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Business is booming on the bonnie shores of Scotland

23 November 2015, Headlines | Comments disabled

My focus today is a market that is often overlooked by job-seeking Australians. That market is Scotland.

A stint in a UK firm is a rite of passage for many Australian lawyers. The bright lights of London present a career alternative that adds a depth to your CV that the Australian market cannot always offer as well as a lift to a young lawyer’s bank balance. Whether you are a funds lawyer wanting access to cutting-edge work or a competition lawyer seeking to be part of the ever changing EU landscape, practising law in London is a road well travelled.

In today’s market, it is even easier for some lawyers to make the transition to London. With the flurry of firm tie-ups and strategic partnerships it is not uncommon to hear of inter-firm transfers, global secondments and exchanges. BUT many lawyers don’t enjoy these connections or offer the stellar CVs generally required by London employers. Other lawyers are looking for something a little different, but don’t know where to start.

My focus today is a market that is often overlooked by job-seeking Australians. That market is Scotland.

Today if you mention Scotland to most Australians, an awkward smile emerges as they recall the controversial penalty awarded in the final minutes at Twickenham which lost Scotland their place in the Rugby World Cup finals. But beyond their sporting defeats lurks a very buoyant legal landscape.

Just a few months ago, the Law Society of Scotland launched their new strategy set to expand its services and address the changing market. Globalisation and the need to service clients internationally is not just a London-centric trend. The number of cross-border mergers in Scotland has increased including amongst specialist and full service law firms. Last month, Simpson & Marwick announced their merger with leading international firm, Clyde & Co. This trend is predicted to continue to reflect the global nature of legal practice and client demand. Furthermore, with an increase in alternative legal providers in the market place promising to be more innovative and cost effective than the traditional law firms, it is no wonder that firms are looking at mergers and other business strategies to maximise market share and revenue. One need only consider the impact that Tesco, Co-Op or the big four accounting firms have had in the legal market.

Where’s busy?

Litigation lawyers are busy in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Scottish firms are critically assessing their team models and are hiring more paralegals and document review lawyers to assist with this spike in activity. Lateral hires at the 2 to 4 years’ PQE level are also in demand with a number of leading firms actively considering Australian lawyers for their roles. What better way to experience working in Scotland than to assist with a piece of major litigation? Contract and permanent roles are available.

Property lawyers are also sought after to meet the demands of the residential and commercial property market. Like most of the UK, real estate transactions are at an all-time high in Scotland, creating opportunities for law firms and property lawyers alike. Market murmurs suggest that there will be an increase in alternative legal services providers down the track in Scotland which will challenge the private client and residential property teams in local law firms. Many parts of the UK have already been shaken up as a result of these alternative providers offering conveyancing (amongst other services) at a low cost, fixed fee. These too employ lawyers.

Scotland is also seen as a lower-cost option for magic and silver circle firms that establish a branch there to handle more process-driven work e.g. in litigation. Glasgow is emerging as the lead city in this respect (along with Dublin, another good alternative to London).

Let’s talk about money

There is not a great deal of parity between London and Scottish legal salaries. Unsurprisingly, London legal salaries are the highest in the UK so it is important that you do not make the move to Scotland with the preconception that you will be clearing the same salary as your friend at that silver circle firm in London.

 Candidates often find that once they have assessed housing, travel and other living costs in Scotland they will still be ‘quids in’. Do remember, that when scouring Scottish salary surveys to factor in that most firms will discount between 18 months’ and 2 years’ experience from your Australian PQE when placing you within their firm structure. A factor that is applicable to the majority of firms, UK wide.

Is it mandatory to re-qualify?

No. It is not mandatory for you to re-qualify in order to practise law in Scotland, however my advice depends on how long you intend on residing in Scotland (or in the UK for that matter).

If the move overseas is longer term, I would recommend looking into requalification, particularly if you aim to develop your practice and experience with a view to making partner. This will demonstrate your commitment to your move and the local jurisdiction.


If the thought of hot toddies on Hogmanay or ‘neeps and tatties’ after a long day in court are not enough to entice you into considering job opportunities in Scotland, do look into the many sporting and cultural delights that cities such as Edinburgh have to offer ( and pick up the phone to one of our experienced consultants to learn how we can assist you on your way to securing a great role in bonnie Scotland. 

Vanessa McKay

Consultant (VIC)


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