Does Intercontinental Relocation Mean Restarting Your Legal Career or Training?

Legal Careers Moving across countries or continents occasionally pose career defining questions and challenges such as the equivalence or transferability of qualifications or certifications. In today’s post, Lola Adekanye shares her experience of a transatlantic legal career and offers practical suggestions on nurturing a legal career across continents.

So, for some good reason you have to be uprooted from one jurisdiction to another in the course of your legal career journey, tossing your plans to go to law school and chart a path on the bench or at the bar up in the air. This is the picture of my career journey thus far; I started my career in England, then I relocated to Nigeria and subsequently to the U.S. While, some lawyers change their career paths completely from law to a different field or discipline. This choice has its own challenges as one would still need to qualify and be employable in the new location and when properly weighed, this was not a very attractive option for me.

In the course of obtaining two law degrees in England,  professional law certificates both in Nigeria and  New York and another law degree in the United States, I have come to the conclusion that a transatlantic legal career can be rich and fulfilling with proper planning.

The two major deterrents to transitioning lawyers or law students are qualifying in the new jurisdiction and employability given the lack of familiarity with the legal systems and structures in the new jurisdiction.

Qualifying  – Legal studies and the process of qualifying to practice law in most jurisdictions is notorious for being grueling and very demanding and the entry requirements vary distinctly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so it is important to adequately prepare by conducting appropriate and extensive research.

In addition to research, obtaining first hand information about the jurisdiction is fundamental. Having the right information early on will put you on the right path and save time. The qualifying requirements to sit a Bar entry exam varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and are usually very specific. For instance some jurisdictions require that a law degree must include specific courses. Thus, current law students are in a good position to prepare to meet those requirements while they are in law school while practicing attorneys can manage their schedules to start making plans to meet the requirements. Practicing attorneys may also find that in some jurisdictions, experience counts as an alternative entry or admission requirement to exam.

A clear road map for qualifying puts things in perspective for lawyers who consider changing career paths due to the challenges of transitioning into a law career in a new jurisdiction. It turns out that changing to a new career path would require a considerable amount of studying which may take equal amount of time or perhaps more time than it would take a transitioning lawyer to sit the qualifying Bar exams.

Employability – My legal counsel during my undergraduate studies enlightened me to the comforting fact that a law degree equips you to function in a variety of capacities order than litigation. This would require that you  obtain at least basic substantive knowledge in another field or additional soft skills in addition to core legal skills such as drafting and research. This is even more true as clients directly or indirectly demand an integrated service of their attorneys and law firms.

 The ability to apply business skills or orientation, operational knowledge, language skills and science knowledge to legal representation is an advantage to landing a job or finding a role within other non-conventional legal positions.

On that note, if you are a current student or aspiring lawyer, it might also be worth considering a combined degree as it can be of great benefit. For anyone studying outside the U.S, taking a minor in another course of interest during their undergraduate year while you major in law would be the way to achieve this. While for students studying in the U.S, going for first degree in any course in order to qualify for admission to law school to earn a Juris Doctor which is a law degree equivalent to a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) in other jurisdictions is advisable.

Finally, keep an open mind to a host of alternative practice areas to litigation.

Lola Adekanye obtained her Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Securities and Financial Regulation from Georgetown University. She operates as a Legal Counsel as well as a Business Risk and Compliance Consultant. Lola enjoys writing as well as sharing her experience in developing a legal career as well as business strategy and international education.

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#PhDChat – 5 Common CV mistakes and how to overcome them!

4. CV Mistakes

Have you applied for positions you believe you have ALL the requirements and skills for but never seem to get past the first hurdle – an invitation to interview? In this article, Dr Jeff McGarvey, identifies common mistakes made on CVs by applicants for job opportunities in his laboratory. Although this article is directed at science graduates, many of the points Jeff addresses are relevant to non-scientific disciplines.

I recently advertised an opening for a microbiologist position in my laboratory with very specific requirements including: minimum education of a BSc. (MSc. preferred), experience working with pathogenic bacteria (Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria etc.), and molecular biology experience (DNA extraction, cloning, PCR, DNA sequencing, etc.). After 3 weeks, I received about 35 CVs from candidates wanting the job. While the majority of CVs were well written, there were a few that did not serve the candidates well. Here are a few of the most common problems I encountered.

Reflections – My Parliamentary Internship Experience

Daniel AmundFinding a placement can often be challenging however the opportunity to embark on a placement is one we always recommend. In our opinion, if you are a student or early career graduate seeking that dream job, if you get the chance to embark on a placement, grab it with both hands! In today’s post, Dr Daniel Amund, Academic Mentor at London Metropolitan University, London, UK shares his internship experience at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) highlighting the benefits of an internship.

