3 Job Myths for Immigrant Lawyers in Israel

3 Job Myths for Immigrant Lawyers in Israel

Guest blogger Yehuda tells you how he quickly found work as a lawyer after making aliya.

I Have A Dream

Since I was 16 years old, I knew I wanted to make aliya. Of course, at that age I wasn't the most financially independent individual so the dream had to wait. In the meantime, I went to law school in Canada, got called to the Bar in 1999, worked in the private sector and eventually got a job with the Canadian Department of Justice in Ottawa.

During those early years in my career, I was insisting to everyone who wanted to hear that yes, I still wanted to move to Israel. My enthusiasm was met with the usual skepticism heard by every lawyer or law student thinking of aliya:

  • “Great, just what Israel needs – another Jewish lawyer!”
  • “Israel has 40,000 lawyers already, the highest level per capita. How can you compete?”
  • “Lawyers earn peanuts in Israel”
  • “Your Hebrew will never be as good as that of native Israelis”
  • “The Bar exams are really difficult, even Israelis fail them”
  • “You should have gone into hi-tech instead!”

To which I would respond “but I know people in Israel who said they would help me!” Needless to say, this last bit didn't inspire confidence in my detractors.

Taking the Plunge

Shaken but undeterred, I made aliya at the end of 2006 with Nefesh B'Nefesh – G-d bless them – along with my wife and 3-month-old baby.

My credibility was at stake here. If I managed to find a decent job, I'd be vindicated, my integrity maintained, my gutsiness admired! And if I failed, I'd come back one your later humiliated and humbled, forced to concede defeat. Must….find…..job….

How I Did It

I contacted every single person I knew who might be able to help me. Protexia is the name of the game, is it not? There were a few leads but nothing amazing. I found that salaries for lawyers in the government start out really low unless you can get a job at one of the para-governmental agencies like the Bank of Israel, the Anti-trust Authority or the Securities Authority. So I decided to focus on the private sector.

Since I knew nothing about Israeli law firms, I contacted a recruiting firm specializing in law jobs in Israel. The recruiters were extremely helpful in guiding me and advising me about the local market.

To my surprise, I managed to get interviews in many large firms – mostly in Tel Aviv of course – with some pretty decent offers. I decided on a medium-sized firm in Jerusalem, closer to where I'm currently residing.

Why was I surprised? I wasn't expecting to have these types of options because I had no experience as a commercial/corporate lawyer. Sure, I had drafted small contracts in the past, and with an LL.M in business law I had a pretty good knowledge of the business world, but I didn't have big-firm corporate experience. That didn't play in my favor, but the fact that I spoke English and had demonstrated a good set of legal skills managed to convince prospective employers that I could do the job.

The Myths I Encountered

All in all, the job search lasted all of one (1) month and I was duly rewarded, something for which I'm extremely grateful. Of interest to the JobMob community, though, is that many myths about jobs for lawyers in Israel were debunked in the process.

Here are the key lessons I've learned so far:

Myth #1: there are no good law jobs out there

Wrong! If you speak and write English above the grade 6 level, you can do very well – Israeli law firms with an international practice badly need native English speakers. In that sense, lawyers making aliyah are not at all competing with native Israelis because our advantages lie in a different market. So all this talk about there being 40,000 lawyers in Israel is, in my humble opinion, nonsense.

Myth #2: Lawyers in Israel earn bubkes and change

Wrong! Salaries for lawyers are not bad at all! Average salary for the articling period (“hitmachut“) is around NIS 6,000 per month on average. It can hit NIS 7,000-8,000 in the larger firms. Not great money, true, but once you're called to the Bar, it jumps and you'll begin earning very decent money by Israeli standards. Ok, so it's not Bill Gates money. It's not even Donald Trump money. But it's enough to live normally without feeling strapped for cash every month.

Myth #3: Without protexia you're nothing

Wrong again! Yes, protexia helps, but there's enough demand out there that you don't need to rely on it. In fact, through the legal recruiter I did not use any protexia to land interviews and get offers.

