Is a lawyer a lawyer

Working abroad as a lawyer: dream or reality?

In one of the world's major metropolises, making the way to the office at home in the morning instead of in an average small German town, looking from the office at a famous skyline instead of an ordinary shopping street.

Working where other people go on vacation sounds like an appealing idea and globalization is making the dream of working abroad easier. But it is not as easy for lawyers to work abroad as it is for representatives of many other professions. Because unlike the laws of nature, each country has its own legal systems.

But isn't it possible, after all, with a German legal education and the principle of abstraction “in the blood” to gain a professional foothold abroad - as a lawyer or corporate lawyer?

Who is actually a “lawyer”?

However, one should first ask oneself: What actually is the “German lawyer”? Because this term is now multi-layered: On the one hand, there are the fully qualified lawyers who are allowed to become judges, public prosecutors or lawyers. But even people without a second state examination practice various activities of a lawyer, e. B. with the internationally recognized qualifications as "Bachelor of Laws" and / or "Master of Laws".

Especially for the private sector - also abroad - graduates of courses that combine economics and law are an interesting alternative to fully qualified lawyers, for example when it comes to filling a position as "Legal Counsel" or "Contract Manager" etc. in a company. In addition to legal knowledge, these positions also require an understanding of business administration - the latter in particular remains underdeveloped in German training to become a fully qualified lawyer.

As a German lawyer abroad

The chances of quickly gaining a professional foothold abroad as a German lawyer depend heavily on whether you want to work as a lawyer or, for example, as a corporate lawyer. Because abroad they are usually neither familiar with the system of state examinations nor - at least in many EU countries - the legal advisory monopoly for lawyers.
It is true that within the EU, lawyers have the right to freedom of establishment, meaning that as a lawyer licensed in Germany, they can generally establish themselves in any other member state. In order to actually be able to work as a lawyer in the country of your choice, there are special tests in some member states. B. must be filed before the bar association.

Because working as a lawyer abroad - according to the European Court of Justice - also requires precise legal knowledge of the country in which you want to settle as a lawyer - and that is absolutely correct. To be a lawyer under German law is often not enough in the EU to be able to practice as a lawyer without further ado. But especially outside the EU, additional qualifications and exams are necessary: ​​In the USA, for example, the internationally recognized Master of Laws is a must and the State Bar Exam must be passed successfully so that as a “lawyer” you can screw your sign onto the wall there may.
So it shows: Familiarization with the respectively applicable foreign legal system and additional examinations for admission are often prerequisites in order to be allowed to work as a lawyer abroad - and these hurdles are often not entirely without - especially if the legal system differs significantly the German legal system (e.g. the case law!).

As a corporate lawyer abroad

It is a little easier to establish yourself abroad in the legal department of a company, but also in other responsible positions in the company, especially as a commercial lawyer. No matter whether with one or two German state exams or with a master’s degree in business law - in both cases, the German lawyer receives important, recognized tools in his training in addition to legal knowledge in order to be able to survive in other legal systems: Dealing with the Quite generally, how to apply the law, the much-invoked methodological competence and the ability to approach problem-solving abstractly and analytically.

These core legal competencies are in great demand abroad, especially in companies, and they quickly take a back seat to a lack of knowledge of the applicable legal system. Because those who have mastered their “tools” rarely have difficulties familiarizing themselves with another legal system, provided that they are well versed in the respective language.


The German approach to legal training has proven its worth in an international comparison, especially if you don't necessarily want to settle abroad as a lawyer.

As a corporate lawyer, it is easier to get a job abroad. This is especially true for lawyers who, in addition to a solid legal education, can also demonstrate business knowledge.

So if you want to take the step abroad - regardless of what legal training you have and regardless of your previous career - it is worthwhile to think about whether a job in a legal department abroad would be attractive. Because if you really want to, you can still take care of your branch as a lawyer.

Also read:
Going abroad as a law student - important information on planning and financing

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