Edinburgh +44 (0)131 450 7164 Glasgow +44 (0)141 244 0260 Aberdeen +44 (0) 1224 502 044 London +44 (0)203 174 2482 Dublin +353 (0)1 699 1360

International Legal Market Overview 2020


With growth currently across the global legal market there continues to be a high number of lawyers from Scotland and Ireland opting to make a move Overseas.

Making an international move requires careful planning.

Thomson Legal has over 20 years’ experience assisting Scottish and Irish lawyers move overseas advising on: market trends, legal areas in demand, visas, remuneration, re-qualification and relocation. We aim to make the process straight-forward and to give you the confidence that we understand you and your background and how best to present your experience to the Overseas markets. We work closely with long-standing international clients and our global network of partners.

Whether it is for lifestyle or financial reasons, permanent or for a couple of years there are plentiful opportunities for lawyers with in-demand skill Our process starts with inclusive research of your desired locations. We aim to provide accurate information on current market conditions, available options and the viability of a successful move Overseas.

We aim to provide accurate information on current market conditions, available options and the viability of a successful move Overseas.

We then help you prepare your CV- this can often look radically different depending on specific locations. Our role is then to advise you and assist with the necessary diligence you need to undertake on potential employers and locations.

Next the all important part. We approach potential target organisations on your behalf and secure interviews for appropriate positions. We also help and advise on interview preparation, giving you the best possible chance of securing your move Overseas. Finally, we will advise on potential offers, guide you through your resignation and assist you with ‘on the ground’ information on your relocation, such as visas, housing and re-qualification, completing the process and allowing you to focus on your new role.



With most of the international legal markets demonstrating growth in the last 12 months, most Overseas law firms and in-house legal teams are now actively sourcing talent from across the world. With lawyers often being in short supply in niche areas (as is the case in the UK and Ireland) obtaining employment visas is less problematic. Growth in corporate, banking, investment funds, technology and construction currently presents excellent opportunities for lawyers looking to gain international experience.


While moving in-house Overseas is often more challenging than private practice due to local competition, we are seeing a number of skill shortages globally in specialist areas. This has resulted in companies sourcing candidates internationally- lawyers with energy and project finance experience for example, will find a more buoyant market in Asia-Pacific and Western Australia than in previous years. Lawyers with investment funds, capital markets and structured finance experience will also find interest from banks and financial institutions in Asia, Continental Europe and Offshore.


While many international law firms would often find their ranks bolstered by a high number of seconded lawyers in the past, the trend continues now to grow strategic teams organically or with lawyers making mid to long-term commitments to local regions. This is particularly the case in the Middle East with many law firms looking to strengthen their position to support the approaching major projects such as the Dubai Expo and the FIFA World Cup. Law firms in Australia and the Far East have also expanded significantly with strategic mergers and new entrants to the market targeting long-term sustainable plans.


With growth generally in the legal market there continues to be a high number of lawyers from Scotland and Ireland opting to make a move Overseas. Currently we are seeing an increase in roles with clients in Asia, the Middle East and Offshore. Many Overseas law firms and companies have had positive experience hiring from the Scottish and Irish markets and we expect to see an increase in demand and direct advertising campaigns in 2020.

United States of America

Making a move to the US can often be challenging primarily due to qualification issues and visa eligibility. The majority of legal recruitment activity takes place on the East Coast where firms are currently seeking transactional corporate lawyers. Demand on the West Coast is more on the commercial/ tech side feeding into the tech companies in California. For many lawyers, an initial move to a US firm in London is often easier route that a direct move.


A large number of international law firms, notably in France, Spain and Switzerland continue to seek transactional corporate and banking lawyers as well as in niche specialist areas such as funds and aviation finance. Demand for EU/Competition lawyers remains a constant in Brussels.


Hong Kong now primarily acts as an international business hub with many law firms and multi-national companies utilising Hong Kong as their ‘China hub’. The low tax benefits make HK a very popular destination for Scottish and Irish lawyers with banking, and project finance experience. Singapore has a reputation as a global financial centre is attractive option for banking, finance and funds lawyers from Scotland & Ireland looking to work in the Far East. There is a growing trend of expansion in the region with more global firms seeking a South East Asia hub.


With idyllic lifestyles and combined with low tax levels, many lawyers can seriously enhance their legal career with only a few years working Offshore. Ironically, despite recent press surrounding tax avoidance in the UK & Ireland and the AIFMD, demand remains high for lawyers with general banking and investment funds experience. If you have these skills and the required PQE then the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and BVI should all be on your radar.

