Archive for January, 2007

Ask Janet: Is UK or US law Degree Best for Practicing in UK

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

Question from European Father:  My son, a US citizen, is completing his undergraduate education in the UK and eventually wants to practice law there.  What are the pros and cons of his attending law school in the US and then practicing in the UK?

Janet: Which educational path your son chooses really depends on his long-term goals.   For example, where does he want to be based in the long-term?    What kind of law does he want to practice? If he knows that he wants to be based in the UK, then a UK law school seems the easiest and most logical choice.  It’s very helpful to have close connections with law school peers down the road for networking purposes, and so having a lot of peers based in the UK would be helpful.  Further, he would have the requisite education to take the bar exam, become licensed and practice law fully in the UK if he attends law school there.  Note, however, that many (but not all) lawyers in the UK take law as their undergraduate course of study,

This wouldn’t preclude him from practicing in the US down the road, but he would (at least under the current laws) either have to work in the US just as a foreign visiting lawyer (because he wouldn’t be licensed to practice US law), or become qualified to practice law in the US (such as by obtaining a LLM degree from a US law school, for example, and taking a bar exam in the state in which he wanted to practice.)  Many states, like the State of New York, have more lenient rules for foreign lawyers trained in the common law who want to become qualified in New York.Your son’s area of interest might also dictate his choice of school.  Certain areas of the law are more developed in the US (such as personal injury law) than in the UK, and so this might influence his choice.  Conversely, there are other areas of the law for which he would be better served to have a UK law degree, such as if he wanted to focus on laws of the European Community. 

Certain law schools are also known for excelling in certain kinds of law, and so he might opt for a school with a good program in his chosen specialty. 

If he obtains a US law degree but returns to the UK to practice, he will be licensed to practice in the US, not the UK.  Certain law firms and corporations with offices in the UK do hire US trained lawyers, especially to handle sophisticated corporate and securities transactions, it seems.  In fact, most of the major US firms have branch offices there.  However, these positions are much sought after and quite competitive to get. If he has a US law degree, your son could also take the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (assuming he meets the prerequisites), or get additional legal training in the UK and take any applicable UK exams so as to qualify him to practice in the UK.   More information for attorneys wanting to qualify to practice in the UK can be found at: If it is too soon for him to answer these questions, he might apply to a variety of schools in both jurisdictions and then pick the best school that accepts him and appeals to him.  


Ask Janet: German Lawyer Coming to US Seeks to Take Bar Exam

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Question from Sandra: I am an accredited lawyer in Germany and have been practicing law for 3 years.  I am currently working in an international law firm practicing real estate law with American and English clients. My boyfriend, an American citizen, and I are moving to the United States.  I am interested in understanding the requirements for becoming a U.S. Lawyer. 

Janet:  To practice law in the US you will need to become licensed (by taking the bar exam) in the state in which you plan to practice.  There are two parts to a US bar exam—first, the multistate (which has questions taken by all lawyers across the US), and second, the specific state law questions posed by the particular state in which you are sitting for the exam.   In order to qualify to take a bar exam, however, you will need to see who is permitted to take the exam under the laws of the particular state in which you plan to practice (and take the exam).  Here is a  link to a list prepared by the American Bar Association (“ABA”) with such state by state requirements.  As you can see from the list, the requirements are more stringent in some states than in others.  You should double check the rules of the state in which you wish to practice against the summary in this ABA form to ensure that the summary information is up to date; each state should post its own rules on its website.  As the ABA summary indicates, you would need to get additional education (such as an LLM) from an ABA-accredited law school to sit for the bar in some states. Because New York is a popular jurisdiction for foreign lawyers, here is a link to the relevant rules of the NY bar:  As you can see, New York lets lawyers trained in the common law qualify to take the bar exam more easily.  

I am not sure whether you have a US job already waiting, or whether you also will need to look for a job in the US.  If you need a new job in the US practicing law, you will need to be licensed to practice law here first, as discussed above.  However, if you want to work before becoming licensed to practice US law, you can try to get a job as a foreign visiting attorney or similar role in the United States.  Realistically, getting such a job with a law firm is quite competitive. (In addition, under any scenario, you will have to tackle work permit and visa issues.) However, if you have some connections at US law firms, such as through your current firm or a German firm with offices here, this might aid you.  In addition, you might consider employment with corporations, especially those that do a lot of business with Germany or Europe in general.   Good luck!  

Are You a Lawyer Wanting Career Change? Contact Long Lost Law School Peers

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Maybe it’s because it’s the start of a new year, or maybe it’s because lawyers are increasingly seeking balanced lives, but career change for lawyers seems to be in the air…  In fact, as a lawyer coach, I’ve had a real surge in new clients wanting career change coaching. 

And so, here’s a tip to help you with your career search:  look outside–far outside–your close circle of friends and family for job leads.  Odds are that you already know about most of the job opportunities that your close circle would suggest.  In contrast, acquaintances outside your tight circle–like long lost law school classmates–are more likely to know about different career opportunities.

 Research supports this.  In works like The Strength of Weak Ties,  The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revisited, and Getting a Job:  A Study of Contacts and Careers, sociologist Professor Mark Granovetter proves the importance during a job search of networking with our “weak ties”, i.e. individuals to whom you are loosely tied–not closely connected.

So, expand your social circle.  Contact old acquaintances and classmates and tell them about your job search.  Ask people in your close circle to introduce you to their “weak ties.”  Broadening your network is one key to finding a job that you lov



Are Creative International Lawyers More Ambivalent?

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

I have a theory:  talented international lawyers rise above the rest of the pack–in part because they have superior creative thinking skills.  During my years as an international lawyer, I observed that the best and the brightest of my peers not only had fantastic analytic skills, but also a talent for creative thinking.  (Now as an international lawyer coach, I’m gathering data substantiating my theory.)

And so, I was fascinated to read Professor Christina Ting Fong’s theory that people who experience ambivalent emotions–simultaneously feeling positive and negative ones–enjoy a higher level of creativity.  In other words, as reported by the University of Washington (where Fong works), “[e]motionally ambivalent workers are more creative [and] innovative.”  According to Fong’s study, which was originally published by the American Management Association’s October edition of the Academy of Management Journal, when people feel the stress of mixed emotions, they think more creatively.

Fong suggests that an “odd” working environment can spur on creative thinking: “emotional ambivalence can have positive consequences that can be leveraged for positive success.”  Fong cautions that an unusual or out of the ordinary working environment must be temporary; once workers perceive it as the norm, it loses its power as a creative stimulus. 

So, how does this translate to international lawyers?  Could it be that working while stationed in a foreign culture creates the very ambivalence that Fong references?  Not that most international lawyers don’t relish being foreign cultures, because they usually do.  However, the foreign culture usually differs from the lawyer’s home culture, at least enough to create a less than normal work environment–and, according to Fong’s theory, stimulate creative thought.

Perhaps this phenomenon extends to an international lawyer eternally-changing home office. Today’s advanced technology ensures that an international lawyer can be “virtually” in Moscow one moment and “virtually” in Doha the next.   The sheer variety of the topics tackled and clients served can also transform the aura of an attorney’s workplace. According to Professor Fong’s theory, this changing environment would keep an international lawyer just enough on edge to spawn creativity.

Expat Blogs and Websites Provide Invaluable Information and Support for Families

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

Families of international lawyers stationed abroad often struggle with expat life.  Thanks to the internet, there are hundreds of expat blogs and websites providing easily accessible information, empathy, advice etc…

Whether you want to peruse a directory of expat blogs, look for resources specifically designed for expat women, or find expat transition help for your entire family,  the information is out there on the web.