Tips to Relocate Abroad as a Lawyer

Regardless of where you study law in the world, the process is quite complex to become a lawyer. The reason for this is that there is a high level of expertise that is required to be successful in a career of law. Lawyers across the board have a fiduciary duty to protect the best interests of their clients. For this reason, lawyers have very strict regulations to protect their client’s interests in countries around the globe.

That said, in the globalizing world that we live in today, it is becoming more and more common to have lawyers that are required to relocate for international opportunities in order to accompany a spouse or to stay with their firm in multiple jurisdictions. For this reason, a common question that has arisen is whether it is necessary to change one’s law license and/or legal education when they move to a foreign jurisdiction.

When trying to ascertain what your options are in terms of being a legal professional, it is wise to consider the conversation below:

Different Processes to Become a Lawyer Around the Globe

Law Degree Qualifies Alone

For the legal professional that wants to practice law in their home jurisdiction, there are certain countries around the world that will allow you to practice law even though you studied in another country. How this usually occurs is that you will be able to appear in court along the side of a local attorney. This is quite common for law firms that have offices in many different jurisdictions and require certain lawsuits to be settled in foreign courts. Be sure to check the particular country you are trying to do this in so that you are able to comply with their regulations.

Law Degree Plus Law License Exam

This path is particularly difficult, especially in the United States. For example, it is absolutely possible for foreign lawyers to sit for the bar exam after earning their LL.M degree; however, there are only certain states that permit this such as: New York, California, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Virginia.  An additional factor to take into account is that the foreign lawyer may not be able to perform well on the exam without completing a full JD degree. Law is tricky in this sense given that each country has its own legal system to learn comprehensively. For this reason, it is exceedingly difficult to learn an entirely new system when educated in a different country.

Law Degree Plus Law License Exam Plus Additional Exam

In certain areas of law, it is necessary to obtain an additional exam in order to be able to practice. The best example of this can be seen in Intellectual Property Law. In order to be a patent attorney, there is an extra expertise that is required in order to be able to provide diligent and competent representation to clients. Additionally, attorneys that have a scientific background are an asset in this field because they will be able to be more successful on the exam to become a patent attorney due to their niche of expertise. In terms of foreign lawyers, it is quite difficult to become certified in a specialized area of law that goes beyond the traditional bar exam. Foreign attorneys should take this into consideration before they attempt to enter into a highly specialized area of law in a foreign jurisdiction.

Waiving into a Foreign Jurisdiction

Many attorneys want to waive into a foreign jurisdiction for the experience. The key to doing this with ease is related to finding an area of law specialization that is transferrable from your initial legal education. A great example for an American attorney that specializes in Immigration Law, for example, is to set up a practice to help individuals that want to immigrate to the United States from where they are currently living abroad. This is also true for Import/Export Legal transactions and Products Liability cases. The idea is to find a specialization that also requires expertise in the country abroad making it easier for local citizens.

Recommendations to Redeem Your Lawyer Status Abroad

Repeat Your Course

Depending on the country that you would like to practice law in, there is a wealth of different procedures available. It is going to come down to what your long-term priorities are in terms of whether repeating a course and all the necessary certifications are worthwhile for you. For some countries, it is possible to take an LL.M for one to two years to expedite the process. That said, other countries will make you go back to law school entirely, which could be detrimental to your existing legal practice and your savings.

Take an Exam Review Course

If there is a simple exam available to you in order to waive into a foreign jurisdiction, then it may be worthwhile to take some time off your practice and review for a couple months with a proper review course. Be sure that you allow enough in your budget to do this so that you are not stressed during this time as it will affect the results on your exam.

Have a Shadow Attorney Always

For the stricter jurisdictions, it is absolutely possible to be an attorney that always needs supervision when you are visiting court. While this can be inconvenient, it can be more cost effective if you are trying to avoid reinvesting in your legal education or sitting through more difficult law license exam requirements. This option is ideal for attorneys that have a presence in many different countries and may have to argue a case once per month, for example.

The Potential Costs Associated with Taking a Domestic Course When You Relocate

Depending on where you decide to study your law course, the cost will vary. For American lawyers that decide to study law in Europe or South America, they will be pleasantly surprised due to the very affordable tuition that exists there. This is precisely why it may be appealing to attend the additional law course in the sense that the tuition is not a large price to pay. However, where the additional law course becomes quite expensive is in the United Kingdom and the United States. Foreign lawyers have to think quite carefully before they decide to invest in an additional course as many of them can cost $60,000 or more per year since the law is one of the most expensive disciplines to study.

Ways to Move Your Money Abroad to Fund Your Law Course Abroad 

If you are planning on investing in a law course outside of your home country, you will have to move a substantial amount of capital to pay for your course. In many countries, the government will not provide financial assistance to law students and also not to foreign law students. This means that the tuition you pay will have to be paid in a lump sum or in installments. These amounts of capital can cause you to lose a great deal of money on currency conversions. For this reason, it is highly recommended to utilize a money transfer company when you are trying to move currency to pay for your law school. This way, you will be able to lock the best exchange rate with the help of a qualified expert. Additionally, you will have less administrative fees and lower time for the transfer to be completed than traditional banks. This option makes foreign law students have an incredible advantage that they did not have previously when attempting to pay their tuition dues around the world.

Final Remarks on the Subject  

It is important to realize that relocating as an attorney absolutely can be achieved. What is going to determine the degree of difficulty is going to be related to a particular country that is chosen for the relocation. The sooner that the lawyer researches the particular country’s requirements, the faster they can ascertain whether there is any value in retaking a law certification exam or whether it is essential to repeat the study of law altogether. Law is difficult in the sense that it changes by country, which means that lawyers have to learn the local law in order to be able to have a successful practice in a foreign country and to be trusted by their prospective clients. In today’s market, the most attractive thing is having individuals with qualifications in many different countries. For this reason, lawyers should absolutely consider the value of obtaining the ability to practice law in more than one jurisdiction.

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