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theLittleMermaid

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That sounds interesting. Thank you for the reply. :)

I don't really practice trade law, but I have helped out a colleague who does every now and again and he does get some "interesting" files - I suspect as a practice area, it's badly underrated.  

 

Mind you, he also has files which make drying paint look like an MMA fight, so ...

 

I've said it before, but the one area of practice that regularly deals with international law (and has some of the leading experts on treaty interpretation) is tax law.  Probably not a week goes by without my referring to the interpretation of one tax treaty or another.   

Edited by maximumbob

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I don't really practice trade law, but I have helped out a colleague who does every now and again and he does get some "interesting" files - I suspect as a practice area, it's badly underrated.  

 

Mind you, he also has files which make drying paint look like an MMA fight, so ...

 

I've said it before, but the one area of practice that regularly deals with international law (and has some of the leading experts on treaty interpretation) is tax law.  Probably not a week goes by without my referring to the interpretation of one tax treaty or another.   

 

Haha fair enough - I can imagine some files would be quite boring.

 

Tax law is something I will need to keep in mind. Thank you!

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Would you need to travel for this sort of law or would you mostly just work from your home country? Just curious.

 

Prefacing my comments with the knowledge that I work at a large national firm, so mileage may vary.

 

Frankly I don't do much international travel, and a lot of it is what Maximumbob has identified - work comes in from other places needing help on Canadian law issues for import/export issues.  Others are Canadian importer/exporters needing similar help or help interpreting or getting guidance on issues like economic sanctions or export controls. However, some of the files you work on do require the possibility of travel, such as corruption investigations and ISDS cases.  These can land you out in some very... interesting... locales.  You also do a lot more travel across the country than outside it - as frequently you're working in a small department of a much larger firm with both your own international clients, but also helping out the various other business units when they hit an "international-y" problem.  Nowadays a lot of that can be handled remotely with calls and video-conferences, but even today a lot of people greatly appreciate a true face-to-face meeting.

 

I'd also agree with Maximumbob again that the practice area that's underrated and, in many ways, understaffed.  Canada for a long time has been a relatively internally focused country (apart from our resource industries). But with increasingly globalized trade, and further FTAs that greatly open up the services are, our economies are becoming increasingly enmeshed with those of our trading partners.  It doesn't help that when most people think of "international law" they immediately seize on human rights, social justice, or other government focused areas and don't realize the very real need for lawyers in private practice in this public/quasi-public law area.  For a lot of people they just assume it's not something you can really do as a career choice, so they never really consider it.  Which is a shame because the work can be incredibly fascinating (though most of it not as exciting or exhilarating as the adrenaline rush of an ongoing trial).

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Prefacing my comments with the knowledge that I work at a large national firm, so mileage may vary.

 

Frankly I don't do much international travel, and a lot of it is what Maximumbob has identified - work comes in from other places needing help on Canadian law issues for import/export issues.  Others are Canadian importer/exporters needing similar help or help interpreting or getting guidance on issues like economic sanctions or export controls. However, some of the files you work on do require the possibility of travel, such as corruption investigations and ISDS cases.  These can land you out in some very... interesting... locales.  You also do a lot more travel across the country than outside it - as frequently you're working in a small department of a much larger firm with both your own international clients, but also helping out the various other business units when they hit an "international-y" problem.  Nowadays a lot of that can be handled remotely with calls and video-conferences, but even today a lot of people greatly appreciate a true face-to-face meeting.

 

I'd also agree with Maximumbob again that the practice area that's underrated and, in many ways, understaffed.  Canada for a long time has been a relatively internally focused country (apart from our resource industries). But with increasingly globalized trade, and further FTAs that greatly open up the services are, our economies are becoming increasingly enmeshed with those of our trading partners.  It doesn't help that when most people think of "international law" they immediately seize on human rights, social justice, or other government focused areas and don't realize the very real need for lawyers in private practice in this public/quasi-public law area.  For a lot of people they just assume it's not something you can really do as a career choice, so they never really consider it.  Which is a shame because the work can be incredibly fascinating (though most of it not as exciting or exhilarating as the adrenaline rush of an ongoing trial).

