• Hey Guest, we're giving away a free month of TCLA Premium at 4pm today! Simply share your top vacation scheme tip in this thread.

Qualifying from abroad to work in England and Wales

Sebasstianprzr

New Member
Jan 31, 2022
3
0
Hi everyone,

I'm Sebastián, Colombian qualified Lawyer since 2017. I am currently interested in doing an LLM in order to practice as a lawyer in England in the near future. As I hold a foreign law degree I would have to follow the SQE route to practice as a solicitor. I've checked LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2) from University of Law and Law and Legal Practice: SQE 1 Preparation Course - LLM from Nottingham Trent University.

The thing is that even if a complete one of those courses, I would need to complete two years of qualifying work experience (QWE) before to apply to be admitted as a solicitor. I know that getting work experience in England as a foreign lawyer is tough and I'm not sure if by holding one of the LLM that I mentioned, would have a good chance of getting a job as a paralegal once I finish the course.

Taking into account that I would be paying for the course myself, I just wondering if would be better pursuing an LLM General or in International Law from another university in order to apply for a paralegal position, get qualifying work experience, and then get sponsorship from a company to do SQE preparation courses and exams.

I know that I could do just a PGDL as an alternative in order to do the SQE courses but I'm interested in pursue an LLM because it could enhance my professional carrer in Colombia, which could help me in the future in case I want to return to my country, and that is why I am contemplating the idea of doing the courses I mentioned, which meet all these desires.

Could someone give me some advice on the type of course I should choose, according to my situation? I would appreciate it very much.

Thanks!!!
 

Jessica Booker

Legendary Member
Graduate Recruitment
Premium Member
Forum Team
Aug 1, 2019
9,229
13,769
D203A8A7-CD57-4E20-B9E5-6675BF193933.jpeg Hi everyone,

I'm Sebastián, Colombian qualified Lawyer since 2017. I am currently interested in doing an LLM in order to practice as a lawyer in England in the near future. As I hold a foreign law degree I would have to follow the SQE route to practice as a solicitor. I've checked LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2) from University of Law and Law and Legal Practice: SQE 1 Preparation Course - LLM from Nottingham Trent University.

The thing is that even if a complete one of those courses, I would need to complete two years of qualifying work experience (QWE) before to apply to be admitted as a solicitor. I know that getting work experience in England as a foreign lawyer is tough and I'm not sure if by holding one of the LLM that I mentioned, would have a good chance of getting a job as a paralegal once I finish the course.

Taking into account that I would be paying for the course myself, I just wondering if would be better pursuing an LLM General or in International Law from another university in order to apply for a paralegal position, get qualifying work experience, and then get sponsorship from a company to do SQE preparation courses and exams.

I know that I could do just a PGDL as an alternative in order to do the SQE courses but I'm interested in pursue an LLM because it could enhance my professional carrer in Colombia, which could help me in the future in case I want to return to my country, and that is why I am contemplating the idea of doing the courses I mentioned, which meet all these desires.

Could someone give me some advice on the type of course I should choose, according to my situation? I would appreciate it very much.

Thanks!!!
You actually don’t need to complete the qualifying work experience part as a qualified lawyer in another jurisdiction (see screenshot attached from the Law Society website).

The difficulty you will have is that you technically don’t need to do a training contract (where you generally get sponsored for the courses) because you don’t need to do the qualifying work experience. Qualified lawyers found it tough before the SQE because a TC was often awkward for them (had to wait 2-3 years to start a job, couldn’t be called a “trainee”, was a junior role many qualified lawyers would have felt was a significant step backwards etc), but at the same time they struggled to compete for qualified roles often due to their lack of comparable experience to U.K. trained/qualified lawyers.

The SQE doesn’t really resolve this.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the LLMs though - they don’t really hold much weight in the U.K. system unless you are applying to a specialist firm and your course aligns to that specialism (eg IP/Shipping law etc).

A full LLM course will give you the opportunity to stay in the U.K. on a post-graduate work visa for two years though, which could be vital if you did find appropriate employment in the U.K.
 
  • Love
Reactions: James Carrabino

anxiouslawyer

Distinguished Member
Junior Lawyer
Feb 26, 2021
65
77
You actually don’t need to complete the qualifying work experience part as a qualified lawyer in another jurisdiction (see screenshot attached from the Law Society website).

