Q: I am from Argentina and completed a degree in Law at a major Argentine University. I married an American man and we live in Boston. I am here legally, with a proper visa and green card. I am fluent and literate in Spanish, English and French. I cannot practice law here, but can you suggest the type of employment I should seek?
A. There are many lawyers looking for alternative careers, and having a JD does open doors to many careers which value the education, training and experience attorney’s have .
Many foreign banks and companies that acquire US businesses often seek employees who were either educated or worked in the countries in which they are based so that their workforce have multinational cultural and business sensitivities. Similarly, in recent years Massachusetts-based companies have grown their business presence in South America and other Spanish- and French- speaking regions of the world and value internationally trained workers. Your language skills alone will likely open up many opportunities. In fact, many companies require bilingual abilities in order to be considered for employment.
Looking further into your situation, I consulted Colleen Torell, JD, a former litigator and certified career consultant, who works with attorneys interested in exploring all their career options. Torell says, “”There are many highly valued positions in law firms that do not require state licensure, especially those that relate to international business. Work can range from research and drafting to paralegal- and law clerk-based work to “legal specialist” for those who may have prior legal experience abroad. These roles, supervised by a licensed attorney, provide an excellent outlet for those with the right legal training. More experienced professionals may advise international clients in some domestic proceedings and guide clients through complex cross-border transactions without technically being engaged in practicing law”.
Torell also suggests looking into the requirements for gaining entry to the Massachusetts bar. Law graduates trained in foreign countries may seek a determination from the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners of eligibility to sit for the Massachusetts bar and apply for admission depending on individual review of educational and work history. While foreign-trained attorneys may be required to attend further US-based legal education, the extra step may be worthwhile if you plan to remain in Boston. Note that each jurisdiction sets its own requirements for admission to practice so rules will change if you decide to relocate.
Professionals who have foreign language skills and a legal background may also find job opportunities in the public service sector such as Greater Boston Legal Services. GBLS provides free legal assistance and representation on civil matters to residents in the city of Boston as well as in surrounding cities and towns. They serve families and individuals, elders, and people with disabilities, many of whom speak Spanish and other languages.
Regardless of what role you choose, a few well-worded web searches will help you identify prospective employers. Local universities offer great publicly accessible online business resources lists organized by country. Search for law firm practice groups that market specialties focusing on particular regions. Law firms who consider foreign-trained lawyers engaged in US-based LL.M. programs usually identify themselves in nalpdirectory.com. Search local business news for updates on international business transactions. You should also research whether any of your fellow university alumni have relocated to the US and reach out to them to network and learn about how they marketed their unique backgrounds in their searches.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
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