Overseas lawyer survey: the Aussies’ view

Australia flagIn 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 Australian respondents had to say…

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“The standards expected of Australian and NZ lawyers are higher than those expected of English lawyers. We have to worker harder, faster and better in order to be taken seriously. We start without any personal connections but Antipodeans who want to rise to the top, will generally outperform our English colleagues because we are required to do so.

“Unfortunately, there is still the view that most Antipodeans will return home. This can affect career progression, bonuses and so on where firms focus on ‘local’ candidates. Antipodeans also seem immune from the ‘class’ nonsense that seems to affect many of our English colleagues. No one knows our universities, schools or whether we have a “posh” accent. This gives us a great advantage.

“I’d say that Antipodeans are the perfect ‘outsider’ ‘insiders’. We completely get what is going on inside firms, without the baggage.”

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“There are many cultural differences between the English and the Australian that took some time to get my head around. I’ve always felt appreciated for my different outlook and more ‘frank’ approach at work.”

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Anti-immigrant sentiment and racism tends to make all foreigners feel uncomfortable in a place even if they are not primary targets. The Brexit debate and result has been highly divisive and regressive and made me feel less welcome here.

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“As an Australian lawyer who was working in the UK and subsequently had to leave following the results of the EU Referendum as my company immediately halted sponsorship just before my visa ended, I can only say how disappointed I am in the result. It has had an immediate consequence on my professional and personal future.

“I can only hope that business bounces back and visa restrictions for Commonwealth nations are relaxed so that I have the opportunity to return soon.”

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“Britain has really lost its appeal to a lot of people back in Australia that I know. The idea that you can no longer freely move throughout Europe and the low value of the pound makes the UK no longer attractive.”

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“My experience has generally very positive with good opportunities for growth and development.”

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“I have been working here for almost 20 years. I have been, for many of those years, a British citizen. Until recently I had never felt unwelcome in any way. In the past year or so, for the very first time, I have encountered some hostility. As a dual citizen of Australia and the UK I call both places home and its very sad that it seems now to some people at least, there is a perception that any ‘foreigner’ isn’t welcome. I have found the shift in attitude disturbing and unexpected, but it isn’t shared by many I meet, but a fairly reasonable minority.”

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“I have had mixed experiences – one firm at which I worked respected my experience and skill set from Australia. They had a long history of hiring Australians. My current firm does not have the same history, and the attitude is markedly different – I do not feel respected, and there is a much more hierarchical attitude, and lack of any career support, than what I have ever experienced previously.”

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“On the whole Aussie lawyers are well respected and have a reputation for working hard. The attitude of those who voted leave is that there should be fewer immigrants because of the strain it puts on the system but they don’t factor in the numbers of immigrants who make the system work because there are too few English people with the necessary work ethic or skills. The legal market in the UK and Australia seems slightly saturated at the moment and in a number of respects overpriced.”

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“It’s wonderful here. And I’m very pleased with Brexit.”

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“I’ve always felt an outsider to an extent while working in private practice. This has ranged from subtle exclusion to openly patronising attitudes and exclusion (e.g. being told I wouldn’t understand things because I was Australian, the assumption that I am not invested in my career because I’ll just head home one day, etc.). Brexit has not made this worse at work, but I have been subjected to some extraordinary abuse directed at the fact I’m not British in my every day life that has left me feeling unsettled.”

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“The typical English attitude of being ‘superior’ to Antipodean lawyers is both laughable and somewhat tired. Mild racism dressed up with a thin veneer of professional courtesy. Grow the fuck up.”

Next: The view from North American lawyers in the UK

My career story: “I spent five years in London but I moved back home to Australia”