 

Thank you for the detailed reply. :)

 

I've never thought about it (didn't really know it was a practice area) before but your comments and maximumbob's comments make it sound like a good practice area to learn more about.

 

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Hague convention trickles into family law too (not personal experience). There was a recent posting for an international opportunity not too long ago. The UN also hires, as do some consulates. UN offers unpaid internships in NYC. I've also had classmates end up at various international courts and election observation.

 

Your best bet is to talk to your guidance counselor - they try to keep tabs on alum in multiple fields. Get their name and email them.

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I worked in four different countries in the past 12 years, all in the areas of tax and corporate/wealth structuring. If you are willing to move into those fields, I am pretty sure you can easily find work in a lot of different places on planet earth.

 

If you can only speak English, look into the Caribbean; especially the Cayman Islands, the BVI, and Bermuda. There is just so much wealth on these islands; and the financial services industry can never have enough lawyers. These are common law jurisdictions, so they welcome Canadian lawyers. I can go on to write 20 pages on life and work on the island, but that would be beyond the scope of this post.

 

You can probably get by with only English in Hong Kong, Singapore, and to a lesser extent China. Of course, things are much easier there if you can speak and write Chinese; but by no means that is a requirement. Take a walk in the financial district of Hong Kong or Singapore, every big American and British law firm has a sizeable office there; and they are always looking for lawyers from a common law jurisdiction. Or if you want to work at a bank, every major international bank is there. Again, I can tell you a lot more about life as a Canadian lawyer in those places; but I don't think that is what you are asking.

 

If you prefer Europe, the best bet is Switzerland. You will probably need French in Geneva or German in Zurich. As for the UK, I have no personal experience working there, but London seems to be always hiring.

 

Another region you can look into is the Middle East, particularly Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and Qatar. The financial services industry is always looking for lawyers with experience and qualification from the Western world.

 

While I agree that law is by nature jurisdictional specific, but in the world of global finance, there are tons of cross border issues. It is very common to see something like... an individual in China, who had acquired a Canadian citizenship years ago when he was young, is now trying to restructure his private enterprise in China to be ultimately owned by a Cayman corporation which will serve as the listing vehicle for his business to go public in New York. As part of the restructuring, he transfers his ownership interest to a BVI company owned by a Swiss trust, for the benefit of his two children, one lives in the US and the other one is studying in Japan.... So for those who are interested, there will always be 'international' work.

 

Sorry that I really cannot say anything about International Human Rights, as I virtually know nothing about that. But if you are willing to look into financial services, you should be able to find a good position easily.

 

Good luck.

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If you're open to unpaid work, I suggest looking for international organizations you'd like to work for, finding the legal branch of each one, and contacting them directly. I got an (unpaid) internship this way where nothing was even posted on the official recruitment page. 

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If you're open to unpaid work, I suggest looking for international organizations you'd like to work for, finding the legal branch of each one, and contacting them directly. I got an (unpaid) internship this way where nothing was even posted on the official recruitment page.

This is how I got an unpaid internship at an international organization as well, but an organization that doesn't have a defined or advertised legal branch and generally doesn't do recruitment/internships. Really, if you come across an organization that's interesting to you, just email them and make your case - you might get lucky.

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I've done international human rights work - honestly it's not that hard to get into if you're willing to take short term contracts, you aren't too picky about location, and you network/hustle. 

 

The CBA has two paid internship programs - the YLIP for lawyers under 30, and another program which is very similar and for lawyers of all ages - they're worth applying to, and if you want to stay abroad from there, you need to meet people with connections while abroad and exploit those connections. 

 

You can also fly over to a specific country with a large civil society network and just apply in person to organizations in person while you're there - I know someone who got into international human rights work that way. The pay will suck (or it will be unpaid) initially, and you need to be willing to fly to another country without a job, but I think it's definitely possible to find something when you're there in person. 

 

Otherwise there are job boards like the OSCE secondments - http://www.osce.org/employment/vacancies - these are all short term contracts which are easier to get. If you can get one, then you need to network and leverage the contacts you make there in order to get more work. 

