barristers.

But it should be possible for an American lawyer with sufficient specialized expertise – and confidence – to set up as a consultant in a foreign jurisdiction. Immigration law is an obvious possibility. Would-be migrants to the U.S. can be found in almost every country.

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Barnes said that people who plan to work abroad should be open to new things. He said that a resistance to the local culture could quickly communicate itself to local clients, creating a negative impression.

Barnes recalled working internationally with an American who ordered pizza every night. “He never tried the local cuisine,” he said. “That sort of person is not going to enjoy the fullness of the experience.”

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