Bonus little-known fact

The Misrad Haklita (Ministry of Absorption) grants prospective employers a subsidy of approximately NIS 2,500 to hire a mitmacheh (articling student). These grants are meant as an incentive to encourage them to take on a mitmacheh who made aliya. Presumably, that money should be passed down to you as an addition to your salary. This comes in handy if you want to apply, say, at the Ministry of Justice, where budgets are so tightly controlled.

Conclusion

In short, there is work out there for foreign lawyers in Israel, and the salary is nothing to complain about. The key is to focus on the needs of the Israeli market – English speaking lawyers with solid legal skills, primarily in business law. Even if you're not interested in business law, there are other types of opportunities – at the Ministry of Justice for instance – but they are rare. In any case, with a sufficiently good skill set and a solid CV, the odds are in your favor.

With that in mind, good luck to all those thinking about aliya. Remember the words of the great Justice Brandeis when he said “Im tirzu, ein zo agada” – “If you will it, it is no dream”. Wait, was that Brandeis or Herzl? Either way, it's not a pipe dream: immigrant lawyers do make it in Israel.

If you liked this article, you'll also enjoy Why Immigrant Lawyers in Israel Must Watch TV.

This article was the second entry in the 2007 JobMob Guest Blogging Contest.

Enjoy this testimony? Subscribe to JobMob via email or RSS and follow me on Twitter for more true life stories of Israeli job finding success.

About the Author Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

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44 comments
Jacob Share
Elisha says

Being myself an immigrant lawyer who re-qualified and settled himself in a big law firm in Israel, I agree completely with the views of Yehuda in this article that should be an inspiration to English speaking lawyers immigrating to Israel.

The Israeli Bar examinations should be easy for those who had already practiced law in courts for whatever time because what is expected is a lawyer’s answers to all questions with all probabilities taken care of in the analysis of the problems asked. After all it is an open-book format examination. And there is an intensive two-weeks’ lecture course organised by a lawyer, Mr. David Sivelle which is very helpful indeed and prospective students should specifically inquire about this at the Israeli Bar Office, Jerusalem. In the immigrant’s brochur named, “lawyer” published by the Misrad Haklita (Absorption Ministry Office) this course is mentioned. In my batch nobody had failed!

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Jacob Share
josh says

“Protexia” for the uninformed means ‘connections’.

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Jacob Share
oded peretz says

RESUME

PERSONAL DETAILS-

Mr. Oded Peretz.
I.D – 034525022.
Born 21-11-1977 in Haifa.
Postal address- 22a Atad Street, Karmiel 20100.
odperetz@yahoo.com
Family status- unmarried with no kids.
Willing and able to change my address immediately upon request.
Mobile- 052 326 6589.

HIGHSCHOOL EDUCATION-

1993-1996-Full matriculation -Ort Horovitz, Karmiel.

MILITARY SERVICE-

1996-1998- naval commando.
1998- 1999- Golani 13.

UNIVERSITY EDUCATION-

1999- 2000- Courses in Economics and Managment at the Open University in Haifa.
2001- 2003- L.L.B. &Classical Philosophy-UPE [now NMMU]- University Of Port-Elizabeth -a Dutch university in South Africa. Roman- Dutch law.
2003-2006- L.L.B.[Graduation] – Rhodes University- an English university in South Africa. English law.
2007-LLM and Philosophy Masters studies in the Hebrew University.

PREVIOUS JOBS-

1999- A certified lifeguard at kibbutz Tal-El.
2000- a diving instructor in Eilat hotels.
Customer service at Celkom.
Law intern- finishing internship and writing bar exams in October 2007.

LANGUAGES-

Hebrew.
Fluent English at the level of a mother’s tongue- reading, writing, typing, speaking-
I lived and studied law and philosophy for a period of five years in South Africa.
Basic Arabic.
Fluent Legal Latin.

