Taking the legal challenge abroad
MICHAEL GILL, COMMERCIAL LAWYER AT THIESS PTY, BRISBANE
Michael Gill, a commercial lawyer with Thiess Pty in Brisbane, thinks the opportunities for Irish law graduates in Australia are “fantastic, both in terms of financial gain and exposure to different working practices and cultures”.
Gill moved to Australia in December 2011 following a two-year stint with Dublin law firm Hussey Fraser. He currently works with the legal and contract services team at Thiess, one of Australia’s leading mining, construction and services contractors.
He got the job with Thiess through a contact he met while working as a trainee solicitor with law firm Arthur Cox, and stresses the importance of contacts (and luck) when finding work abroad. “I met a contact from Arthur Cox who is now the general counsel of Thiess. He needed assistance with a large international arbitration and offered me a short-term contract which was made permanent a few months back.”
While he does not think it is difficult for Irish law graduates to get work in Australia, he says a lot of recruiters are unwilling to talk to Irish qualified lawyers who have not yet been admitted in Australia despite the fact that it is common practice for the mid-top tier firms to hire Irish solicitors. While he does think recently qualified solicitors should consider working outside Ireland, “it is always preferable to head abroad with some professional experience behind you before entering the ‘unknown’,”he says.
CIARA GAFFNEY, LAWYER IN HENRY DAVID YORK, SYDNEY
Taking conversion exams to qualify as a lawyer in the country you are moving to increases your job prospects as it shows employers that you are in for the long haul, according to Sydney-based lawyer Ciara Gaffney.
The UCC law graduate and Irish qualified solicitor moved to Australia in December 2008 to experience living and working abroad. She spent a couple of years working as a corporate lawyer in Sydney-based law firm Gilbert + Tobin before moving to Henry Davis York.
“You can practise as a foreign qualified lawyer in Australia if you have qualified in Ireland. Australia is also a common law jurisdiction, and the process for obtaining a visa is relatively straightforward. If you sit the conversion exams to qualify as a lawyer in Australia though, it shows employers you are committed to staying in Australia,” she says.
Experience is important but even if you have not gained post-qualification experience in Ireland, there are still opportunities in Australia, according to Gaffney. “When arriving in Sydney, Irish lawyers can contact firms directly, contact recruitment agents and make contacts in the legal industry.”
She advises young Irish solicitors thinking of emigrating to Australia to get their foot in the door of an Australian firm, before applying for lawyer positions.
“I know people who have started working in Sydney law firms as paralegals initially, to gain local Australian legal experience and get to know people in the industry, and who have then been hired as lawyers by these firms.”