Often an alternative (or in some cases a route) to the Caribbean is the the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. The Channel Island firms have consistently hired from both the Scottish and Irish markets for a number of years and consistently hire from NQ+ level in corporate, banking and litigation.

Middle East

After another strong year, the growth of many of the established global law firms has been well documented and there has been high recruitment levels across the region, not just in Dubai but also in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Oman. These have been notable in construction, projects and finance services. With the Dubai World Expo in 2020 it is expected that major projects will continue to ramp up in the lead up to this major event in UAE history. It is also clearly evident in private practice that long term career progression and Partnership in locations such as Saudi Arabia is unquestionably more achievable, due to less competition.

Australia/ NZ

Despite recent changes to the Visa process, Australian and New Zealand law firms will consider strong candidates with experience in banking, finance construction, projects and energy. Transactional lawyers will find there are options in Sydney, Melbourne and Christchurch. Those with projects/ construction/ energy will find demand higher in Perth, Brisbane and Wellington. While the distance can be an issue for some, there is no question that both Australia and New Zealand offer excellent lifestyle options.



Buoyant market for lawyers with experience in Corporate, Banking, Financial Services, EU/ Competition and Technology looking to move to continental Europe. Notable opportunities in France, Luxembourg, Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland for lawyers with experience in Finance, Investment Funds and Intellectual Property/ Telecoms.


Increasing number of opportunities from the international firms growing their presence in the Chinese market at present- specifically for energy and project finance lawyers. Equally so, the market remains buoyant in Singapore and Hong Kong for experienced banking and finance lawyers.


With visa sponsorship more challenging, the Antipodean firms are now less likely to look at Overseas candidates if there is a requirement for sponsorship. However, candidates with strong backgrounds in banking, energy, construction, PFI and corporate will generate interest from all the major cities in Australia and New Zealand.


Considerable economic activity in particular the Dubai Expo 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup make the Middle East a location of choice. There are currently opportunities for lawyers with corporate finance, construction, infrastructure, energy, and project finance.


A recent boom on the West Coast of the US has seen an increase in demand for lawyers with commercial experience gained in either a technology or biotech environment. In the current market, a move in-house in the US (which usually has a pre-requisite for existing in-house experience) is potentially more viable than a move to a private practice role in the US.

Next Steps


Often an international move starts off with a simple phone call or a chat over a coffee. We recognise that it is a huge career move and you will want to make sure you have all the facts available to you. We have been placing candidates overseas for the last 18 years so get in touch for an initial conversation about the options available to you.


Using our global network, we are in a unique position to be able to advise on ‘real-time’ vacancies with law firms and in-house companies across the world. We will be able to provide local knowledge on interview processes and market information, giving you the best possible chance of successfully securing a new role Overseas.


Let us do the hard work for you. Making a move overseas requires careful planningThomson Legal has over 18 years experience assisting Scottish and Irish lawyers move overseas advising on; market trends, areas in demand, visas, remuneration, re-qualification and relocation. We use our knowledge and experience combined with our global network of clients within overseas law firms and in-house organisations.


When making a move Overseas, often your CV and supporting documents will be different to what you would prepare domestically. Using our knowledge of the international market, we will ensure that you have the most effective CV and making sure you have all required paperwork to guarantee the process runs smoothly.


Thomson Legal was founded by David Thomson, a veteran and leading expert in the legal recruitment market in Scotland. Having worked internationally and with a network of Scottish and global clients, the aim of Thomson Legal is to help candidates with their career moves both domestically and internationally. Thomson Legal is regarded as an innovative and market leading consultancy by clients and candidates alike.

After graduating in Law & Modern Languages from University of Glasgow and working in-house, David moved into legal recruitment in 1999, initially working with legal recruitment specialists Mahlab in Sydney, Australia. After returning and working in the UK and Ireland, David has built up the reputation of being an expert in his field working with leading global recruitment companies including Taylor Root, Hays Legal and Hudson. David provides strategic advice and recruitment assistance to major international
law firms and FTSE 100 companies and works with market leaders in the UK, Ireland, Europe, Offshore, the Middle East, Australia and Asia Pacific. For more information of to discuss how Thomson Legal can help you with your legal career, please get in touch.

Edinburgh:  +44 (0) 131 450 7164
Glasgow:     +44 (0) 141 244 0260
Aberdeen: +44 (0) 1224 502 044
London:      +44 (0) 203 174 2482

Dublin:       +353 (0) 1 699 1360
Mobile:       +44 (0) 775 380 9223

Email:         david@thomsonlrc.com
Website:     www.thomsonlrc.com



Thomson Legal Recruitment Company


The Latest Legal Positions & News