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Global reach

15 July 19

Many Scottish solicitors have made their homes and careers in other countries. Five of them tell how it happened, and why they still value their Society membership

Kelly-Marie Lorimer, legal counsel, BP Australia, Melbourne

How did you come to be working where you are?

I began my career at Maclay Murray & Spens in Glasgow, then Dundas & Wilson. Working in corporate, I was assured the world was my oyster. I was recruited by Australian firm Middletons and moved there in September 2008, becoming part of the M&A team, then moving into financial services and banking. In 2013, I moved in-house to my current position – it’s great having the skill base to perform both a legal and commercial function. I really enjoy my job – it’s interesting and varied work and an international company with strong ties to home (Aberdeen).

Was it difficult to become established in practice there? 

I found the transition relatively easy. After initial nerves, it became exciting and fun. I moved to Melbourne knowing no one, but that forces you to meet new people and you become a much more rounded and confident person – networking skills increase tenfold! I won’t lie: the requalification process was painful and slow. I had to sit seven exams over two years, giving up a lot of free time. But I’m glad I did it – a dual qualification makes me stand out from the pack.

What do you like about living and working where you are? 

I love Melbourne. The city is thriving and exciting with an amazing foodie, arts, sporting and outdoor culture. The office workforce often feels to me like a big extended family; I love working in such a close knit environment, so important when you are living far from your family at home.

Are there any downsides? 

Only the 24-hour trek back home! I miss spending weekends with my family, but when they visit, the time is precious.

What is the value of keeping your Law Society of Scotland membership? 

The value is in keeping abreast of changes and current topics – you never know when one needs to return to Scotland, so keeping in touch with the Society is important.

Do you see yourself staying or moving on? 

At this stage I am staying in Melbourne. After nearly 11 years I have my own family here. I would like my daughter to grow up in this fantastic city. I think Australia in general offers a great opportunity for any professionals – very few people move back to the UK! However, you never know what could be round the corner.

Stacey Martin, senior governance associate, Watson, Vancouver

How did you come to be working where you are?

My husband was offered a role based out of Vancouver, so we seized the opportunity, sold our house and jumped on a plane. To move to such a vibrant, multi-cultural city was hard to resist; the added benefit was being an hour from Whistler, for winter skiing and snowboarding. I’ve been here for over a year and (after networking like I’ve never networked before) work in a leading consultancy providing corporate governance advice to a range of clients. People were friendly and helped me integrate.

Was it difficult to become established in practice there? 

Although I find Vancouver welcoming, the legal and governance professions are very insular; your network plays a vital role even in exploring opportunities. Routes such as executive recruiters have little impact here. However, having become established, I’ve found it incredibly easy to integrate into my practice and the wider business community.

A training in the UK, which leads the way with corporate governance, has been hugely beneficial.

What do you like about living and working where you are? 

On the Pacific North West people are more laid back and there’s huge emphasis on health and wellbeing. We spend much more time enjoying the outdoors, with skiing in the winter and the beaches in the summer. I am also working with a very different client base: often not-for-profit organisations, foundations and cooperatives, as well as indigenous-based.

The variety keeps things interesting.

Are there any downsides? 

There are the obvious things like missing family and friends; and the small things… like potato scones and square sausages. Skype and Facetime help but are never as good as the real thing. The one major advantage of moving to Vancouver is that everyone wants to visit!

What is the value of keeping your Law Society of Scotland membership? 

Prestige. The Society is held in high regard internationally. On a personal level, the membership signifies my hard work and commitment in my career. The resources available through membership, such as the Journal and online CPD, are invaluable.

Do you see yourself staying or moving on? 

I really love Canada and found the move less stressful than imagined. Having trained and qualified at an international firm, I had always been keen to work abroad. I wouldn’t be averse to moving again. It’s a question my husband and I ask ourselves at times, but Canada feels like home now.

Neil McGregor, managing partner, McGregor & Partners, Bucharest and Sofia.

How did you come to be working where you are?

I came on holiday in 1995 to visit a university friend who was doing deals in Romania and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of the place and the people. Back in the UK, I heard that Sinclair Roche & Temperley were looking for their first resident expat lawyer and was asked whether I wished to apply…

Was it difficult to become established in practice there? 

Yes and no – there was no legal framework for foreign lawyers to practise in Romania or Bulgaria, but on the other hand I was working with prominent local colleagues. It is easier now that (for the moment) we are all European, but I have been a foreign member of the Bucharest Bar and a registered foreign lawyer in Bulgaria since before these countries joined the EU.

What do you like about living and working where you are?

Apart from the attractions of Bulgaria and Romania, there is the opportunity to make a difference by being involved in large transactions, albeit in a boutique firm environment. There is also plenty of exposure to the world of business: I am chairman of the British-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and a non-executive director of a winery group listed on the Bucharest Stock Exchange.

Are there any downsides? 

