Overseas lawyer survey: the Americans’ view

Stars and stripes, United States of AmericaIn 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 respondents from the USA and Canada had to say…

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“I am consistently amazed at the lack of actual legal education and technical understanding that solicitors have. They are essentially glorified project managers who dabble with law. Given their total lack of a legal degree, it is astounding that the UK firms try to dock US lawyers for not having done a traineeship.”

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“A big part of the UK’s draw for me when deciding to move here to study was its membership in the EU and so I am quite sad that it will be leaving. The constant stream of anti-immigration sentiment is very frustrating and annoying, as I and many other immigrants have done nothing but contribute to this country.

“Since the vote, I am definitely more likely to consider moving elsewhere, perhaps Ireland, but I am UK qualified so it would entail some further study to do so. I would consider going back to the US but the Trump presidency has soured that idea!”

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“As a British passport holder from birth (albeit with a Canadian accent) the number and regularity of ignorant and rude comments I have received over the last 20 years is unbelievably disappointing. They have increased marginally since Brexit. Sad.”

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“Despite my litigation experience in Canada, if you haven’t gone to school at Oxford or Cambridge firms seem to believe you are incapable of tying your own shoes and won’t return requests for friendly chats about their firm.”

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“I came to work here because the market at home was a lot less open and more inward focused. I fear that the decision to leave the EU is very much at odds with a now bizarrely stated desire to be ‘global’. I hope that this does not impact on my career here going forward, but more than this I hope it does not impact my life in what I had thought to be an open and forward thinking nation. If it does, it may be that I need to consider other opportunities elsewhere.”

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“I have always worked for international law firms and financial institutions so have not been treated differently at work as a foreign lawyer; outside work, however, I have been treated differently as a foreigner…more precisely as an American colonial.”

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“We are viewed as rather transient and it’s harder to secure work at the same level as back home. It is harder for us than for EU lawyers.”

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“I have noticed a fair amount of antipathy towards Americans in the workplace, even prior to the election of Trump. It is not uncommon for associates or even partners at my law firm to speak in a derogatory way towards their American counterparts, which (although I have lived in the UK for 5+ years) makes me feel uncomfortable at times.”

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“When I started in 2007, I was on a five-year work permit, and my right to remain in the UK was tied to my employment at my particular firm, which was a very constraining feeling.”

“There was always an anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK, but I think (at least at my firm) the Aussies and the Kiwis felt it more strongly, as when there was a cull (or a ‘managing out’, as one partner put it), they were the ones to be let go (their visas not renewed), rather than the Americans. But for the five years of my work permit, there was always a nervousness around losing my visa or its terms changing, and even still when I obtained indefinite leave to remain in 2012.”

“It wasn’t until obtaining British citizenship in early 2014 that I felt truly safe over here. I voted against Brexit, even if ideologically / in the long term it might, as an American, seem more sensible to me, because the uncertainties and risks seemed to outweigh the potential benefits. I think we need to go through with it now, though.”

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“I was starting to seriously consider leaving after Brexit, but then Trump got elected.”

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“There are a lot of bigots in the UK and it only has gotten worse since Brexit.”

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“The legal market is much less open to outsiders than it appears. The problem is not so much Brexit, but (1) UK employers are unfamiliar with the QLTS [which is how many of us qualify] and (2) the agents are the ‘cultural’ gatekeepers, deciphering whether you are worthy or not for a good position.”