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International law jobs could offer better take home pay

Posted by: Laurence Simons 24/09/12

It's hard to imagine living in another country unless you've actually been there and experienced it for yourself. You have to feel the heat, intense on your unfamiliar skin. You have to drink the water straight from the tap and marvel at its unique and metallic tang. You have to take a picture of a really big shrimp whenever you order anything from a hotel bar. You have to be entirely ripped off by a taxi driver.

Because it's so hard to imagine living any place other than your current locale, you might not have considered taking up legal jobs in India or Dubai or further afield when looking to take the next step in your career. But consider it: recent analysis from LLM Info looked at the average legal salaries in various countries dotted across the globe and found that, in some cases, you'd be better off working overseas.

Let's take the UK as an example. Yes, you get to live near the Queen. Yes, you have ready access to black pudding in supermarkets and butchers. Yes, the Olympics were just there. But while the average British lawyer's wage of £50,675 ($79,682) is slightly higher than the average in Brazil (150,000 BRL, or $74,464), the cost of living is lower in South America. Much lower. "In real terms, you're better off practising law in Rio than London," said Legal Cheek's Alex Aldridge. Plus, the weather is nicer.

Further LLM Info analysis put China at the top of the pile on the take home salary vs cost of living (COL) chart, with an average salary of $146,954 weighted against a relatively low COL meaning money earned in the area goes further. Germany and France were the best places to take home any sort of pay in Europe, while the UAE and US rounded out the top five. Languishing near the bottom of the pile were lawyers in India, Mexico and Italy, with the Italian cost of living taking an especially huge chunk out of legal professional's salaries.

As Law.com reports, a rare move between top-tier firms from the UK in the US could pave the way for more legal professionals to progress their careers overseas and explore these wild and exotic lower costs of living, even while staying at the same company. Magic Circle firms Freshfields Bruckaus Deringer and Allen & Overy both have offices in New York, and this week it was confirmed that Freshfields' Kent Rowey and Dolly Mirchandani would be making the practically unheard of switch to the US-based Magic Circle rival.

"The hires for Allen & Overy mark an unusual move for a Magic Circle firm in the US, where the UK's leading firms have to date generally built up their practices with hires from domestic outfits," said Law.com's Suzi Ring. And, additional upshot? Either way, both Rowey and Mirchandani will take home more of their salaries as a result of working in the US.