In recent times, the increasing amount of privatization and the ease of capital transfer globally have driven much of the demand for American lawyers overseas.

A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

I am a fourth-year lawyer who is considering working overseas or possibly in Australia.  What are the kinds of challenges that North American attorneys need to consider when trying to find employment as a lawyer in these countries?

Area of Practice

In recent times, the increasing amount of privatization and the ease of capital transfer globally have driven much of the demand for American lawyers overseas.  Many foreign companies are obtaining capital in ways that require a great deal of familiarity with the American legal system.

Accordingly, the areas of practice that have attracted foreign law firms' interest in American lawyers overseas are project finance, M&A, debt/equity, capital markets, and generalized securities and derivate work.  Given the differences in law between the Australian and American system of jurisprudence, it is very difficult for non-transactional lawyers, i.e., litigators and regulatory attorneys, to have success with firms in Australia.  Note that overseas law firms or American law firms with offices overseas are seeking American attorneys with strong academic records, degrees from top American law schools, and solid transactional experience with a major recognized American law firm.

Qualification

While Australia and America share the same foundation in common law and democracy, qualification requirements differ greatly between the two countries.  Similar to a bar examination in the various states in the United States, most countries have certain qualification requirements for those practicing law.  How one gains qualification to practice law in a given country varies substantially from one country to another.  Australia's qualification requirements are unique.  There is no bar examination in Australia.  In Australia, a regulating authority approves undergraduate courses of study, and graduates of those programs are entitled to undertake practical training and can then be admitted as lawyers.  Hence, the first thing you must do is find out what are the qualification requirements to practice law in Australia and see if you meet those requirements.