The difficulty you will have is that you technically don’t need to do a training contract (where you generally get sponsored for the courses) because you don’t need to do the qualifying work experience. Qualified lawyers found it tough before the SQE because a TC was often awkward for them (had to wait 2-3 years to start a job, couldn’t be called a “trainee”, was a junior role many qualified lawyers would have felt was a significant step backwards etc), but at the same time they struggled to compete for qualified roles often due to their lack of comparable experience to U.K. trained/qualified lawyers.

The SQE doesn’t really resolve this.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the LLMs though - they don’t really hold much weight in the U.K. system unless you are applying to a specialist firm and your course aligns to that specialism (eg IP/Shipping law etc).

A full LLM course will give you the opportunity to stay in the U.K. on a post-graduate work visa for two years though, which could be vital if you did find appropriate employment in the U.K.
Hi Jessica, hope it's alright if I pick up on this old thread as I have a friend who's in a similar position and wanted to ask for advice. She's Malaysian-qualified but has UK law degrees and completed the BPTC, spent a few years working as a lawyer in Malaysia, and has recently moved to the UK to be with her spouse. She's not sure if it's more appropriate to be applying for TCs or NQ positions. In her position, would firms be willing to take her on as a trainee? From the sounds of it an NQ position might be tricky since, as you say, she doesn't have equivalent UK legal experience.

Greatly appreciate any advice! :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: George Maxwell

Jessica Booker

Legendary Member
Graduate Recruitment
Premium Member
Forum Team
Aug 1, 2019
9,229
13,769
Hi Jessica, hope it's alright if I pick up on this old thread as I have a friend who's in a similar position and wanted to ask for advice. She's Malaysian-qualified but has UK law degrees and completed the BPTC, spent a few years working as a lawyer in Malaysia, and has recently moved to the UK to be with her spouse. She's not sure if it's more appropriate to be applying for TCs or NQ positions. In her position, would firms be willing to take her on as a trainee? From the sounds of it an NQ position might be tricky since, as you say, she doesn't have equivalent UK legal experience.

Greatly appreciate any advice! :)
She’s in a difficult position unfortunately.

Many firms will say a TC is not suitable for her given her level of experience, but an associate position will also be tricky.

This is a massive generalisation, but take three years qualified experience off her CV and if that takes her down to 0 or a minus figure, a TC might be appropriate. If it is a positive figure, then a qualified role might be ok but at that number of PQE years. However, she’ll need to sit and pass the SQE too.

The alternative is to try and find a firm that needs Malaysian qualified lawyers (that’s going to be exceptionally rare) and work for them.

It isn’t unknown for qualified lawyers from other jurisdictions to work as paralegals until they are qualified in the U.K.

She should probably try and speak to Malaysian lawyers who have made the move across and some recruitment agencies for their views.
 

anxiouslawyer

Distinguished Member
Junior Lawyer
Feb 26, 2021
65
77
She’s in a difficult position unfortunately.

Many firms will say a TC is not suitable for her given her level of experience, but an associate position will also be tricky.

This is a massive generalisation, but take three years qualified experience off her CV and if that takes her down to 0 or a minus figure, a TC might be appropriate. If it is a positive figure, then a qualified role might be ok but at that number of PQE years. However, she’ll need to sit and pass the SQE too.

The alternative is to try and find a firm that needs Malaysian qualified lawyers (that’s going to be exceptionally rare) and work for them.

It isn’t unknown for qualified lawyers from other jurisdictions to work as paralegals until they are qualified in the U.K.

She should probably try and speak to Malaysian lawyers who have made the move across and some recruitment agencies for their views.

Hi Jessica, thanks for this. Can I clarify what you mean by qualified lawyers from other jurisdictions working as paralegals? Do you mean they work as paralegals until they can find a qualified lawyer position?
 

Jessica Booker

Legendary Member
Graduate Recruitment
Premium Member
Forum Team
Aug 1, 2019
9,229
13,769
Hi Jessica, thanks for this. Can I clarify what you mean by qualified lawyers from other jurisdictions working as paralegals? Do you mean they work as paralegals until they can find a qualified lawyer position?
Yes - they can’t work as a qualified lawyer in the U.K. until they have passed the SQE, so they tend to be under a different job title, of which paralegal is one.

