Dear Mentor:

Coming from the UK, how do I work in law in New York?

I am a UK resident with an academic background in the UK law. I also have a License as a New York Attorney. I am looking for work in New York but have been unsuccessful. I have been told that as I have not studied a Juris Doctorate in the US nor have a Visa, it will be very hard to get a job in the US. Do you have any constructive advice?

Cross-Atlantic Attorney, London, UK

Dear Cross-Atlantic Attorney:

We are not sure if you would call what we are about say constructive, but we thought we would add our two cents - or should we say two pennies - worth. Your situation is a bit tricky and you don't need us to tell you that. You may already have the information that we are providing below, in which case you can obviously bin it.

Theoretically, you can practice law in any state in the US for which you have the license to practice, whether or not you have the JD (Juris Doctor or Doctor of Jurisprudence, the first degree in law in the US). Then there is the reality. Because you are not a citizen or legal resident of the US, you need an appropriate visa for employment in the US. Highly skilled - meaning with at least a Bachelor's degree - foreign workers are allowed to enter the US on a temporary worker visa, referred to as the H1-B visa. The US INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) issues H1-B visas only to those highly skilled workers who are being sponsored by a US employer for the visa. The H1-B visa process for an employer is expensive, time consuming, bureaucratic, and legal (right up your alley, or some immigration lawyer's alley). So, a US employer is typically willing to invest resources only when no local talent is available.

You have the classic "chicken and egg" problem: You can't obtain employment because you don't have the visa, and you can't get the visa because you don't have a job employment offer from an employer who is willing to sponsor you. At least at this stage, we understand the problem fully. So, what's the solution? The solution obviously is to find the right employer. You have limited options.

We recognize that you have a license to practice law in the state of New York. How did you get the license? No, we are not referring to working hard and taking the bar exam. You have obviously done well; many people take the New York bar exam a couple of times before eventually succeeding. We are curious whether you might have professional or personal contacts in the US who can offer you a job in the legal profession or even in some other profession. These contacts, since they know you well, may be willing to put in the effort required for the H1-B process. Your university professors or alumni from your school may also be able to help you. Otherwise, since the H1-B process requires patience and resources, only large legal firms are likely to entertain the thought of processing a job applicant for the H1-B.

A US law firm with strong international presence, especially the UK, might be an option worth pursuing. Consider the following webpage: Recruitment Profiles.

You could also try asking people at a US-based search firm that specializes in finding attorneys for large law firms, such as those in New York City. One is Major, Hagen & Africa.

How we wish we had a sure solution for you! Unfortunately, we don't. But we wish you every success.

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