In 2021/22, Australia experienced the largest exodus of lawyers to the UK and US. You may even know someone in your network that has made the move and is raving about how easy it all seemed. However, all good things must come to an end and currently, the outlook for international relocation is looking less than positive.

What is the market like right now?


  • – Everyone is concerned about a global recession. Most commentators predict Australia will experience a lower impact than other jurisdictions.

  • – The US and UK are considerably concerned. A quote from a leading UK paper: “The UK has slumped into recession once more….. Days before the Chancellor’s budget on Thursday, the government has an energy crisis, rising poverty and strikes to handle – and it could get worse”.

Political instability

  • – The UK has recently experienced one of its most unstable periods ever. The new PM has been in his role for less than a month with the previous PM lasting 45 days (less than the lifespan of the famous iceberg lettuce).

  • – An interim budget delivered by the previous PM resulted in the pound hitting an all-time low against the US dollar.

Legal market hiring

  • – The UK and US hired en masse in 2021/22. Most teams were well-resourced by April 2022, so demands have been slowing.

  • – Law firms don’t tend to be impacted too significantly during downturns – “everyone needs a lawyer”, right?

  • – However, London firms have taken a defensive approach in response to the instability. Several US law firm clients have confirmed a pause on hiring and other firms have reduced to only critical hires. Very few firms are making expansion hires.

When is best to move abroad?

  • Most UK law firms will equalise the experience of Australian lawyers – this is the term that refers to the well-known two-year reduction of your PQE.

    • – As a result, the ideal time you want to make a move is when you are around 4PQE. This ensures you have a good technical foundation when you make the transition.

  • Do not make a desperate move.
    • – For a domestic move, you would assess the various firms and determine which teams best align with your preferences (workflows, progression, culture, salary etc.) You would meet with several firms, gather information on all the teams and finally, decide on where to move.

    • – International moves must be viewed in the same way – we hear horror stories of lawyers that just take the role at the one firm looking to hire at the time – many seriously struggle and are often unhappy.

  • It’s a BIG life change.
    • – You will have to adjust to a new environment (snow!), establish a new social circle, figure out where to live (Shoreditch seems cool but all the Aussies seem to be in Clapham!?), adapt to the challenging demands of UK firms etc.

    • – You need to make a thought-through decision on the firm you join to ensure at least your professional life has some stability.

What does this all mean?

  • – Unless you are desperate to leave Australia, our advice is to sit tight.

  • – Make the move when the time is right when the market is buoyant and you have options.

  • – There are still areas deemed to be critical:

    • + If you are a PE/corporate lawyer, finance lawyer or restructuring lawyer with more than two years’ Australian PQE then a relocation now could still be an option.

What can I do in the meantime?

  • Build your CV
    • – Make sure your CV is developing. Be critical about your skills – if you are becoming a niche lawyer, is this niche attractive to the London market?

  • Continually self-asses
    • – Are you just coasting in your role? Do you feel you are being challenged and seeing progression?

  • Work hard!
    • – We often meet with Australian lawyers interested in relocating but billing on average 5-6 hours a day.

    • – Most UK law firms that will consider sponsoring will expect you to consistently bill 8+ hours a day, with Magic Circle and Premium US lawyers as much as 10-14 hours a day. Every day.

    • – It’s easy to say you’ll do the work when required – but it’s a skill! Are you able to draft that clause and deliver quality work at 2am? Getting used to working under these pressures now will make your life a lot easier when you are on the ground.

  • Firm brand
    • – Every role in London is over-subscribed with applicants from other UK firms, US firms, Aussies, South Africans, UK returners etc.

– A key factor that all Partners will look at is your current firm. Is it a recognisable brand in the UK market? There’s a hierarchy in law firms. The higher up your firm brand is, the more options you will have when London does come calling.