FULL COMPUTER AND INTERNET SKILLS.
Traveled extensively in the US, Europe and Africa.
Willing and able to learn and to work hard.
Excellent negotiations skills and ability to work in a group.
Good health.
Recommendations available upon request.

Faithfully Yours,
Oded Peretz

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Jacob Share
Jacob Share says

Oded, thanks for the CV. What kind of (legal) job are you looking for?

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Jacob Share
Jacob Share says

Oded, thanks for the CV. What kind of (legal) job are you looking for? Have you tried the legal recruiter mentioned in the article?

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Jacob Share
Dovid says

I am plan on going into tax law in an American Law School. Is there significant demand for those trained in American tax law in Israel? If so, what types of firms? Any specific names?

Thanks

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Jacob Share
Yehuda says

Honestly, I don’t know about tax law specifically. Your best bet is with the law firms that do international corporate work, Herzog, Yigal Arnon, Goldfarb, etc. There may also be boutique firms with a need for an American tax lawyer, but I don’t know any names as I’m new here myself. Good luck.

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Rachel says

So what’s the bottom line? I keep seeing articles that say the salary is “nothing to complain about,” but how much are we talking? I’m a 5th year corporate litigator with a focus on trademarks and unfair competition. My Hebrew is terrible, but my English is excellent. 🙂

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Jacob Share
Jacob Share says

Rachel, hopefully this article can help answer your question: http://jobmob.co.il/blog/how-much-do-israeli-paralegals-earn/
(it’s not only for paralegals)

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Jacob Share
Elijah says

Hi Yehuda,

Is there any way I can contact you with some questions? My email is jubes1@hotmail.com.

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Jacob Share
Yehuda says

In answer to some of the comments:
1. Salaries: in big Tel Aviv firms doing corporate work, with 5 years relevant experience, my guess is 20K shekels and up per month

2. A great resource is lawjobs.co.il – the people there really have the best tools and knowledge of the local industry

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Jacob Share
BS says

Thank you for your insight! I am currently completing my last year of law school at Suffolk Law School in Boston, and I am very seriously considering making Aliyah in July after sitting for the New York bar exam and moving to Tel-Aviv. I can read words in Hebrew but I cannot speak or comprehend much. Furthermore, I have a very unconventional Jewish background, primarily because I have an African-American skin tone, but I am Jewish by law and adoption from a conservative and historically orthodox family. Long story. Anyway, I was wondering whether my limited language ability and my non-traditional background could potentially hinder my chances of gaining serious opportunities and being admitted to the Israeli Bar (if necessary). Also, how would you describe the culture of the firms in the private sector that specialize in internaional business? Thank you in advance for your response

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Jacob Share
Yehuda says

Very interesting. First, a disclaimer: I’m not an expert since I’ve only been working in a firm for 4 months. I can say that Hebrew is very important to pass the Bar exams but obviously less relevant to actually work in international business. You can find a job in the firms thanks to your English, but to be properly functioning as a lawyer Hebrew is necessary. The good news is, in my opinion Ulpan really really helps. Regarding your background – I’m not expert on Israeli society but I’m fairly certain that people in Israel are used to seeing people of diverse origins. True, big law firms tend to be more homoegenous but ultimately, what speaks to them is your cv and how valuable you can be to the team. Culture wise – again, i don’t have much experience, but from what I hear, there’s a big difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem law firms (in TA, longer hours, higher salaries, more New York-type atmosphere; in Jerusalem, more modest, less fancy, etc.). The stereotype. I’ve also heard that israeli firms are hard to integrate for olim because of israeli culture that is just so different and a bit insular. However, the international departments tend to be made up of American and Canadian lawyers, so that brings in an atmosphere you’re more familiar with. The firm I happen to work for has a nice mix and everyone meshes well. Inquire about the firm culture during the interview process! Hope it helps. Y.

