FOR AUSTRALIAN lawyers looking for international experience, the New York legal market remains a relatively difficult one to crack, but recent developments have made it an easier option.
The barriers include differences in legal traditions, which often means US law firms favour candidates with US qualifications, a relative lack of personal and family connections between Australia and the US compared to European and Asian countries, as well as low interest from US law firms in hiring foreign lawyers.
However, the offering of preparatory courses for the New York and California Bar exams, the release of the new E3 visa for Australian professionals earlier this month, combined with a burgeoning market means it is now easier than it has ever been to head for the Big Apple.
Improved market conditions over the past year mean many firms in New York are now “struggling to get good candidates,” says Amanda Bear, a director of Dolman Research and Recruitment. “And the ones that fall outside of the top 10 [firms] find it more difficult. So they’ve all started looking externally.”
Reaction is mixed on what influence the new E3 visa will have on the numbers of lawyers heading for the US, Bear pointing out that candidates will still have to be “the best of the best”.
Fiona Spender, recruitment manager at Clayton Utz, says the fact that lawyers here don’t have the network of friends in New York that exist in the UK has been one factor keeping departures to the US low, but in time she believes the E3 visa may encourage more to go.
“As more Australians have opportunities to go to the US, I think it will become increasingly more popular because there will be that network of young professionals living and working there.”
Beatrice O’Brien, expatriate Australian lawyer and founder of the New York Bar Review Quality Program, says demand for overseas trained lawyers in New York has been on the increase for the past five years, citing as evidence the jump in the numbers sitting the New York Bar exam from 20 to 30 in between 2001 and 2002, to about 200 this year.
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