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Guide to Legal Employment in the UK

Find your ideal Legal position by applying for jobs and registering with agencies before you plan to travel.

Prepare for the experience of a lifetime by reading this page and visiting our essential tips section.

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Traditionally Legal and Compliance contract positions are traditionally filled by a huge number of Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans and Canadians. Working in the British legal sector is an excellent way to gain experience within your industry within a different cultural setting. Many positions are within large firms so there are also many opportunities to broaden your horizons whilst travelling and being part of the amazing British social scene.

During globally tougher economic times, the legal employment market is not always as buoyant as it can be, however experienced legal secretaries, clerks, paralegals and solicitors can nearly always find great opportunities. Be sure to apply to suitable jobs and register with suitable agencies if you have plans to go to the UK.

"...everything is going great I accepted a position in London … I feel like I got a head start on other job hunters." James C.

Travelling to the UK and interested in a working in the Legal profession? Register now.

Legal Jobs

All about Legal jobs for overseas candidates!

Can I secure a position prior to leaving Australia/ New Zealand/ South Africa/ Canada?

For both professional and legal support positions it is uncommon for travellers to secure a job prior to arriving. This is because employers wish to meet you face to face ideally for an interview before taking on the associated risks of starting a new employee. However, there is much you can do pre-departure to make the employment process faster and less stressful upon arrival! It is WORKgateways’ goal to establish links for traveller’s like you pre-departure that make the recruitment and general transition process more effective and enjoyable. Register to enjoy the benefits and see About Workgateways and FAQ's

What types of Legal jobs are available?

Legal Jobs are available in both professional and legal support capacity.

Legal Support Jobs include: Secretarial, Administration, Law Clerks, Legal Researchers, Practice Managers, Office Managers, Legal Accounts personnel and Legal receptionists. Legal Support people are placed in top law firms of all sizes and specialties as well as in corporate organisations.

Professional Legal Jobs in the UK include: Locum Solicitors, Solicitors, Qualified Lawyers, Paralegals, Junior Lawyers, Legal Researchers, and Research Assistants. Law Professionals are placed in the major law firms and corporate organisations as well as the medium sized, boutique and niche practices.

Where are the Legal jobs in Britain?

In the city area there has historically been a great demand for contractors in job opportunities surrounding the banking and finance, and commerce industries. At present there is demand (albeit at a slower rate than recent years) for travellers and particularly for experienced legal personnel with solid backgrounds in their chosen field.

Outside of London, there are also opportunities particularly in other national and regional centres such as Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and Edinburgh. Travellers are turning to these areas in greater numbers for a glimpse of the “real England”. These centres have been somewhat insulated from the London or ‘City’ slowdown and the British economy in general continues to expand. Register now for legal jobs.

Did you know… A "Magic Circle Firm" is the term used for the top 5 International law firms.

What is the difference between Temporary, Contract and Permanent legal opportunites?

The temporary or contract job market is the quickest and most common way for travellers to find work. The temporary and contract job market can also be a great way to eventually secure a permanent position and many travellers are offered this prospect.

Especially for legal support roles like secretaries, there is a trend for Legal firms to offer a three, six or twelve month contract rather then a temporary job. The difference is that temporary jobs are even shorter in duration, which can suit a traveller’s schedule well. On the other hand, growing numbers of fixed contract employees can enjoy better working conditions like holiday pay and sickness benefits.

Contract legal jobs are paid on pro-rata salary basis, so the salary tends to look like a permanent salary when you see a job advertised.

About 30% of all lawyers are in fixed contract positions, with a high proportion of those from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada.

Of course there are also excellent permanent job opportunities in legal work. Keep in mind that your ability to consider a permanent employment option is often determined by your UK visa, and of course how itchy your travelling feet are.

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How much will I earn / salary / wages in a legal job?

Examples of jobs and contract rate ranges for Legal Support jobs in London:

Position Contract Rate Range - pro rata
Legal Secretary
£14000 - £27000
Legal Secretary
£17000 - £33000
Legal Receptionist / Admin
£13000 - £23000
Legal Researcher
£17000 - £20000
Trainees - Year 1
£20000 - £22000
Trainees - Year 2
£16000 - £28000
£21000 – £29000

These rates are shown as pro rata contract rates (pounds Sterling per year) and cover a wide range of job possibilities. Working out what you would earn is a combination of factors including your experience, specialised knowledge and technical ability. For example if you are a legal secretary with one to two years solid experience and a competent use of software including PowerPoint and Excel along with 70-75 wpm you would probably earn in the mid range of the above table; about £25000/year on contract or £13/hour for a temporary position.

As with all positions outside of London you can expect to earn less then your London based counterparts however this is balanced by the reduced cost of living .

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Examples of jobs and associated pay ranges for Professional Legal jobs in London:

Position Contract Rate Range
Lawyer (1st year)
£14 – £17
Lawyer (5 yrs experience)
£25 - £30
Lawyer (10 yrs experience)
£40 - £50
Salary Range
Lawyer (1st year)
£30000 – £50000
Lawyer (5 yrs experience)
£45000 - £80000
Lawyer (10 yrs experience)
£85000 - £100000

For legal professionals, each year of experience adds between £2500 and £6500 to salaries. There is quite a large variation in salaries and contract rates amongst professionals in the city of London. In general Corporate and Commercial Lawyers have the highest salaries, with Banking and Finance third highest. Bonuses vary from 10% up to 20% for salaried partners.

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Will my overseas qualifications be recognised?

Degree, diploma and certificate qualifications in law or legal support fields gained in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or Canada are usually recognised. However to practice as a lawyer you would need to be admitted to the Roll of Solicitors of England and Wales. In addition, your experience gained thus far in your career will be regarded highly; though once you gain UK experience on your CV you will be more ‘on par’ with the local competition.

What is the professional body for solicitors in England and Wales?

The Law Society is the professional body for solicitors in England and Wales.

How do I make best use of my experience and qualifications?

For a legal support position you will need a minimum of two years experience preferably from within a legal firm. Ultimately the more experience you have the better; many travellers seeking work in this field will have at least two years relevant experience. In a secretarial or administrative role you need to at least have knowledge of MS Word with a minimum of 65 wpm and preferably Excel and PowerPoint. An understanding of legal jargon, a professional manner and the ability to work long hours sometimes under pressure is also frequently required. In general, the British Legal system is very similar to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada however be prepared to learn the differences.

In professional legal positions such as solicitors and paralegals there are excellent opportunities particularly in contracting and temporary work based on associates with 2+ years experience.

For admission to the Roll of Solicitors of England and Wales you will need to pass certain papers of the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT) and meet a two-year experience requirement. The two-year experience requirement can often be waived in many cases and reduced in others. Of course you can find employment immediately in support roles. For more information about the QLTT visit The Law Society.

Do I need a Visa to work in a Legal profession?

Yes, unless you have a British or other EU passport, UK Ancestry rights, or are married to a British national you will need a work visa. Often a Tier 5 visa, is a good option to get started. With this visa you can undertake contract or temporary positions that are incidental to your 2 year working holiday, such as legal research or other legal assistance work. You are not meant to further your career using this visa (but of course in practice, any experience you get will look good on a resume). See UK Visas for more details on specific visas.

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