Finding a firm to take you on without a solid background in their local legal system is sometimes difficult. Given these limitations, young lawyers looking to relocate abroad in order to get legal jobs will have to focus on building capacity first and making the right choices. Some of the steps to take include, but are not limited to the following:
1. Sector choice and awareness – Choosing the sector where there is high interest and the skills are transferable would go a long way in setting you up for employment in a top-tier foreign firm. Once you have made your choice, stay abreast of developments within the sector, deepen your skillset and strategize your move accordingly.
2. Gain experience in international and cross-border transactions – The presence of divergent legal systems, complex bureaucratic regimes, cultural differences, political volatility and other risks make experiences in cross-border transactions key to finding legal roles abroad. Some of the lawyers who have been hired by these firms attributed their exposure and success to the experiences gained in cross-border transactions while in Nigerian firms.
3. Become proficient in foreign languages – Considering the increasing globalization of the world’s economy and the globalization of the legal industry, language skills are an advantage. Given the catalyst for the current trend, French is a primary choice, as most countries in Africa speak French and/or English.
4. Getting a J.D/LL.M – The purpose of a J.D is to prepare someone to practice law and it takes three years to complete, while the mission of an LL.M is to provide advanced training. Most lawyers who have successfully transitioned to international firms have a post-graduate degree. This may also be an asset for lawyers who are looking for certain high-level in-house jobs since some international hiring managers prefer lawyers with an LL.M.
5. Use of Professional tools, such as LinkedIn – Many international firms have moved to standardized online applications, and it is more common than ever to see a LinkedIn section near the resume upload tool, where you can upload your LinkedIn profile right next to your CV. If it is well crafted, this is a huge advantage since potential hiring managers will not only be viewing your resume but your LinkedIn profile as well.
6. Soft Skills – Whether a lawyer is in private practice or in-house, it is essential to communicate effectively with internal and external colleagues and clients. This can include breaking down technical legal issues into understandable language or interacting with a range of experienced professionals. Lawyers will almost always be required to work within a team however large or small. This covers other fee earners as well as support staff such as secretaries, office assistants and other paralegal staff. Remaining flexible in a range of situations increase your skillset and can help you to create a positive profile amongst internal and external clients and personnel.
The world as a global village comes with a lot of unprecedented opportunities. Therefore, lawyers, especially young lawyers just mapping out their career paths are encouraged to think of the legal market globally. The obstacles that we think exist are disappearing, and/or can be negotiated if you have the right value proposition.