During the third year of my PhD, I applied for and was awarded a POST fellowship. The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) is the UK Parliament’s in-house source of scientific advice, providing parliamentarians with balanced and accessible analysis of policy issues related to science and technology. POST runs several fellowship schemes funded by various Research Councils, charities and learned societies, which allow PhD students to spend three months working as POST fellows. Most fellows research, write and publish POSTnotes, which are four-page briefing papers summarising public policy issues, based on reviews of literature and interviews with academic, government and industry stakeholders.

My experience of working in Parliament during my PhD was very enjoyable and rewarding. It was refreshing to be able to take a step back from my PhD research, and focus on researching a different topic, using different methods in a different environment. That ‘break’ was beneficial because when I went back to writing my thesis, I had a fresh perspective and was able to utilise the skills I had developed to improve my thesis. Having to condense a lot of information into a four-page document that had to be accessible to non-scientists helped me develop my writing and communication skills, which helped in communicating my ideas better in my doctoral thesis.

Aside from the renewed vigour, clarity and focus that can be derived from an internship, there are added benefits such as CV development and networking opportunities. These may sound like a cliché, but they are rather important. My fellowship at POST was the most significant piece of work experience I had on my CV while I was a student, as the other jobs on my CV had been mainly casual student jobs at University, as well as some voluntary work. I should mention that these were by no means a waste of time, as my interview for the POST fellowship demonstrated as some of the questions were focused around my casual and voluntary roles.

However, having the POST fellowship on my CV has meant that I can use the range of transferable skills I gained in demonstrating how I meet the person specification when applying for jobs. Furthermore, the POSTnote counts for me as a publication which is not only satisfying and something to be pleased about, it is also a good career plus! Keep in mind that internships also serve as a point of discussion in job interviews as my experience shows.

During my fellowship, I interacted with various people, including other POST fellows and staff, and got to take part in various events within and outside Parliament, all of which served to broaden my horizons and expand my networks. As a POST alumnus, I have been invited to attend POST events, and I get informed of job opportunities within the field of science policy. My experience at POST has also directly or indirectly availed me of opportunities to attend other events in Parliament, such as Parliamentary Links Day, Voice of the Future, and SET for Britain. Networking at one of such events has led to me being involved in an annual international youth science conference, as a speaker and as a poster judge!

The networks built during internships could turn out to be the most significant networks for the early stages of your career after graduation. Employers often write references for interns in support of job applications, or may inform interns of vacancies within their companies or in other companies. Networking is definitely not just about who you know, but about who knows you.

Internships provide opportunities for students to put themselves out there, in professional environments, so that they get noticed by those who matter, in addition to gaining valuable knowledge and experience. Doing an internship could also inform students of the various career options available to them in their subject disciplines. In my case, the POST fellowship revealed other career options for scientists, outside of academia and industry.

Internships and work placements are a great way to enhance employability upon graduation. I highly recommend students to take up such opportunities, be they short-term or year-long (sandwich) placements.

Finally, how did I find out about my internship? I got to know about the POST fellowship as a result of being a member of the society that sponsored my fellowship! Thus, membership of relevant professional bodies or learned societies can be useful in securing an internship or placement. This I highly recommend as professional bodies and learned societies are a great source of incredibly useful resources, information and support.

If you would like to find out more about internships and how to take advantage of them, please contact us. In addition, if you have questions for Dr Amund about the POST fellowship, you can email us for details or better still, find him on LinkedIn. If you enjoyed reading this article, please share and follow! We would love to share your stories in The Hub as well so do get in touch – info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.  

Uncertain what to do next? – Career Options for Life Science Graduates

Science and education iconsWondered what to do after completing a degree in the Life Sciences? Have you considered the variety of opportunities available for you after you graduate? Over the next weeks, we will showcase a range of career options open to graduates of different disciplines with guest posts from professionals in some of the sectors. However, as scientists, we will start with some of common and not-so-common career options available to life sciences graduates and in some cases to non–graduates interested in working in the life sciences.

Teaching – Teaching remains one of the oldest and long standing professions. Be it primary or secondary school teaching, we have come across many people who have commented on how exciting and rewarding teaching can be although like any other career, it comes with its challenges. To work as a teacher in either primary level or high school, you will need patience. If you do not like children, perhaps teaching may not be the best fit for you. There is always a need for teachers with a science background and with the declining number of people taking mathematics, there is a big gap to fill in the STEM subjects. To qualify for a job as a teacher, beyond your degree (2.2 or above), you will need to enrol on a teacher training program. Check out Routes into teaching (UK) for more information. If you would like to teach abroad, do some research on what teaching qualifications you will need.

