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To make the move overseas or not? When is the timing right?

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To make the move overseas or not? When is the timing right?

​We are currently engaging with many lawyers who have embarked on overseas experiences (OEs) in popular Kiwi destinations, such as the UK and Australia. Often, they spend part of their time traveling through Europe during the UK summer before settling into a legal role abroad.

Before you start packing your bags, there are a few key factors to consider:

Your Practice Area

Certain practice areas are in higher demand abroad, making them more transferable. This includes sectors like corporate/commercial and banking. Conversely, there’s a diminished demand for NZ-qualified lawyers in other areas, such as property and employment law within the UK legal market. Generally, overseas employers have become more selective with their hiring criteria for NZ-qualified lawyers.

Level of Experience

Increasingly, there’s a preference for hiring locally qualified lawyers over those qualified in NZ, particularly for those with significant experience (ideally 4+ years of NZ-qualified PQE). Junior lawyers might find it challenging to secure a role in their preferred area, and in some cases, may struggle to find any position within the legal sector.

The Role Itself

You may need to consider contract roles or positions with less desirable employers initially to gain entry into the market.

Strategic Move

For junior lawyers aiming to move abroad, it's crucial to position yourself strategically within the NZ market first. Working for a reputable brand or a top-tier firm can set a strong foundation. If top-tier opportunities are scarce, consider employers that offer significant exposure and learning opportunities to enhance your skills for international roles.

Timing Your Move

The optimal time for a move is typically after gaining 4+ years of NZ experience. In the UK, a newly qualified lawyer typically has about 2 years of NZ equivalent training, as many lawyers will do a 2 year training contract which involves rotating between teams during that time. This means the demand in the UK is often for those with 4 years NZ equivalent or more.

The demand in Australia is for a similar level as well, but may be a little more relaxed than the UK.

Reach out to the team of expert Legal recruiters at CoLegal to discuss whether to stay in NZ or embark on an international move and what timing may best suit for your career. We're here to help guide your career in the direction you want to go, whether that’s stepping into top-tier firms or making strategic moves to boost your overseas potential.