 

In addition, it's worth being open to work with international organizations which aren't lawyer roles - program assistants etc. 

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You can probably get by with only English in Hong Kong, Singapore, and to a lesser extent China. Of course, things are much easier there if you can speak and write Chinese; but by no means that is a requirement. Take a walk in the financial district of Hong Kong or Singapore, every big American and British law firm has a sizeable office there; and they are always looking for lawyers from a common law jurisdiction. Or if you want to work at a bank, every major international bank is there. Again, I can tell you a lot more about life as a Canadian lawyer in those places; but I don't think that is what you are asking.

 

 

Not the focus of this thread, but I just wanted to comment on this for other readers:

 

Singapore law offices are largely made up of English-speaking lawyers. Any given office will have Chinese-speakers, but it is not a requirement to working in Singapore.

 

HK and China are a different matter. Ten or fifteen years ago it was common for American/UK offices in HK/Beijing to have primarily English-speaking staff. That is no longer the case. Many offices will not hire (or accept the secondment of) a lawyer who does not speak Chinese well enough to revise docs, take calls and do basic correspondence in Chinese. Those that do seem, in my experience, to invite only senior, established lawyers with clients or particular expertise.

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Not the focus of this thread, but I just wanted to comment on this for other readers:

 

Singapore law offices are largely made up of English-speaking lawyers. Any given office will have Chinese-speakers, but it is not a requirement to working in Singapore.

 

HK and China are a different matter. Ten or fifteen years ago it was common for American/UK offices in HK/Beijing to have primarily English-speaking staff. That is no longer the case. Many offices will not hire (or accept the secondment of) a lawyer who does not speak Chinese well enough to revise docs, take calls and do basic correspondence in Chinese. Those that do seem, in my experience, to invite only senior, established lawyers with clients or particular expertise.

I hear what you are saying... My rough, unscientific estimate is that more than 80% of the deals in Hong Kong nowadays are related to entities in the mainland. And in almost all cases, the principal client does not speak a word of English.

 

Recently, I was involved in a convertible bond issuance in Hong Kong by a mainland private enterprise. The principal does not speak English at all, but one of his senior staff speaks perfect English and acted as the leading coordinator of the whole deal. They were represented by a magic circle firm. There were two investors, both private equity funds specialising in the particular industry. One was represented by another magic circle firm, the other by an American big firm. All security matters were handled by a professional trustee, which was represented by another big American firm. A big-4 accounting firm was also engaged to report on the due diligence and financial matters. At the beginning of the project, the coordinator did a contact list with the names and contact information of all parties and their respective lawyers. From the four law firms, more than 25 lawyers were involved. And almost everyone was British, American, or from another western country... Frankly I do not think any one of the lawyers can speak Chinese (at least not at a level of providing legal services). The whole deal was done in English.

 

My observation is that, to this date, the high end legal market in Hong Kong is still dominated by the 'foreign' big firms. But I do agree that the ability to speak and write Chinese can give you a huge advantage there...

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I hear what you are saying... My rough, unscientific estimate is that more than 80% of the deals in Hong Kong nowadays are related to entities in the mainland. And in almost all cases, the principal client does not speak a word of English.

 

Recently, I was involved in a convertible bond issuance in Hong Kong by a mainland private enterprise. The principal does not speak English at all, but one of his senior staff speaks perfect English and acted as the leading coordinator of the whole deal. They were represented by a magic circle firm. There were two investors, both private equity funds specialising in the particular industry. One was represented by another magic circle firm, the other by an American big firm. All security matters were handled by a professional trustee, which was represented by another big American firm. A big-4 accounting firm was also engaged to report on the due diligence and financial matters. At the beginning of the project, the coordinator did a contact list with the names and contact information of all parties and their respective lawyers. From the four law firms, more than 25 lawyers were involved. And almost everyone was British, American, or from another western country... Frankly I do not think any one of the lawyers can speak Chinese (at least not at a level of providing legal services). The whole deal was done in English.