Lecturing – To work as a University or College Lecturer on the other hand, the minimum requirement is a master’s degree qualification. A lot of Further Education institutions (colleges) accept Masters Degrees and in some cases, you can work as an Associate Lecturer at a University. In the Life Sciences, it can be difficult to get into lecturing in Higher Education without a PhD degree due to the high number of PhD graduates and Post-doctoral researchers in this area. If you feel lecturing is what you would like to do, consider doing a PhD first as you will need it to progress through the ranks. You will also have the opportunity to develop your research profile – which you will find important when supervising students projects and dissertations. If you are currently studying for your PhD and have no interest in postdoctoral research but would like to teach, consider undertaking a postgraduate teaching qualification at your University – usually for free! This qualification is usually called the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Completion of the teaching qualification leads to the professional recognition as Associate Fellow or Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK.

Research – For graduates interested in innovation, development and the technical side of the life sciences, research is a very appealing option. Remember that research is not limited to working in a University laboratory where you can work as a research intern, research assistant or technician. As a Life science graduate, you have a wide variety of options and location where you can be employed to conduct research. This could be in a drug development company, national health research centre such as National Institute of Health Research, NIH (USA), product development companies such as Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Medical Device companies or even SMEs. In these organisations, you can be employed as a Research Scientist and expected to conduct research in different areas. An advantage of a career in the sciences are the specificity of the technical skills and the array of transferable skills you have developed, which means you can work in similar organisations worldwide. For a career in research, a good degree qualification and the ability to demonstrate your laboratory and technical skills are the minimum requirements at entry level.

Sales – Are you a science student or graduate involved in charity events, soliciting donations from other students and academics (a tough crowd to get money from!!), or do you work as a sales person in a clothing store and not sure what to do after your degree? Well you are already developing skills in sales! With a good degree to belt, your communication skills, passion for selling and ability to convince difficult customers, you can embark on a career which could involve selling modern and hi tech diagnostic or scientific technologies to other companies and academic institutions. A career in sales can be very rewarding financially with many added benefits such as bonuses, car allowances etc. Remember that a role in sales will most likely involve travelling, but what’s not to love about travelling eh?

Transition to Medicine –  A life science degree or a background in the life sciences can be a route for those who retain interest in practicing as medical doctors. As an International educational activities adviser, I am often confronted by parents and young students who are particularly interested in a career in medicine but find it difficult securing places on medical degree courses due to limited places and competition. Achieving a first class or 2.1 degree in the life sciences presents another opportunity into medicine either though the standard route (UCAS) or via the four year accelerated graduate entry programme (GEP). Some of the Universities and medical schools in Australia, the UK and Ireland require that you pass the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) to be considered. Whilst GAMSAT is one of the main routes into GEPs in the UK, the MCAT test is the required test for entry into medicine in the USA. Keep in mind that graduate entry into medicine is not limited to the UK or the USA, although they are preferred options. If you are passionate about getting into Medicine, put your research skills to work and find out what option works best for you.

Business management and Entrepreneurship – Yes, you can! Don’t be alarmed! As a science graduate, one of your career options is definitely in the commercial sector. The analytical skills of science graduates appeals to both scientific and non-scientific organisations. Employers can provide training on aspects of business and business management which as a science graduate, you may not have. Do you have a great idea and want to start your own business? A number of Universities are now embedding entrepreneurial training in their science courses as well as providing support for students who want to transform their ideas into a business.

If this is an area you would like to develop whilst undertaking your degree or as a graduate, why not approach your careers department and ask for advice on what type of training programs or free workshops are available to help you develop business skills. You can also volunteer with business organisations, giving you an opportunity to see their operational challenges and how you can use skills you have developed from your science degree to solve them. To get into the business and commercial sector, you will still be expected to have a good degree (2.2 and above), good communication skills and be willing to take up the challenge of working under pressure in what is usually a fast paced environment!

Have you considered working as a Business Development Executive? in Project Management? as a Proposals Associate? These are opportunities open to science graduates and requires several skills such as excellent communication, initiative, attention to detail, flair for numbers and of course professionalism as well as the ability to work independently and in a team

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article and found it helpful. If so, please like, share and follow! In part II of this article, we will conclude on other career options and pathways for life science graduates, so be on look out. If you would need further advice on how to get into these sectors, do not hesitate to contact us via  email (info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com).

Watch this space for our career profiles, providing information on how to get into different career ‘spaces’ from people who have been successful at doing so. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us @AspProfHub.

