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Old 08.03.2010, 18:51
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American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

Hello Everyone!

I am relatively new to Switzerland, and have used this site many times while transitioning. I have found many posts both helpful and comforting, so thank you. Now I am hoping to find some help once again.

As mentioned, I recently moved, and am living with my husband in the Zurich area. I am an American lawyer, and having difficulties with the job search. I recently passed the bar examination, and (after months of searching) am seeking any legal related opportunity. I am only fluent in English, although I am trying to learn German. I have tried all the most common avenues in my job search; I have applied to many jobs that I have found online, I have contacted recruiters, and both my husband and I have passed my CV along to people we have come to know since the move, and I have not had any luck.

I was wondering with all the well informed people on this site, if anyone had any out of the box suggestions on what I might try or personally knew of any opportunities for a relatively new American lawyer living in Zurich? I would really appreciate any insight!

Thanks for reading!
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Old 09.03.2010, 14:46
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

I am not 100% sure, but from friends' experiences, I do not think you can practice law in Switzerland with your US degree. So in addition to the language issue, I think you will face other issues of qualifications if you want to work in law here.

You did not mention any speciality, but presuming you have international corporate law or contract law, that may be useful to large multinational companies, which may have a need. (or banking law) But again you may have to be called an advisor or similar, not lawyer. If you have some other legal speciality linked to local issues such as criminality, prosecution, etc. I think it would be very difficult.

Other than the multinational companies, other organsiations or companies that have headquarters in Switzerland would probably be the best options, both for working in English and having a need for non-Swiss legal advice.
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Old 09.03.2010, 17:04
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

Runningdeer is correct... but.

You can do two things. One, is find a corporation needing legal advice. It can be a local subsidiary of an american flag, or the other way around, a Swiss corporation doing business in the US. Some sectors are more eager than others...

On the other hand, you can also get in touch with the consulate, and see what kind of legal work they need. There are lots of civil proceedings that require multi-national understanding, and even actions to be prepared. Think of divorces to be transcribed, succession to be prepared, followed up and plannned. I don't have experience with the US ambassy/consulate, but this type of services are offered by others.
If they are not... well you may have found a niche!

Good luck!
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Old 09.03.2010, 17:07
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

indeed scan the Big Four and international companies. The Big Four in particular would be a good place to check out......but you're wet behind the ears if you've just done the bar exam.
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  #5  
Old 08.01.2011, 17:37
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

Are there any LLM equivalent tax course that you can do in Switzerland?

http://www.llm-guide.com/board/51725
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Old 16.01.2011, 10:53
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

Your law degree is almost useless. Hopefully you have a practical bachelors degree, and not something like american studies or underwater basket weaving. Or, maybe go to Geneva and get a job with the UN? Or, as has already been mentioned International corps, or ch corps who do business with any common-law countries (pretty much anywhere England has been).
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Old 05.03.2012, 14:49
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

Just came across this thread and although its old wanted to clarify that it is possible to work in the law in switzerland with a foreign qualification. Many inhouse lawyers do it (im one of them) and in both companies I have worked for the entire legal team have not been swiss qualified lawyers.
The difficulty you might face is working in privact practise (for a law firm) where you need to give advice on Swiss law.
Inhouse, you have the benefit of being able to refer to outside counsel, if you need specific swiss law (or any other specific) advice.
I hope the OP ended up finding something!
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Old 18.03.2012, 10:15
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

Hi, I confirm that you can find a job in house with your US law degree. I am a US (NY and CA) lawyer and french lawyer and I had several job interviews with companies that did not require me to have a swiss degree or to speak german. However, I would say it is almost impossible to find something in a lawfirm even if if you take a swiss bar exam. Law firms want you not only to have the swiss bar but also a swiss degree. Hope it helps.
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Old 18.03.2012, 18:49
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

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However, I would say it is almost impossible to find something in a lawfirm even if if you take a swiss bar exam. Law firms want you not only to have the swiss bar but also a swiss degree. Hope it helps.
That isn't exactly true. Swiss law firms usually want Swiss lawyers but the American and UK law firms who have branches in Switzerland frequently employ people with American JDs. The problem is that these lawyers are usually recruited from the American offices of these firms and in a lot of cases these people have LLMs as well.

I think if you are an American lawyer in Switzerland it really depends more on your speciality- contract law, m&a, arbitration can make you more employable.
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Old 21.03.2012, 15:48
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

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That isn't exactly true. Swiss law firms usually want Swiss lawyers but the American and UK law firms who have branches in Switzerland frequently employ people with American JDs. The problem is that these lawyers are usually recruited from the American offices of these firms and in a lot of cases these people have LLMs as well.

I think if you are an American lawyer in Switzerland it really depends more on your speciality- contract law, m&a, arbitration can make you more employable.
What you are saying is interesting because my experience is different. According to me, swiss branch of UK/French/US law firms do require the swiss bar (along with German language and swiss degree) whathever the speciality. There might be a few people that do not fit with these requirements and still succeed in getting employed in a Swiss law firm but I would not build any hope on this.

Actually, I met exactly the same hindrance when living in the US. I have a US LL.M degree + US qualifications and I repeteatly faced the "JD requirement ". In this situation as well, I found only a very few people employed in US law firms without a JD and 99.9% of the foreign attorneys I know faced the same experience (regardless of their specialities). The sole option was to work in-house.
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Old 21.03.2012, 15:52
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

I know of some one who moved here from the US, because of her husband, who was an Italian living in Zuri. She had to learn the language and finish law school here in German. If I were you I would get cracking in learning German asap. Join an intensive course 5 days a week during the morning and practice practice practice. Without German chances for a good job here are low, unless you work in I.T or the Banking sector.
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Old 21.03.2012, 15:54
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

Several of the larger law firms in Zurich and Geneva with large arbitration teams also employ foreign trained lawyers.

We currently have German, Italian, and US-qualified lawyers (with no Swiss degree or bax exam) working in our team alone.

So it really depends on your specialisation and what the market is looking for.

Last edited by Mica; 21.03.2012 at 16:51. Reason: typo
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Old 21.03.2012, 16:47
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

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Several of the larger law firms in Zurich and Geneva with large arbitration teams also employ foreign trained lawyers.

We currently have a German, Italian, and US-qualified lawyers (with no Swiss degree or bax exam) working in our team alone.

So it really depends on your specialisation and what the market is looking for.
This may be why MyriamB has had such a different experience. The firms I have worked in (and where I was basing my information from) did mainly arbitration but also cross border M&A and other cross-jurisdiction litigation. Swiss lawyers were the exception, not the rule; almost all the teams were foreign-qualified. So I guess we could mean that if you are foreign-qualified, you should do arbitration here
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Old 21.03.2012, 16:52
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

@NicoleCZ
I zoned out when I read "M&A" and I didn't catch the rest of your post re arbitration, etc....
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Old 21.03.2012, 19:52
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Re: American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

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@NicoleCZ
I zoned out when I read "M&A" and I didn't catch the rest of your post re arbitration, etc....
next time I will add a tl;dr
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