Australia has traditionally been the favoured destination for UK and other common law qualified lawyers outside of their home jurisdiction. Sydney sits top of the list followed by Melbourne and then Perth and Brisbane. The international law firms were slow to enter this market but now a number of UK and US law firms have offices in the country, the majority having merged with leading Australian law firms between 2009 and 2013.
There is a plethora of practice areas in the commercial world but for lawyers coming in from outside of Australia, law firms will typically sponsor overseas lawyers who have experience in:
- Banking & finance
- Commercial dispute resolution
- Projects & construction
- Information technology
- Insolvency & restructuring
As of 2021 at a leading national or international firm a lawyer with the equivalent of 3 PQE (in UK terms) can now earn circa AU$150,000 and a 5PQE lawyer can now earn circa AU$180,000. With the British pound weaker than perhaps it was in the early 2000’s salaries appear much more attractive than they once were although cost of living is certainly comparable to London in certain parts these days. Salaries in Australia are often referred to as ‘packages’ because employers are by law required to make contributions to your superannuation fund (a type of pension savings fund), currently at the rate of 9.5% of your base salary.
Employment visas are required for all non-Australian citizens which will be obtained by the law firm that sponsors you. An English lawyer will usually need at least 1PQE to secure a permanent role. In Australia the qualification procedure differs to the UK and within each Australian state. As an example a 1PQE English lawyer may be regarded as 2-3 year lawyer in New South Wales.
Lawyers in the leading Australian firms work very hard and transactional work can mean that the hours are long. Lawyers tend to be less specialist than their peers in London and get a much broader spread of commercial work, which tends to be either domestic or Asia Pacific focused in nature. Australia is without doubt extremely popular for lawyers and is world famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, “the bush”, and “the Outback”. Australia is one of the world’s most highly urbanised countries; it is well known for the attractions of its large cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.