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Planning For A Legal Career Overseas: An Update For 2022


Shutterstock_226607338Last Thursday alone, I heard from two attorneys looking to move overseas because they don’t want their children to have to participate in “active shooter” drills in school. It seems like an appropriate time to offer an update on the legal hiring landscape for U.S. JDs looking to move overseas.

In 2014, I posted a 3-part series on Planning for a Legal Career Overseas: 

I encourage you to read these posts as my general guidelines still hold true today. But we have seen some small shifts in the hiring landscape in recent years. What has changed? I have structured this update based on the most common questions I’m asked: 

What if I’m not a capital markets lawyer?

While the roles for U.S. JDs overseas are still overwhelmingly for capital markets transactional work, the demand for capital markets attorneys has evolved. We are seeing fewer roles that require high yield debt experience specifically and fewer capital markets opportunities in Europe outside of London. In Madrid, for example, it may be difficult to justify bringing on a full-time U.S. associate. The good news is that I am seeing more opportunities outside the usual capital markets roles, especially in London. For example, I’m working with top international firms: 

  • in London looking for junior to mid-level U.S. patent litigators
  • in London, Paris, Sydney, and Melbourne looking for mid-level U.S. project finance lawyers
  • in London looking for U.S. technology transactions lawyers
  • in Sydney and Melbourne looking for mid-level U.S. M&A lawyers
  • in London looking for junior to mid-level U.S. private funds and PE M&A lawyers
  • in Singapore and Hong Kong looking for mid-to-senior level US PE funds associate roles.
  • in Hong Kong looking for mid-level life sciences corporate transactions associates

Can I work overseas for a U.S. office as a remote attorney?

Probably not. Most firms that advertise “remote” roles are not able to accommodate remote from outside the U.S., or oftentimes even remote from certain U.S. jurisdictions where they do not currently have operations and/or where you are not barred. There are some exceptions. In particular, I am working with a corporate law boutique that is open to remote work from overseas for the right senior associate/counsel-level attorney. 

It is worth noting also that many offices in Europe in particular went back to in-office work long ago. Remote work is not as much in the culture of these offices, and they may not be as flexible with remote or hybrid work as U.S. offices have become. 

What are signing bonuses looking like for overseas roles?

Unfortunately, the overseas markets will not generally offer signing bonuses. In fact, for many overseas opportunities, you will need to go on the local pay scale. This is true most often for non-capital markets roles. Many firms will, however, pay for your relocation.

Can I go in-house overseas?

These opportunities exist, but they are very difficult to land. Most U.S. lawyers I know who are working overseas were either transferred overseas internally or were already working with a firm in that foreign city before moving in-house. Keep in mind also that in-house roles overseas will often pay at the local pay scale.

I’m a U.S. JD working overseas and looking to move home to the U.S. Is now a good time to move?

Absolutely! There are many reasons why now is the right time: 

  • Interviews are still generally over Zoom so being overseas is not as much of a disadvantage as in the past.
  • The market in the U.S., especially for mid-level to senior corporate associates, is still very busy but slowing down, so it could be risky to wait.
  • The more senior you get, the more difficult it will be to move back.

I am not a U.S. JD but I hear the U.S. market is busy. What are my options for moving to the U.S.?

Unfortunately,  opportunities for non-JDs are still rare, even for those with U.S. LLMs and bar admission. The exception may be if you are a corporate lawyer and already have a U.S. passport or green card, or are from Canada, Mexico, Australia or another country not subject to the H-1B lottery system.

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While we have seen some small shifts in the opportunities for U.S. JDs looking to work overseas, we are not seeing as dramatic a shift as we are seeing in the U.S. market. Your options for working overseas depend on your specific skills and experience. If you are a U.S. JD looking to move overseas, please contact me for an informational chat. If you’re a U.S. JD candidate planning ahead, good for you! I’d love to chat. If you’re a U.S. JD currently working overseas and planning for a move back to the U.S., now is the time to start the process. Please reach out! I can be reached at agordon@laterallink.com.  



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