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Lawyers moving abroad for promotions?

Posted by: Laurence Simons 22/05/13

As recent reports have shown, the number of people making partner in top law firms is down, leading to concerns that the career path of UK-based legal workers could stall.

However, research from The Lawyer has indicated that younger lawyers keen to send out a message that they're ready for the big job might be well advised to move abroad, where opportunities for partnership could be more common.

For junior members of magic circle firms, the time could be ripe to pack a bag with dog-eared spy novels, spiral-bound notebooks and cheap foreign cigarettes, don a Panama hat, buy some prescription sunglasses and pretend to be a John le Carre character in an emerging economy.

This is because the financial downturn is having a real impact on UK legal firms - not only are redundancies increasing, but the possibility of moving upwards appears to be getting smaller.

In Europe, Germany came out top with nearly ten per cent of all promotions by the UK top 20 this year, with Asia and Australia accounting for a further nine per cent.

Norton Rose chair Stephen Parish told the news provider: "We do tell all associates there are opportunities here, but it's a fairly flat market and the way law firms grew in the 1980s and 1990s is just not going to happen again unless there's a huge turnaround in the market."

With areas such as Singapore becoming crucial to the future growth of many law firms, it seems clear that ambitious young lawyers will be tempted to move to foreign offices, and not only for the opportunity to wear open-necked shirts and adopt the persona of Graham Greene-esque embittered ex-pats.

Allen & Overy managing partner Wim Dejonghe pinpointed Asia as a growth area, also highlighting positive performances in France and Germany.

And with more office launches being announced in Hong Kong and Singapore on a regular basis, there should be no shortage of opportunities for talented legal workers willing to relocate for the good of their career.