"New York for Australian and Canadian lawyers"

Feb 5, 2016  

2016 is a good year for Australian and Canadian lawyers to work in New York.
I have just spent a few days in New York with our key clients (mostly premier law firms) and got some good insights into why:

* The US economy is doing well and the need for hiring is becoming greater. This is at a time when the resources based economies in Australia and Canada are not performing as well. NY partners believe that for career focussed lawyers they offer bigger  and better work and deals flow than these lawyers could get at home.

* Hiring partners in NY are now surprisingly often sceptical about lawyers moving from one top tier firm in NY to another. There is a preconceived idea that people could be underperforming at their current NY firm and are being managed out. They get why lawyers would move from Australia or Canada to this world leading centre. It's a big step up in terms of scale, and lawyers can't move with their own firm.

* New Yorkers understand money and with both the Australian and Canadian dollar being suddenly ( within the last couple of years) a lot weaker against the US$, it makes even more financial sense why Australians and Canadians would want to go and work in New York, where salaries start at US$160,000.

* Hiring partners, particularly in transactional groups are more inclined to hire a lawyer with a top tier firm background and strong academic record from Australia or Canada than they would a lawyer with a less stellar academic record in the US or from a lower tier firm in the US.

* There's also the visa situation that comes into play. Australian and Canadian nationals have special visa rights for the US and can gain entry via E3 and TN visas respectively. This means that if you hold a passport from Australia or Canada you are automatically a preferred candidate for NY. Only US lawyers stand between you and the dream job. Although they would love to hire UK nationals with London firm experience, they can't because of immigration restrictions. This might change so Australian and Canadians should get in quick before Londoners become your major competition for prize jobs.

* The NY Bar is getting easier; or so it's reported. From July the format of the exam is changing. This is great news as nearly all firms are obsessed with you sitting for the Bar at the earliest opportunity, if you don't have it already. It will help to get your academic qualifications assessed and have ticked the box confirming eligibility to sit the Bar before you make applications to NY firms. It gives firms a lot of comfort. It also shows you are serious as a candidate for NY.  Registration for the July Bar exam must be done by April.

* Is now a good time to make applications to firms? Yes! Bonuses have been announced and for a most firms either have been paid or will be paid imminently. This is when the firms have resignations and need to replace people. It's hiring season !!

* One of the senior hiring partners from a firm which has a strong record of taking Australian and Canadian lawyers was talking to me about the lawyers we had placed with the firm in the last boom period (circa 2007) who had returned home, and was proud to say that they had all returned to really prestigious jobs :both  in house and in private practice.

* The biggest demand in NY firms seems to be mid level lawyers who will join firms as 3rd - 7th years. NY firms will look at more senior lawyers who are happy to come in at that level.  For most lawyers taking a haircut in class year doesn't mean a pay cut. It's mostly still an increase in their current remuneration package particularly when bonuses are taken into consideration and with exchange rates playing a part to boot.

* Transactional lawyers are still the lawyers who are most likely to be successful in making a move to NY. M&A and Private Equity teams are all very busy. We know we can place specialist and generalist banking & finance lawyers. We now also have clients who will consider strong Australian and Canadian lawyers in Funds, Real Estate (including Real Estate Finance), Litigation (particularly white collar crime), Tech Transactions and Tax.

Top NY firms want to know that they are recruiting the best. The operate at the top of the US market and they pay extremely well for the privilege of knowing they are buying the best people. They are comforted by the fact that you were a top performing student at a top law school and now you're working with one of the best firms in your market.  If you fall into this very narrow range of lawyers, we would like to talk to you about your career in New York.

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