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Career Planning for Law Graduates

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If you are one of those rare people who have planned your career from the outset as opposed to feeling your way through the profession and then realizing you would like a change after some years, then at an early stage you can take advantage of specialists in career planning. One such firm is Taylor Root, who recently published a booklet entitled Career Planning for Newly Qualified Solicitors explaining options to those with between two and four years experience. Their focus is very much on international commercial work, and as a global recruitment agency they are able to offer advice on commercial areas including banking and finance, commercial property and litigation, taxation, intellectual property, insurance and employment. They have bases in London, Hong Kong and Sydney, and a clientele that extends across the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and which is not confined to law firms. It also includes accountancy practices, multi-national companies and international banking groups. Amongst the services they offer is assistance with career planning, including preparation of a C.V. and guidance on interview techniques. If your ambitions do extend beyond the United Kingdom and you wish to be able to compete in a high-flying market, then it would be worth contacting an agency such as Taylor Root. Obviously such agencies charge fees, though initial contact may be free of charge.

If you decide that staying in the profession is your preference, you might want to consider whether working abroad for a period would rejuvenate your interest in law and meet present dissatisfactions with your legal career.

Careers Abroad

If you are interested in a career abroad, whether in the area of private law, tending to deal with international business and financial topics, or in the area of public law, tending to deal with international treaties and human rights, then a very comprehensive directory of opportunities is produced by the Law Society in England entitled Careers in the International Legal Field. A copy of the current version of the booklet can be obtained from the International Directorate of the Law Society.

There are various possibilities:

Qualifying as a solicitor in other United Kingdom jurisdictions

Since 1991 it has been possible for Scottish solicitors to qualify in English law by taking the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test, a three-hour examination in elements of English law that are distinctive from the subjects studied in Scots law. The topics covered include property law, equity, trusts and probate. The purpose of the test is to facilitate professional mobility by permitting solicitors qualified to practice in one jurisdiction to become qualified to practice in other United Kingdom jurisdictions. There are reciprocal arrangements for those already qualified elsewhere in the United Kingdom who want to become qualified in Scotland, though the precise description of the test may vary. For those seeking to qualify in Scotland the test is known as the Intra United Kingdom Transfer Test.

Qualifying for the Bar in other United Kingdom jurisdictions

It is becoming increasingly popular for advocates and barristers qualified in one of the jurisdictions of the United Kingdom to extend their rights of audience before the courts in other United Kingdom jurisdictions. In common with solicitors they have to pass an examination to demonstrate their capability in the law of the country in which they wish to gain a right of audience.

Dual qualification in Scotland: solicitor-advocates

Since 1992 it has been possible in Scotland to become qualified as a solicitor-advocate. This is a qualification open to solicitors who wish to gain a right of audience in the higher courts, a right normally reserved for advocates. To be eligible to apply for this qualification, you must have had relevant experience of court work for a period of at least five years. Relevant experience is defined as court experience where you have performed advocacy and have acted either as an instructing solicitor or a local agent in regard to the courts in which you are seeking extended rights. You can gain extended rights for either the civil courts or the criminal courts or both. The qualification is available to both self-employed and employed solicitors so you do not have to be a partner to become a solicitor-advocate. There are similar provisions applicable to gaining extended rights in England and Wales. If you are considering applying for extended rights of audience you should contact the appropriate Law Society for details of the application procedure and to check whether there are any proposals for change, as these types of regulations have a habit of being amended without you noticing.

Qualifying in the United States of America

It seems that, increasingly, lawyers qualified in the United Kingdom are seeking to practice in the United States. As it is rare for law schools here to deliver degrees that have been accredited by the American Bar Association, you can only gain an entitlement to practice in the United States either by sitting American Bar Exams and prequalifying, or by practicing under your home title as a foreign legal consultant.

Although you will be given some credit for your LL.B. degree, if you want to practice in the United States you will almost certainly have to sit exams for the particular state or states in which you wish to operate. There may be additional criteria you have to satisfy, such as having completed a minimum period of practice.

In the last few years a number of United States firms have set up London offices, increasing the opportunities for British lawyers to join a United States firm based here and then be trained for requalification and relocation in the United States. In recognition of the traffic between the two countries some institutions offer pre-exam preparation courses. Further information can be obtained from the Law Societies, and from the Fulbright Commission which runs an education advisory service for people seeking information about law studies in the United States. Preparatory study courses for the United States exams are offered by Holborn College in England, which offers two courses in preparation for the New York Bar Exam, and by Central Law Training which provides the American Bar Course Program.

Qualifying in Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Separately from the United States, there is also a fair amount of professional traffic between some of the former commonwealth countries and the United Kingdom. Information on routes into practice in these countries can be obtained from their embassies.

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