Reflections – My journey towards global relevance

Personal development? Professional development? – These are terms that we hear quite often but what do they really mean to you as an individual? Is it simply about developing your skills or does it entail something more? In this ‘Reflections’ piece, Blessing Obinaju expatiates on this topic by sharing her journey of personal and professional development.

Finding your feet in the murky waters of global relevance.’ I recently read this article again on The Aspiring Professionals’ Hub. I will refrain from rehashing the entire message of the article because I want to concentrate on these particular points;

Begin with the end in mind – This is our mantra on the Aspiring Professional’s hub. In your field of study, area of business interest or chosen career, is there anyone, business or role model in that position you aspire to be in worldwide? Knowing something about the journey to their attainment or achievement could be a starting guide for you to start a plan for your own global attainment. These days it is not so hard to learn about global figures when you have Google and in most cases these global stars are on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter or have personal websites.

Have a plan – of your own for that career, design, business or idea BUT with a global audience in mind. For example, if you are choosing a course at University, think broadly about how relevant that course is another country or even worldwide before deciding. If creating a business plan, can that business service a need in another town, state, country, continent beyond your current location? So we suggest in whatever your goals or targets, THINK GLOBALLY.

Finally, personal development is catching fire within Africa. I do remember when I made the decision to pursue a career in academia; I was in my third year studying for an undergraduate degree. I remember the responses I received when I mentioned I was going into teaching. I also remember that to most of my peers at the time, it was the joke of the century.

What is my point?

I was perhaps fortunate to have found my first footing in the murky waters – deciding for myself what I wanted and who I wished to become. It would have been easy to have abandoned that footing simply because it was criticized. Why didn’t I? Well, I wasn’t looking at the immediate moment, I was looking at the end goal, as the article aptly stated, I was beginning with the end in mind.

So, how did I crack on?

I was privileged to have had close relatives who were already in the field. Thus, it was easy to research the steps required to attain the height I envisioned. I devised my plan (including options for any derailment or obstacles) and relentlessly followed it. Of course, nothing ever goes strictly according to a laid out plot – it wouldn’t be life if it did. However, what happens when you have a plan is, there is a calculated margin of what I love to call “happen-stance”: occurrences that take you by absolute surprise, frustrate and completely throw you off your path. I’ am sure that some of you are stomping your feet at this moment and screaming ‘Provide us with a detailed breakdown.’  I won’t tease you longer. For those of you who are Nigerians, you will be able to follow the path more closely. I wouldn’t be an academic if this piece had no schematics. So, here’s the plan and I am happy to say I am currently in the last phase.

Image courtesy of Blessing Obinaju.
Image courtesy of Blessing Obinaju.

So, how has this impacted me, re: global relevance? First, one of my most cited papers as an academic is the very first article I published shortly after my M.Sc. This and the various presentations at conferences during the Ph.D., have been quite relevant to placing my feet firmly on the cobbled stones that help us cross the waters which divide relevance and insignificance. As an academic or an aspiring academic, you can never attend enough conference, workshops or seminars in your field. More importantly, my academic experience and my ability to continuously adapt my plans to fit my goals – despite challenges that the world would always throw my way –  resulted in a book – The DANCE of Life: A guide to living your best life every day. It has also opened opportunities to share my experience as a STEM ambassador for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network as well as in several other forums.

There were some critical control steps in my plan;

Location, location, location – Even though I gained my Master’s degree from a country other than that where I currently hold lectureship position, there was no debate over whether or not I should return to my home country upon completion of the degree. It was more of a forgone conclusion because I knew I was aiming for a lectureship position in my home country and that position would pay for the Ph.D.

Think long term – Notice that my very first job was a volunteer opportunity (yes, it was in Nigeria!). The point of this was, while I was job hunting for academic positions, the volunteer position which was still an education role, ensured that there was no gap period on my CV and I gained additional work experience.

My candid recommendation

Never underestimate the value of internships and do not overlook volunteer opportunities either. Just be certain that they are related to or somewhat impact on your end goal. It is also important to state that the most invaluable tool to really finding one’s feet within those waters is, an ability to constantly increase your bank of knowledge and not just in your area of certification. Being well-versed and well-read isn’t just an attribute of the rich and affluent – thanks to technology – everyone can be. It only takes being proactive and of course, actually desiring to reach your envisioned peak, whatever that is.

Blessing Obinaju is an Academic Researcher, Career Counselor, Life Coach and Image consultant. She works in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Uyo, Nigeria. She is also the Principal consultant at La Belle Vie, providing life coaching services to individuals. You can find her on Twitter @ObinajuBE.

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