Overseas lawyer survey: the Europeans’ view

In our survey of lawyers who have come to work in the UK from abroad, we left a free text box to let them give their thoughts on life as a foreign lawyer in Britain.

Here’s a selection of what the European respondents had to say…

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french flag, franceThe French

“Lawyers, in any jurisdiction, generally have the privilege of working among highly educated and trained peers or professionals, such that it is rare to personally feel the heat of Brexiters’ wrath and ignorant arrogance. However personally it has affected my perception of the country I live in, and despite having called this land ‘home’ for many years, the result of this referendum was a brutal and sobering reminder that in the end, this is foreign soil.”

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“Good experience but clients do not seem that attracted by the UK anymore – I should have stayed in Switzerland”

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“I originally studied here, got a qualifying law degree, then went away for 2/3 years and came back to work. I am also from one EU country but grew up in another (to which I am looking to go back to soon). Being foreign qualified I intend to get the solicitor’s qualification then leave as I am not optimistic about long term prospects in the UK, both from a status/immigration standpoint and from a business point of view. I also stopped looking at buying a flat in London because of Brexit.

“I am saddened by this political choice which I see as costly, nonsensical and going against all the values I thought the UK stood for, and it casts a negative shadow over my personal future here.”

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“I have had opportunities a British lawyer would probably not have had in France. I have found British people and the profession very welcoming. I would probably not have had the same opportunities without the EU and fear that if I were 20 years younger, I would probably find it much more difficult and expensive to study here and my chances of working here would probably be smaller.”

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“Working in a different cultural setting has been a very positive experience so far. I share knowledge and learn everyday.”

The Germans

germany flag“The education system in Germany is a lot better than in the UK. I can see that the level of legal education as a NQ is often not very good compared to German standards. Nevertheless I am glad that I was able to relocate to the UK thanks to the EU.”

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“Proceed with whatever the agenda is. We foreign lawyers in the UK will cope and prosper elsewhere. Nationalists movements are en vogue but they will fail in the long run, and soon many British lawyers will wish their foreign colleagues back.”

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“It’s a real shame that the result of the Brexit vote and the government’s stance on immigration since has dissuaded so many in my position to leave. I have carried out five years of studies in the UK (LLB, LLM and LPC) plus my training contract and nearly seven years of post-qualification work in city law firms. Yet all the government seems to focus on is cutting immigration.

“I am sure there are British lawyers capable of doing my job, but where is the recognition about the contribution I have made through taxes and pro bono work?”

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“I stayed longer than expected in the UK because I found it such a welcoming place. The rhetoric of pro-Brexit politicians has disturbed that view greatly.”

Elsewhere in Europe

Map, Europe, hearts, flags, european countries.“I originally moved to the UK to study and fell in love with the legal system. I have been here ever since and absolutely love working here. I am a little sad about Brexit and not sure whether it would mean that my family and I will have to consider leaving London.” [Italian]

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“My experience had been good until last year, but the EU referendum destroyed my faith in the UK. I was disappointed to hear about colleagues and friends voting Leave, without a single thought spared for EU nationals whose lives may be blown to smithereens in the next couple of years. This country’s willingness to sacrifice its economy and geopolitical alliances on the altar of reduced immigration is frankly ridiculous, and makes me doubt whether I want to live here at all in the long term.” [Belgian]

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The legal community has historically treated foreign lawyers with caution – as something “exotic”. This has a significant impact on the competition for jobs and career development as a whole. A foreign lawyer has to be twice as good as the UK-born one to be selected for the same job/promotion [Ukranian]

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“The partners where I work always joke about me being foreign in an old British Empire kind of way, war jokes etc. Disguised as banter, but pretty tiresome.” [Austrian]

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Brits are arrogant. Especially the remain crowd is ethnocentric and narrow minded – hiding behind pseudo liberal Lucien drivel [Dutch]

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“Until the Friday after Brexit vote, I never felt unwelcome in this country. That Friday morning I felt as if I woke up in a different country to that I fell asleep in. I felt frustrated not because of the outcome per se, but because the outcome was influenced by a mass campaign based on ‘alternative facts’ (to use a recent Trumpism) or, more directly, blatant lies, which were left unchallenged. Unlike the US elections, Brexit is forever – there is no (easy) way back. A sad day for democracy…” [Polish]

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“London is (and will remain) the best city to work as a lawyer in Europe (interesting and challenging work, best traditions of the legal profession, English as the sole working language etc.) [Hungarian]

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“I am lucky because from my accent (as well as appearance) most people can’t tell that I’m not British and are very surprised to find out that I do not have a British passport – so my experience might have been different (worse) if I had a strong accent.

“While I may not necessarily go back home to Estonia straight away that is not to say that I would definitely stay in London because I am considering relocating somewhere else in Europe first.”[Estonian]

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And from the rest of the world…

world“I know London is a bubble, but I am happy in that bubble. We certainly feel less welcome in the UK (outside of London) – we now travel to Europe more often (and arrange for family meet ups in Europe rather than the UK). It is a shame as we love the English countryside but we are where we are. We duly pay our taxes and claim no benefits but see ourselves as being blamed for all of UK’s ills including by the Prime Minister.

“It is really unfortunate but the level of xenophobia displayed in the English media and political climate is shocking by any standards. It almost feels like that I am living in Men Against Fire (Black Mirror, episode 5, series 3). Quite sad, really.” [Indian]

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“It’s a white man’s club. Little different from apartheid or the British raj. Full of arrogant, shallow half-wits wearing a tie and spouting nonsense.” [Indian]

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“I have never been judged other than, in order, by (a) my legal skills (b) my ability to get on with others and (c) my ability to attract work. This demonstrates the high quality of professionalism in the English legal environment. Long may it continue.” [Singaporean]

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“I don’t feel like a foreign lawyer, and I love working here.” [Singaporean]

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“I work in the City and have felt that most of the City has zero sense of how the rest of the country feels or thinks about its relationship with Europe. It also seems like the City does not really have any interest in the rest of the country at all.

“I have also been surprised by how little the average lawyer in the City seems to have engaged with the constitutional issues underlying the judicial review. I have sometimes felt that even British lawyers are not actually that interested in their own constitution, or with the details of the EU system. Some of the things I have heard City lawyers say about the legal challenge are just as baffling to me as the Daily Mail headlines.

“Other than that, and notwithstanding Brexit, London is at the heart of the legal world and I don’t think that will change with Brexit. I have never regretted coming here.” [Singaporean]