Large numbers of foreign qualified lawyers work in junior/admin roles in England and Wales where they don’t fit into the qualified job market as easily as English qualified lawyers. Those who manage to transfer at an appropriate level tend to be internal transfers or headhunted applicants.
 

kaff-my

New Member
Jun 12, 2022
2
1
Thanks @Jessica Booker , and thanks @anxiouslawyer for asking the question on my behalf!

To provide more context- I'm a junior dispute resolution lawyer with 3+ years PQE, currently working remotely (international arbitration) for a Singapore firm while living in the UK. I'm happy to self-fund the SQE to qualify as an English solicitor, but before making the investment, wonder if firms in London would be open to hire me for NQ positions when my QWE have been gained from other common law jurisdictions. I'd be happy to apply for and go through TCs if that makes me employable, but worry there will be time 'wasted' if I don't secure a TC in the next cycle.

I have to make this choice rather suddenly, but I am emailing legal recruitment agencies and firms to gauge interest and will make further enquiries at law fairs. If I'm self-funding, I would need to make a decision to take the SQE fairly soon, as I would take the SQE1 exams in January 2023 to qualify asap.

If chances of obtaining a NQ position in London in dispute resolution are slim to none, I would have to relocate to Singapore to continue my position as a qualified foreign lawyer there. Given that I don't quite know the market for English solicitors qualified abroad, I'm finding it difficult to make a decision. Any insights appreciated!
 

Jessica Booker

Legendary Member
Graduate Recruitment
Premium Member
Forum Team
Aug 1, 2019
9,229
13,769
Thanks @Jessica Booker , and thanks @anxiouslawyer for asking the question on my behalf!

To provide more context- I'm a junior dispute resolution lawyer with 3+ years PQE, currently working remotely (international arbitration) for a Singapore firm while living in the UK. I'm happy to self-fund the SQE to qualify as an English solicitor, but before making the investment, wonder if firms in London would be open to hire me for NQ positions when my QWE have been gained from other common law jurisdictions. I'd be happy to apply for and go through TCs if that makes me employable, but worry there will be time 'wasted' if I don't secure a TC in the next cycle.

I have to make this choice rather suddenly, but I am emailing legal recruitment agencies and firms to gauge interest and will make further enquiries at law fairs. If I'm self-funding, I would need to make a decision to take the SQE fairly soon, as I would take the SQE1 exams in January 2023 to qualify asap.

If chances of obtaining a NQ position in London in dispute resolution are slim to none, I would have to relocate to Singapore to continue my position as a qualified foreign lawyer there. Given that I don't quite know the market for English solicitors qualified abroad, I'm finding it difficult to make a decision. Any insights appreciated!
I would track down any Singaporeans working in a similar practice area and now working in the U.K. to ask them about their experiences. Recruitment agencies will be slow to come back and can often be vague with their feedback anyway. Finding out how people made the move is probably the best way of learning more.

Does the Singaporean firm have any connections to U.K. firms? Might also be worthwhile trying to network with lawyers from “best friend” firms too.
 

kaff-my

New Member
Jun 12, 2022
2
1
I would track down any Singaporeans working in a similar practice area and now working in the U.K. to ask them about their experiences. Recruitment agencies will be slow to come back and can often be vague with their feedback anyway. Finding out how people made the move is probably the best way of learning more.

Does the Singaporean firm have any connections to U.K. firms? Might also be worthwhile trying to network with lawyers from “best friend” firms too.
Thanks for the very good suggestions @Jessica Booker , looking at Linkedin has turned up some lawyers who first qualified in Singapore or Malaysia and who have transitioned! There also seems to be high-street firms founded by partners who first qualified in Singapore who may perceive foreign-qualified lawyers more favourably.

My current firm doesn't have a formal alliance with English firms, but I can ask if my Directors can leverage any goodwill they have with partners of English firms they are connected :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: AvniD

About Us

The Corporate Law Academy (TCLA) was founded in 2018 because we wanted to improve the legal journey. We wanted more transparency and better training. We wanted to form a community of aspiring lawyers who care about becoming the best version of themselves.

Newsletter

Discover the most relevant business news, access our law firm analysis, and receive our best advice for aspiring lawyers.