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Jacob Share
Rachel says

Jacob,
I am very interested in finding a legal job in Jerusalem. I attended law school in San Francisco (UC Hastings) and passed the California bar exam. Did you find a job before or after you made aliyah? Also, what recruiting firm did you use? I would like to contact them. Thank you for relaying your experience.

Rachel

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Jacob Share
Jacob Share says

Hi Rachel,
First off, you should subscribe to JobMob if you haven’t already. There were 2 articles in the past few days that you’ll find interesting:

1) 5 Ways to Find Jobs in Israel Before Arriving
2) When Should You Start Your Job Search Before Moving to Israel?

I’m not a lawyer but Yehuda is. There’s a lot of great advice in this article and the other comments. When he recommends Lawjobs.co.il, it’s because he used them for his own legal job search success, in Jerusalem no less.

Personally, I didn’t find a job before aliya but I didn’t try to. At the time, I wanted to get my army service out of the way first.

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Jacob Share
Rachel says

Hi Jacob,
Sorry, for some reason I thought you wrote this article but now I realize it was Yehuda. Thanks for pointing me to lawjobs, I will be contacting them.

Yehuda,
Is there a way I can contact you to ask you a few questions? My email is rachelannjohnson@gmail.com

R

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Jacob Share
Why Immigrant Lawyers in Israel Must Watch TV | JobMob says

[…] year after his 3 Job Myths for Immigrant Lawyers in Israel, Yehuda gives more insight to life in the Israeli lawyer’s […]

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Emma Rothstein says

Hi, I am an English Lawyer specialising in family/matrimonal law looking to move to Israel. I speak good hebrew (thanks to my Israeli mother!) but my reading and writing skills are not great. I have been told that Israeli law is based on British law and I may not have to do the bar exams to practice there as a qualified solicitor in the UK. Is this true? Also are there any British law firms out there as the ones I have found on the net all seem to be American ones. it may be easier to get a transfer to israel from a law firm over here perhaps?? Any advice is very welcome!

Emma

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David says

Yehuda: I am a Vice President for Green Point Legal which employs US attorneys who have made aliyah in Israel for US-sourced work. I’d like to hear how your work experience has gone so far.

Any other attys out there who are doing outsourcing work? I’d like to hear from you as well.

Thanks!

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Jacob Share
Yehuda says

Hi. Yehuda here again. I noticed that there have been a few recent comments, so I’ll try to answer them in one successively.
Comment #19: Israeli law is a mish-mash of Turkish and British law, with some Jewish law and civil law concepts thrown in for good measure. Much of modern Israeli case law borrows from US law & Canada. I think that if you want to practice law in Israel, you should view the legal system here as “sui generis”. Take it for what it is, without relying on the British roots too much. I think the Israeli legal system has evolved to a point where it’s no longer accurate to say that Israel is just a regular common law country. Maybe someone with more experience has a different perspective on things. THat’s my take, for what it’s worth.
Regarding the Bar, as far as I know, the current rule is like this: everyone must take the Hebrew proficiency exam + the 8 Dinei Israel exams. These are fairly straightforward, open-book exams. In Jerusalem, David Saville – a Brit himself – organizes a class to you get you through those. Also, everyone must go through an articling period- usually 1 year, but it can be shortened slightly if you have more than a few years experience as a foreign lawyer. I should mention that if you have less than 2 years of experience as a foreign lawyer, you cannot start your articling until you pass the Hebrew exam and (i think) ALL Dinei Israel exams. If you have over 2 years’ experience, you can start your articling immediately once you pass your Hebrew exam, without the no need to pass all the Dinei Israel exams.
Finally, there’s the official bar exam that all israeli law students must take. That’s the hard one. It invovles substantial preparation (2-3 motnhs is the norm among Israelis). There’s a written (multiple choice) and oral component. You will be exempted from it if you have over 5 years experience as a foreign lawyer. Since i fit in that category, i was thankfully not required to take this exam. Whew! DISCLAIMER: the above is based on my experience of 2 years ago. When preparing for aliyah, make sure to contact the Bar to get the official info from the horse’s mouth. They could change the rules at any time, you never know.
Regarding British law firms – I am not aware of any here but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. For the most part, I think the big law firms here are Israeli firms with a number of English speakers from the UK, US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, etc. That being said, one thing I keep learning from JobMob is the importance of being resourceful and creative in your job search. If you see a job opportunity, or potential to create something new and different, or to carve out a niche for yourself in Israel, go for it! Maybe there’s a British law firm you can approach, that would like to have a presence in Israel?

