11 Things To Know About Jobs for American Lawyers Abroad

Updated February 27, 2023

Jobs for American lawyers abroad can offer a unique career opportunity exploring international law. Depending on your previous experience, you may be able to find opportunities in different areas of practicing law or similar career fields.In this article, we discuss things you should know about working as a lawyer abroad.

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Working as a lawyer abroad can lead to a fulfilling legal career that explores different outlets. There are many jobs for American lawyers in Europe and elsewhere that allow attorneys to practice U.S. laws or practice law under a local attorney's supervision. As you are planning to look for legal jobs abroad, here are some things to consider:

1. You can work for U.S. multinational companies

While work depends on the setting, American lawyers find work overseas working in the office of a U.S. law firm or as an attorney in a law firm abroad. American lawyers may also work for U.S. multinational companies as the local legal liaison overseas. Most of the time, an American company will create a joint venture with a foreign company to develop new technology. American lawyers can work on either side of this arrangement to provide strategy, planning and legal analysis throughout the process.

2. Most career paths start with transactional experience

Most of the time, a U.S. law firm will choose their experienced associates to fill abroad posts. To prepare for law jobs abroad, it is important to get transactional experience at a law firm in the United States. American lawyers can then often find jobs as counselors at multinational companies overseas.

Related: 15 Types of Law Careers You Can Pursue

3. Jobs for American lawyers abroad are fixed-term contracts

It's important to know that most attorneys working for foreign law firms work under fixed contracts that extend for two or four years. While they can extend their terms, these job opportunities often happen with the launch of a new office, new technology or a merger. It's important to remember this as lawyers looking to return to the U.S. need to prove the quality of their work overseas. This may help hiring managers understand the purpose of your work abroad.

4. Practicing law overseas can be challenging but rewarding

Working as an attorney abroad may be challenge. For example, attorneys are likely to encounter various legal issues and unique business practices due to the nature of the legal system overseas. Other elements related to practicing law overseas, like time zone differences and business cultural standards, may add more pressure to the role. Some non-practice factors that also make it challenging include homesickness, language barriers and cultural differences.

However, practicing overseas also offers many benefits. Some benefits of working as a lawyer abroad may include the:

  • Opportunity to learn about new cultures

  • Chance to work on different types of cases

  • Ability to learn about the different jurisdictions

Related: 16 Tips for Working Abroad

5. Burnout is possible

Like many demanding professions, burnout from unpredictable workflow can happen while working abroad. During the first months of working abroad, adjusting to a new culture, time differences and being away from friends and family may feel difficult to manage. However, focusing on your mental health may help prevent burnout. Exercise, meditation, yoga and spending time outdoors are all excellent activities to prevent burnout and promote overall wellbeing.

Related: 15 Ways To Deal With Burnout

6. American attorneys can often find work through the embassies

Most U.S. embassies and consulates maintain a list of attorneys on their websites. American attorneys looking for jobs abroad can contact the local embassies as someone willing to assist U.S. citizen clients abroad. This can provide a stream of potential clients who are looking for legal assistance for various needs.

7. Taking part in international organizations can be helpful

Taking part in international organizations may help raise your profile and distinguish you from other candidates. For example, consider joining organizations like the International Bar Association and the American Bar Association's International Law Section. These organizations support American lawyers abroad and offer guidance on the different aspects of practicing international law.

8. Consider becoming a dual-qualified attorney

With the globalization of the legal profession, becoming a dual-qualified attorney is critical for anyone looking for job opportunities abroad. Dual-qualified attorneys have the legal and regulatory right to practice law in multiple jurisdictions without issues, opening various career opportunities in the legal marketplace. This often allows for obtaining more and often higher transactions involving parties in different countries.

9. Learning business culture is paramount

Being an international lawyer means having to work with different business cultures, so it's important to be sensitive to other cultures and learn how to adapt to them. It can reduce cultural barriers between professionals, improve communication skills and improve the decision-making process. Having cultural sensitivity also allows people to lead with understanding and empathy, which promotes teamwork and connectivity.

10. Consider other lines of business

Not all legal jobs abroad are within a company or the practice of law. Some American lawyers abroad find jobs in the educational sector, such as working as a legal tutor, teacher or advisor, to have a successful career overseas that is not tied to any jurisdiction or ability to practice law. A career in the educational sector might appeal to attorneys because these careers may offer opportunities without the need for validation or certifications.

Related: 60 Alternative Jobs for Lawyers

11. Language skills are critical

While English is the predominant language of international business, it helps to have excellent language skills in this practice. Many attorneys will spend a significant amount of time editing and correcting the English in locally produced documents. Becoming conversationally fluent in another language is critical for building relationships at work with coworkers, clients and potential prospects. However, learning and becoming fluent in a second or third language may bolster career opportunities and enable you to work on legal matters in many settings.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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