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London calling: NZ lawyers in the UK

07 June 2019 - By Nick Butcher

Many young New Zealanders travel abroad each year and traditionally the first work stop has been London. For young admitted lawyers it’s considered to be a great place to hone their legal skills.

Rosamund More is a senior consultant at recruitment agency Robert Walters in London. She grew up in Invercargill and comes from a family of lawyers, including her father Fergus, her sister, a grandfather, some uncles, an aunt and a cousin or two.

She studied law at the University of Otago where she completed her LLB and also a marketing degree in 2013.

Rosamund does not practise law but instead recruits lawyers in one of the busiest cities in the world.

“I saw recruitment as a career that combined all the things I liked about my law and marketing degree and recruiting lawyers meant I could always still feel part of the legal community,” she says.

By 2017, along with her partner, she moved to London after five months of travelling and exploring the world. She began working at Robert Walters Legal.

Success in the capital

Ms More says the British capital provides an abundance of opportunities for New Zealand lawyers in private practice and in-house in both contract and temporary roles.

Street view of St Pauls Cathedral

“Corporate – public and private – finance and specialist litigation lawyers have had particular success in the London market. The sheer complexity, volume and abundance of matters worked on in each area provides New Zealand qualified lawyers with an incredibly fulfilling experience. Magic Circle and top US law firms that launched in London in the early 2000s also offer significant salary increases for those lawyers wanting to get on the property ladder sooner rather than later,” she says.

She says New Zealand’s legal professionals are also highly valued in the United Kingdom.

“Thanks to the common law jurisdiction, most areas of law are easily transferable to the UK market. New Zealand lawyers coming from the country’s top 10 law firms are well placed to get positions as these firms are internationally recognised for producing high-calibre lawyers.”

She says New Zealanders are viewed as a great alternative for London-based companies who are wanting to hire contractors that can start work immediately.

“This is because most UK lawyers at this level are in permanent roles with three-month notice periods. New Zealand lawyers, understandably, can be hesitant of the contract market as it’s virtually non-existent in New Zealand. However, we estimate that 35% of the London legal market is on a temporary contract. Contract work is a great way for New Zealand lawyers to introduce themselves to the London market.”

She says New Zealand lawyers have a great reputation in the UK for their strong work ethic and diverse skill set.

“We often have clients comment on the positive effect New Zealand lawyers have on the culture of their team, that they make a real effort to immerse themselves in the business, whether it be in a permanent or contract role.”

Taking a chance can lead to bigger opportunities

A stint or two overseas can pay career dividends for New Zealand lawyers unafraid of throwing themselves into an initially alien environment.

“New Zealand lawyers who have worked in the top firms in London and then return to New Zealand can find themselves on the partnership track much sooner because of the specialised and international experience they have gained in London,” Rosamund says.

She says London has a very large in-house legal market which gives New Zealanders experience that might be hard to come by at home due to the smaller market.

“Financially in many cases, you could double your New Zealand salary too,” she says.

Ms More says she knows of New Zealand lawyers who, after completing stints in London, have moved on to the Channel Islands and even the Cayman Islands to work, so a law degree can provide a ticket to travel.

She says the transition to the London legal market, from New Zealand, tends to be fairly seamless once you have your visa and a confirmed arrival date.

“If you are eligible for an ancestry visa or passport, we would strongly advise getting one over the Tier 5 as this will open you up to more permanent opportunities.

“Most law firms and in-house organisations don’t necessarily require New Zealand lawyers to complete the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme. This is more common for lawyers coming from a civil law jurisdiction. However, we do find New Zealand lawyers who work in more litigious areas will need to complete this so they can make the appropriate representations at court appearances. Some lawyers also like to be dual qualified so will pursue this on their own volition,” she says.

Face-to-face helps

Ms More says in her experience, New Zealanders have much more success in securing legal roles once they have arrived in the country.

“This is particularly true for the in-house market, where hiring managers prefer to meet candidates face-to-face to ascertain personality and cultural fit.

“On the private practice front, we have seen candidates primarily from the top tier firms in New Zealand secure positions before arriving in London. However, discerning candidates find they have more success when they have arrived and have had the opportunity to meet in person before making an informed decision,” she says.

Last updated on the 7th June 2019