 

My observation is that, to this date, the high end legal market in Hong Kong is still dominated by the 'foreign' big firms. But I do agree that the ability to speak and write Chinese can give you a huge advantage there...

 

I work in HK at a big law American firm, so my experience comes from that. Maybe most of the lawyers working on your deal were more senior - in which case, yes, it is absolutely possible to transition to HK once you have a base specialty that's marketable without being able to work on all regional deals. For someone entering the profession and hoping to work abroad in their first 2-5 years, that's a much less applicable point.

 

That said, I'm much less familiar with staffing at magic circle firms.

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I work in HK at a big law American firm, so my experience comes from that. Maybe most of the lawyers working on your deal were more senior - in which case, yes, it is absolutely possible to transition to HK once you have a base specialty that's marketable without being able to work on all regional deals. For someone entering the profession and hoping to work abroad in their first 2-5 years, that's a much less applicable point.

That said, I'm much less familiar with staffing at magic circle firms.

Hong Kong is an unique city.... Enjoy your time there...

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HK and China are a different matter. Ten or fifteen years ago it was common for American/UK offices in HK/Beijing to have primarily English-speaking staff. That is no longer the case. Many offices will not hire (or accept the secondment of) a lawyer who does not speak Chinese well enough to revise docs, take calls and do basic correspondence in Chinese. Those that do seem, in my experience, to invite only senior, established lawyers with clients or particular expertise.

 

That's interesting. For Hong Kong, would you need to be able Cantonese, Mandarin or both to work there?

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Hong Kong is an unique city.... Enjoy your time there...

 

Thanks, man! Drop a line if you're in town.

 

 

That's interesting. For Hong Kong, would you need to be able Cantonese, Mandarin or both to work there?

 

Mandarin. Cantonese is certainly helpful around an office and with local clients, but the language of business for the most part is Mandarin.

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Mandarin. Cantonese is certainly helpful around an office and with local clients, but the language of business for the most part is Mandarin.

 

Ah, makes sense. Thank you!

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Does anyone here have experience gaining international opportunities or moving overseas? I've been searching for sometime, and I am finding it discouraging to realize a law degree is really not as global as it once seemed.

 

Ideally, I would like to work in international law & human rights (ICC, ICTY, UN, OECD etc) - but I'm starting to think more broadly in that regard. I will preface my post by acknowledging that international opportunities are competitive and hard to find, but with that being said, I don't think it's worth giving up on something just because it's a challenge. I'm not set on gaining a role at a public body, and would be open to working at a firm that might have an international law component (defence, arbitration, etc). I'm also not even set on it being a role as a lawyer - with a background in Political Science & Communications, I've always thought it would be interesting to merge it all together and work in policy development, crisis management, etc. I know this sounds like I have no idea what I want to do, and perhaps that is the case. All I know is that I don't want to be doing what I'm currently doing forever, and that I would really like to move overseas for a number of reasons [the hub of international development, interesting policy, culture, food (haha)].

 

I've been spinning my wheels for the past year trying to gain connections, but in reality, there seem to be few to be made in Canada (and even fewer in Calgary). I've been a regular on international job-postings and internship applications, a LinkedIn creeper, reached out to potential connections, and I'm enrolled in an international law course that will be completed soon.

 

What I'm mainly asking is if anyone has been successful in this regard, and if so, do you have any advice? Did you contact recruiters to seek legal jobs (I realize this will mainly be limited to jobs in the UK due to transferability) and if so, do you have recommendations for firms or recruiters that might like to hire Canadian trained lawyers? Or, have you relocated overseas to a law-type role, and if so, how did you do it? I've got a few years of experience, good references, working level French, and some useful extracurricular activities, so I think once I manage to get my foot in the door I might have a chance. 

 

Any advice is appreciated! 

 

I will be joining the UNHCR (in Indonesia) as a legal consultant for 6 months via U of T's alumni IHRP Fellowship program. Perhaps your law school has a similar program. Look into it. 

 

Also, several of my colleagues at U of T and at my old firm have joined international firms and started working at their overseas offices (e.g. HK, London, etc). There are def opportunities out there. 

Edited by This_is_Sparta

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