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Jacob Share
Yehuda says

Now on to comment #20.
Please note my follow-up blog entry, here: http://jobmob.co.il/blog/why-immigrant-lawyers-in-israel-must-watch-tv/

Regarding my experience in the legal outsourcing business: when I first made aliyah, before I started the whole Bar process and formal job search, I worked for a legal outsourcing company in Israel (not Green Point), just to have some extra cash on hand. The experience for me was bittersweet.
First, the negative. I made a little money. With emphasis on “a little”. More than minimum wage in Israel, for sure, but not nearly as much as I thought I could make in North America or even in Israel as a lawyer. The hours were pretty inconvenient: yes, working from home was good, but we had to be up late at night so that we could update the US attorneys at a time convenient for them. I also found it somewhat difficult to engage in a mind-numbing review of discovery documents. Thousands of documents, reviewed for any trace of relevance to the case at hand. Though interesting at first, it was just not intellectually stimulating because my entire task consisted of the exact same task repeated over and over, with no variety whatsoever.
Now,the positive: I appreciated the opportunity to get on the job again, to feel somewhat productive and to stay in touch with law, so to speak. I met some very nice people, some of whom i’m still in touch with today. Among them were some top-notch lawyers who were in the same situation as me. And of course, the money helped tie some loose ends, which relieved a lot of the post-aliyah financial burden.
I think that, before working for a legal outsourcing company, one should ask him/herself if the type of work, workload, hours, pay and lifestyle make sense to his/her situation. I think that one should ask the right questions (and I know JobMob has blogged extensively about this very issue) to find out exactly how the company intends to use your legal skills. Also, if you view this as a potential long-term commitment, ask about opportunities for advancement. The place i worked for had virtually none, which did not make it a very attractive place to invest oneself in long-term. Again, I don’t mean to generalize – Green Point and other outsourcing companies are probably very different from one another. They have different target markets, do different things, have different policies. I’m just basing myself on my own limited experience in one place. In short: as with any potential employer, ask the right questions before getting involved.

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Michael says

Hey Everyone,

Enjoyed the article and was hoping somebody might have advice on practicing IP law in Israel for American law graduates (graduating in January 09). I am registered with the patent bar and interned for a year in the States but don’t know where to start looking for job availability. I would appreciate any comments or advice
at feelinggrroovy@gmail.com

Thanks and Hatzlacha to all

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Ron says

I came across this site in my internet travels and it seems many have relevant useful information to share. Any suggestions would be welcome regarding my situation. Fluent Israeli speaker with 20 years experience as a Canadian lawyer (general practioner)who is thinking of aliyah but wishes to test the waters for one year approximately. My wife is Israeli and I have family as well so Israel is not foreign to me in any fashion…we spend one month each year visiting. I would prefer to locate in the north (Haifa) area. Comments regarding contract work or full time employment would be welcome as well as any useful referrals. Thanks for taking the time to read this

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Solomon says

Hi Jacob/Yehuda,

I am interested in relocating to Israel. I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2004. I Speak only English. Of what assistance can you be to me. My e:mail is dejionayiga@yahoo.com

Yours
Solomon

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Diana says

Hey,

I found your article and comments very useful.
Do you know how to register to the Tel Aviv study course for the Dinei Israel exams? As far as I know it starts in April and it’s held twice a week till August somewhere in Tel Aviv.

Thanks!

