Future City trainee: ‘I want to work in the EU. When is the best time to make the switch?’

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In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one Legal Cheek reader has secured a training contract in the London office of an international law firm but harbours ambitions to eventually practise in the EU.

“I am starting my training contract next year with a large international City firm. While I am very grateful and excited to be starting my career in London, due to various personal/family reasons, I hope to be able to transfer to another country down the line (large EU country with a strong economy). My firm has several offices there, but it’s not a stronghold in the same way that London is.

When would be the best time to look to make the switch — upon qualification, or perhaps two to three years after, or even later than that?

Would it be easier to stick with the same firm and just try relocating to their foreign office, or to look for a vacancy with a different firm there?

If sticking with the same firm — how can I best approach the subject with HR/another colleague? I don’t want to make it sound like I’m ungrateful to be in London, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t an ultimate goal or hope of mine.”

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About 10 months ago



I have citizenship there, so Brexit shouldn’t be an issue.

Also, I’d imagine the comparative difficulty UK lawyers have relocating to mainland Europe post-Brexit would make English-qualified lawyers even more in demand on the continent, no?



You’re asking the wrong people, unfortunately (just look at the amount of likes for the first comment). If I were you, I would qualify and wait a year and then ask for a transfer. English solicitors are needed in the EU given the number of M&A transactions and various other contracts which are executed under English governing law and jurisdiction clauses.

You could also qualify as an Irish solicitor for a couple hundred pounds, without actually taking any further exams (if you have already qualified as an English solicitor). This will allow you to practice EU intellectual property. Of course, this would depend on whether this is relevant to your practice.



Thanks, so you reckon I shouldn’t even bring this up with HR / anyone else at the firm until roughly 1 PQE?



You shouldn’t have much trouble at NQ. Do you speak a second language? That always helps






Speaking Korean is really helpful towards getting a job in Germany, agreed.



It’s a common question to ask/apply for roles within another office of the same firm. From the firm’s perspective, at least they’re keeping you, even if it’s not at the same office, so I doubt there would be any concerns. It certainly would be much easier than applying to another firm in another jurisdiction.



Do a Trainee international secondment to an EU office. If they like you and it goes well, ask if they’ll let you stay and qualify there.



Unfortunately secondments aren’t on offer for that particular country, and other EU countries where secondments are possible have a language requirement that I don’t meet.


EU Lawyer

Would depend on the pracice area and the jurisdiction as well. You’d probably be better served qualifying inyo a transactional practice area which would be more transferable, unless you were thinking competition law in Brussels or planning on moving to another common law jurisdiciton like Ireland.



Nothing on Mayer Brown helping the Chinese Communist Party remove a statue commemorating Tiananmen from a University in Hong Kong? I think students and graduates would want to know that little piece of information when deciding where to work. Always knew you guys aren’t really committed to legal journalism.



They were representing the University of Hong Kong Kong (a long-term client) but they no longer are. Of course it’s not going to be reported


MC Associate

Practice area would be a key issue, point in time less so. Competition should be pretty transferable wherever. Otherwise, does your intended destination do a lot of eg finance work (Frankfurt)? Paris has a fair few English trained projects lawyers, same with Amsterdam. Paris has plenty of arbitration work. Generally you want something where your expertise isn’t tied to laws affecting local assets or situations eg real estate, planning, (probably tax?), employment and so on. Also, LinkedIn is useful to give you an idea of what others are doing – how many other English lawyers practice in your jurisdiction, how did they get there? If you can, do a secondment as a trainee in the EU. Even if not your “target” country, will give you some ideas as to what might work/what doesn’t (usually, your supervisor on a European secondment will be an English qualified lawyer).



Sounds like Germany. Language skills will be important even if much of the work will be in English. I’d try to do a secondment to make yourself visible in Germany and I’d look to specialise in an area that travels: finance, corporate, competition, capital markets, etc.



May 2016.


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