What is Like Practicing Law in... London
London--home of old pubs, lawyers with wigs, and (yes) great food.
London roared into the twenty-first century fueled by cutting-edge music, a solid economy, and some surprisingly tasty new restaurants. But much of what makes London, well, London, is its history--ancient pubs, charmingly stuffy traditions, time-honored politeness, and, of course, that guy who wrote the plays. We're happy to report that like most everything they do, from keeping time for the rest of the world to making pop music, Londoners have handled their modernization fastidiously and cheerfully.
A perfect example of the bridge from old to new (literally): the Gatehead Millennium Bridge, built over a decade ago to connect 295-year-old St. Paul's Cathedral to the Tate Modern gallery. It's the perfect architectural addition to a city in which the upper crust is as fusty as ever and the hipsters are cooler than most people ever will be. As for the lawyers, they're busy enough to keep themselves in tailored suits, but not so strapped that they can't enjoy London's thoroughly modern brand of fun.
American firms have a long history in London. DAVIS POLK & WARDWELL's largest presence outside the U.S. is here and most major New York and West Coast firms have at least some presence here. London, of course, has the Magic Circle firms - all of which have openings now and then for American-educated corporate attorneys.
- NOTTING HILL remains a luxurious bohemia where grand Georgian houses preside over a colorful street life (a carnival arrives each August).
- THE CITY, London's financial center and one of its oldest sections, is where many lawyers settle down in renovated lofts. For prestige, check out BELGRAVIA'S massive white town houses near the fashionable Sloane Square and Chelsea neighborhoods.
The BARBICAN is home to the LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA.
HOT BARS AND PUBS
Eclectic decor (a crystal chandelier from a Cannes casino, a stuffed marlin, Victorian street lamps, 1960s coffee tables and fetchingly named cocktails Part-Time Lover, Endless Lover, Tainted Lover) made LOUNGELOVER instantly popular when it opened its doors in April. Of London's hundreds of pubs, THE SEVEN STARS is one of the oldest (it was built in 1602) and features Real Ale and a mixed crowd of professionals and artists. ST. JOHN BREAD & WINE, housed in a former bank in the financial district, offers more than 50 wines.
The contemporary art scene in London is among the most vibrant and active in Europe. A former government building along the Thames was transformed into the new SAATCHI GALLERY. Its collection includes works by British favorites Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.
Most galleries are housed in the city's Shoreditch section.
BOND STREET is one of the city's chicest fashion stretches: Gucci, Versace, Burberry, the rest. Local design darling STELLA MCCARTNEY'S flagship store is on nearby Bruton Street.
SELFRIDGES department store carries the best small labels, like Fake London and Antoni & Alison, alongside Paul Smith and Dior.
LIBERTY'S traditional prints are worn by well-appointed lawyers worldwide, and the label's lesser-known modern lines also are worth a look. Hunt for antiques on PORTOBELLO ROAD. On Fridays and Saturdays, stock up on British specialties like pork pies and Neal's Yard cheeses at the open-air BOROUGH MARKET.
For classic French cooking, ring up RACINE. At FIFTEEN, you can taste whatever Chef Jamie Oliver is concocting (our recent pick: line-caught sea bass steamed with courgettes, Florence fennel and radicchio de treviso).
Europe continues to dominate the international legal scene. The growing membership of the European Union (most recently with the accession of 10 new member states from Central and Eastern Europe) has provided increased economic stability that will enable firms to expand their practices in markets beyond Western Europe, and many are looking to add more U.S.-, U.K.-, and dual-qualified attorneys to their European offices. Moreover, the attractiveness of living abroad and gaining international market experience for many American attorneys draws them in significant numbers to the legal markets
in London, Frankfurt, Paris, and beyond.
The London market continues to offer the vast majority of opportunities for U.S.-qualified corporate attorneys with solid transactional experience. American attorneys are also often attracted to London, as they can gain significant international experience doing cross-border transactions with clients and attorneys in other European and Asian countries, while living day-to-day in a city where life is similar to that of any large American city. In fact, some U.K.-based firms have designated U.S. corporate practice groups, comprised of U.S.-qualified attorneys working for the firm's European clients doing business in the States. Thus, London is the best of both worlds for the American attorney: the opportunity to work in an environment with a shared language and with colleagues of similar backgrounds, while living in the dynamic, multicultural environment London offers.
Outside London, there are fewer opportunities for U.S.-qualified practitioners, although candidates with dual U.S. and U.K. qualifications have more marketability. Frankfurt still draws a number of U.S.- and U.K.-qualified attorneys with experience in banking and capital markets, as it is home to the European Central Bank. Brussels continues to be the focal point for antitrust and E.U. regulatory practices, although local language skills and qualification are often required. Central and Eastern Europe, including Russia, also offer terrific opportunities for attorneys interested in energy and projects, but frequently require some experience or connection to the region.
Currently, most European firms are looking for mid-level associates with 3-5 years of experience in a corporate practice at a large, well-respected U.S. or U.K. firm. Excellent academics and meaningful experience in capital markets, securities, project finance, and M&A are essential. Candidates should be fluent in the local language, as well as in English, and some firms, such as those in Geneva or Brussels, often require a third local language (i.e., French or German). Smaller markets-such as Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and Moscow-commonly require candidates to be admitted to practice in the local region. Law firms in London generally permit candidates who are admitted in the U.S., particularly New York. In sum, Europe offers exciting opportunities for candidates with excellent credentials and solid experience.