Overseas Lawyers immigrating to Australia

Our experienced team is well connected and expertly placed to help you relocate your career to Australia.

Regardless of economic conditions, there is a consistent appetite for high calibre lawyers with experience at major international firms, particularly from the UK magic and silver circle firms as well as the large Canadian and US firms. There is also ongoing interest in Australian lawyers returning home from overseas.

Australian Legal Landscape

There are a relatively small number of law firms – perhaps eight or nine –which dominate the legal market in Australia. These firms are effectively the equivalent of the UK’s magic circle and silver circle, and include some of the international UK firms, that have recently merged with existing local players (Norton Rose Fulbright, Ashurst, Herbert Smith Freehills, DLA). Most have offices in each of the capital cities excluding Hobart and Adelaide. Unlike the London centric UK market, quality corporate work is available outside Melbourne and Sydney, particularly in the Perth and Brisbane markets.

Outside these strong local players, there are a smaller number of international firms that have bases in either Sydney or Melbourne. It is only these larger Australian and foreign firms and a select number of mid-tier firms that will hire foreign lawyers and provide necessary visa sponsorship.

When considering foreign applicants, lawyers historically needed to have one years’ PQE at a highly regarded local or international firm to be eligible for consideration. However,  employers are more flexible now and firms are even prepared to consider newly qualified candidates, depending upon level of training and demand for their area of experience.

Do I need a Visa?

Yes

Common types include:

  • Working Holiday Visa: Only allows employment by a single employer for a continuous period of six months. This will be insufficient to secure you a good role in Australia
  • Highly Skilled Migrant Visa: Works on a points based system
  • 457 Visa
  • Spousal or Partner Visa

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship website offers up to date information regarding visa options.

Link to Department of Immigration

http://www.immi.gov.au/immigration/

Am I qualified to work in Australia?

Firms will generally encourage re-qualification and will usually provide financial support and study leave. However it is not strictly necessary and you should be able to work as a foreign qualified lawyer in any of the Australia law firms under supervision of an Australian practitioner. Having said this, firms generally do like you to take steps to admission or even pre-application, as it demonstrates to them a long-term commitment to a legal career in Australia. It will also assist you if you have a desire to move in-house long term, where it is virtually a pre-requisite for more senior roles.

Litigators looking to practice in Australia will also usually need to be admitted in Australia in order to have leave to appear in court.

Melbourne and Sydney

Melbourne and Sydney are popular destinations for overseas and interstate lawyers with all major international and most independent law firms having offices here.

The presence of multinational organisations ensures that high-quality work is briefed to firms and offers excellent opportunities for lawyers looking to move both in-house and into private practice.

Sydney and Melbourne firms are interested in overseas and interstate lawyers who bring quality experience from major firms and offer strong academic backgrounds. Sydney tends to have more financial services roles, however quality work is available in both cities.

Salaries in Sydney are typically slightly higher, reflecting a higher cost of living.

See our Survey for further information about current market salaries.

Perth and Brisbane

Boasting the lion’s share of Australia’s booming resources industry, experienced corporate, commercial and resources lawyers are in high demand in both Perth and Brisbane.

Lawyers here have access to high quality work and training and can be offered greater responsibility at an earlier level, with strong prospects of progressing to senior associate and partnership level.

Perth and Brisbane firms are always interested in lawyers with strong experience gained overseas or interstate, particularly lawyers with energy and resources experience.

Salaries in Perth are typically slightly higher than the rest of the country, reflecting a high cost of living and its relative isolation from the rest of Australia.  Brisbane salaries tend to be more comparable to Sydney and Melbourne.

See our Survey for further information about current market salaries.