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Moving home to Australia? 9 things to think about when returning home after living overseas

Making the decision to return home after living overseas won’t come lightly. Here are 9 things to think about when deciding to come home.

  1. Change: The Australian legal landscape has changed a lot since you were last living and working at home. The last 10 years have seen an influx of international firms as the market has globalised. When you left Australia, certain firms may not have been in the Australian market. Be aware that Partners you may have known or admired might have changed firms in the last few years, so be prepared to look at the market with fresh eyes.

  2. Motivation: Be clear on what is driving the move. If returning home is solely about your career the options that you look at may differ from those which may hold more ‘lifestyle’ appeal. It may be that you are looking for a short track, or to position yourself for the future (be it an in house move or the next milestone) and depending on what the end goal is, you might look at a different selection of firms across a range of more than one city. Being clear on what the drivers are will help your agent highlight the best selection of options.

  3. Experience: Whilst you have been away the experiences you have had overseas has no doubt changed you as a person. Know that unless your experience has been in a traditional “like for like” role it may be dismissed as being irrelevant or not transferable which might be hard to take. To counter this, keep abreast of developments in Australian jurisprudence and when considering options when you are overseas ask yourself “do roles like this exist back home” or ‘how can I transition this experience back home’ to avoid developing substantial experience in an area that isn’t practised in Australia. One top tier lawyer I spoke with recently said that after returning to Australia they had a hard time convincing firms that the work they did in Europe was relevant as it was undertaken outside a traditional legal centre. After taking a fixed term contract and spending some time proving themselves, they were offered a permanent role and they said that after showing what they could do their Partner recognised the experience they had overseas.

  4. Work: Work in Australia is different to the work you will do overseas. One top tier lawyer said they found it hard adjusting to life back in Australia having worked at a top firm in London. The lawyer said that the deals at home are smaller and that in Australia it felt as though as a country we were “on the periphery of major legal issues ie: GDPR, modern slavery etc”. Notwithstanding the individual said, they very happy to be home and were loving the sunshine (even in winter).

  5. Network: Your network will have changed whilst you have been away. People you knew in certain organisations may have changed roles or even left the profession. One in-house lawyer I spoke with recently who had made the move said that they had found building their network back- up challenging after taking a long time out in London. The individual said they had secured a great role in Australia but because they had quite a long period out of the market, they worried about how they would go about finding their next opportunity. This was echoed by a top tier lawyer who was back in Australia who said that the time out had assisted them grow their network and with lots of additional London contacts they also felt that their network had benefited greatly from the time out of the market.

  6. In-house or Practice? Moving in house direct from overseas is difficult (but by no means impossible) for a multitude of reasons. Whilst you may think that a move in house is the next logical step in your career, organisations in Australia can be reluctant to hire candidate directly from overseas as they often prefer candidates with recent local market experience. Be aware that your notice period could also be a factor as Lawyers in Australia typically have a 1-2 month notice period whilst returners may not be available for 4/5 months. Non law firms are less inclined to wait for people as they are often have multiple applicants for roles. Non law firms are also less inclined to offer relocation assistance. A good compromise might be a return to practice to reacquaint yourself with the local market and get back up to speed with an in house move down the track.

  7. To return or not return? It can be tempting to avoid a typical standard recruitment process and all that it entrails by returning directly to your old firm but do know that in the time away you have grown and changed and your old firm has changed too and whilst it may be the easiest option, it may not be the best opportunity in the market.

  8. Agent or Direct? Using contacts can be tempting and at times useful but by and large, you will have more coverage and find it easier using an Australian agent who is on the ground who can apply to multiple opportunities simultaneously and also make contact through the most appropriate channels. An Australian agent should have a direct line to hiring managers and Partners and access to the entire Australian market so you can focus on what you do best and your local agent can follow up and make sure your application is seen by the right people. For more information on why you should use an agent, check out

  9. Timing. It is worth remembering that the Australian recruitment market is typically busiest between July and December. January is very quiet until after the end of the summer school holidays. We recommend that you start looking for a role 4-6 months before you hope to have your feet back under the desk. Some firms will look at people with longer lead in times and the lead in time is directly proportional to the activity and demand in the market. So if there are shortages of funds, banking or corporate lawyers firms are often happy to wait 6-10 months for a candidate to start.

For up to date information on your options within the Australian legal market contact Kensington Parry at or visit our website to learn about us and why we are different and best placed to help you make the move home.

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