Nowhere is perfect, but one particular issue in recent years is being disenfranchised in referenda on Scottish independence and on Brexit, both issues which obviously affect me. Romanian friends are amazed that such a situation is tolerated in what they are told is a democracy with a much longer history than theirs.

What is the value of keeping your Law Society of Scotland membership? 

Having active members in other jurisdictions must be good for the profession in Scotland (I am also admitted in England, Romania and Bulgaria). My presence as the only Scots lawyer in these parts – particularly since, so far as I am aware, there is no member of the GlobalScot network here – should also assist business with Scotland. However, I ask myself this question on an annual basis – particularly as the costs of membership and practice appear greater for Scotland than for England, and especially when I get the SLCC levy bill.

Do you see yourself staying or moving on? 

There is still a great deal for me to do here yet!

Siobhan Kahmann, senior lawyer, Covington & Burling LLP, Brussels

How did you come to be working where you are?

In my final year at Aberdeen University, the great Professor Forte encouraged me to look further afield for my planned Master’s. A few months later, I started my postgrad studies at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, with international scholarships including from the WS Society. Following an awards lunch with guest of honour Sir David Edward, I then had the fantastic opportunity of working with him as a stagière in the CJEU in Luxembourg, after which I moved to the bright lights of Brussels. Aside from two years as an international lawyer in Singapore, I have spent almost all my qualified career in Brussels, practising EU competition and tech law, and now regulatory, including net neutrality, IoT and EVs.

Was it difficult to become established in practice there? 

It was very competitive to get into the Brussels legal scene to start with (and still is), but becoming established was not difficult once I secured a permanent position. Importantly, in the face of Brexit, the Brussels Bar has been one of the most welcoming to Scots lawyers.

What do you like about living and working where you are? 

Living and working in Brussels is great. Very cosmopolitan, the city is also welcoming, friendly, and quirky. The European sector where I work is always buzzing. The Belgians are huge fans of the Scots – they have several day-long Scottish festivals every year which thousands attend. I also started my own ceilidh band a few years ago, which is in great demand (and have played for MEPs and even Belgian royalty!).

Are there any downsides? 

Long-suffering Scots lawyer friends who visit have the important task of sourcing and delivering Edinburgh sauce (to go with the Belgian frites). Much appreciated, guys! Thankfully, my local supermarket now stocks Irn-Bru.

What is the value of keeping your Law Society of Scotland membership? 

It has been my pleasure to serve on Council as the first international representative. Like many of my constituents, I am proud of my first class education and training as a Scots lawyer. I am also qualified in England & Wales, Ireland, and a member of the Belgian Bar, but the foundation has always been my Scots qualification. 

Do you see yourself staying or moving on? 

When I moved back from Asia, I realised that I have always seen my home as Europe. Brexit will not change that, and I intend to continue my career as a successful and proud international Scottish lawyer in Brussels, with continued close ties to Scotland.

Gordon Inkson, senior associate, HFW, Singapore

How did you come to be working where you are? 

I had a few years at school in Singapore and always thought I might work abroad. Practising in Aberdeen, where I grew up, many clients were active in oil and gas. I saw them moving into the Middle East, and was impressed at their ambitions, and confidence. Dubai also appeared to offer lifestyle benefits. In a period of expansion for law firms, I secured a position fairly quickly. During six-plus years with HFW in Dubai, I was increasingly exposed to further international work. I was asked if I would relocate to Singapore, and have been happily living and working there since 2012.

Was it difficult to become established in practice there? 

It took some time, but HFW is well established internationally. Corporate was a burgeoning practice area, and I was able to contribute thanks to my broad experience. Some of the work is quite unusual, and in emerging sectors. Thinking quickly and outside the box, with good commercial knowledge backed up by sound training, are essential attributes.

What do you like about living and working where you are? 

It is such a fast-moving environment, with incredible energy. Everyone is focused on expanding their market, developing new products and ideas, and entering into growth projects. In the last year I have worked on projects in Russia, South Korea, China, Indonesia and Nigeria in diverse industries. I find business trips tremendously interesting, not only to see the local sights but also how negotiation approaches are influenced by wider culture.

Are there any downsides? 

Personally, I do not see any downsides. Today’s world is very joined up, so it is easy to stay in touch with colleagues and contacts – and the Journal keeps me up to date with domestic news. It’s important not to stand still; in this environment you have to adapt and keep moving. 

What is the value of keeping your Law Society of Scotland membership? 

The Society is a very credible organisation and Scots law, and lawyers, are respected globally. And wherever you go, folk do seem well disposed towards Scottish people!

Do you see yourself staying or moving on? 

I was recently asked if I would be willing to relocate to Shanghai. The opportunity to play a central role in developing our corporate offering, coupled with Shanghai being a vibrant, fast-growing city in a vast and diverse country, was an offer I couldn’t refuse. There will be challenges, but I am very excited for my next career destination. 

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