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Thomas says

Great job on following your dream and never giving up! This will be inspiring to all those who are facing challenges and making sacrifices in order to better themselves in the long-term.

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Israel Corporate Law Firm says

You are welcome to send cv’s to the contact email on our website.

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nadine says

Hi, Great article… I am considering coming to Israel and practicing law but am concerned about my Hebrew. Were you fairly fluent? If one is not, what kind of difference does that make?

Thanks.

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Amir Tamari says

Dear Jacob,
Thank you so much for your blog about jobs in Israel. Interestingly, I am an Israeli born Judean, who have lived both in Israel and Canada. I was called to the Bar in Ontario in 1999 like yourself. I am completely fluent in Hebrew and served in Golani in the army years ago. My wife, daughter and I are looking to move back to Israel next summer. My legal skills are in litigation, negotiation, mediation, drafting and oral skills. Any tips on where to look for a job in litigation or something related? Toda Ubbracha, Amir Tamari

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Nir Porat says

It was interesting to read your post.
As a lawyer here in Israel (in the private sector as well), I wanted to recommend, from my own rather extensive experience, some other recruiting companies specializing in legal jobs (I’ve used the one you’ve listed in your post and found that there are better ones out there offering more jobs):

1. Glawbal – very good company which sent me on quite a few interviews.

2. Codex – one of the largest in the business. most of the bigger firms in Israel work with them.

3. A-ONE – a smaller company, but they offer more diverse jobs (legal department in hi-tech companies, managerial positions for people with legal experience).

In any case, good luck to you and to others out there looking for work.

Nir

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    Jacob Share
    Jacob Share says

    Nir Porat- Thanks for that, Nir

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Arnab says

hi
I am a practicing lawyer from india.My main area of practice is commercial litigation,Arbitration contract drafting and negotiation. i am keen to work in Israel.Can you tell me what are my chances of getting work there and how i should go for it?

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Yaakov Kent says

Shalom, it is my first yr law student at Hofstra and I live and learn at Sh’or Yoshuv yeshiva in Lawrence, NY and want to get involved with the right people for a legal career in Israel for American law. Would you like to help me connect for this summer so I can get the process going for living in Israel.

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Irina says

Thank you so much for this information! I recently went on a birthright trip and fell in love with the country. I am currently in my second year of law school, and I really want to move there. But I was very upset by the number of lawyers in Israel. This website gave me a lot of hope, that maybe I too could forge my way in Israel. If you have any advice for me, I would love to get it. Thanks again for the inspiration!

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josh says

Apparently, Israeli lawyers are whining about the large percentage of lawyers graduating and passing the bar. Newbies are whining about how hard it is to find work (most did not know about the need to spend many years as a slave until the big bucks start rolling in), and I think that there is a general problem of the herd that many people who went to study law that academically do well, do not really love ‘law’.

In contrast, I think that an immigrant coming with a law degree and a love for law, still stands out of the crowd and is in demand with large law firms that need mother tongue and enthusiasm.

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Yehuda says

This is the author of the above blog post here. For additional information, you can see the follow-up entry here: http://jobmob.co.il/blog/why-immigrant-lawyers-in-israel-must-watch-tv/
I have to say I agree with Josh’s comment. In response to those looking for a job – I don’t think there are secret tricks here – as JobMob constantly reminds us, it’s all about networking, self-branding, etc. And good old fashioned googling to find the places that interest you the most. The information on entrance exams, stage, etc. is on the Israel Bar Association’s website.

I think most (if not all) of the advice mentioned in the above blog post and follow-up still holds true today. If anyone has specific question as opposed to general requests for advice/contacts, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer based on my own experience.

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Jacob Share
Sam says

How does an american find a lawyer in israel? For LAND ISSUES?? Can you communicate with them via email?? How.do you contact the Isreali court system perferably one that is familiar to East Jerusalem.

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Lea says

Hi Jacob,

Thanks for the great and inspirational article, I am a French lawyer admitted to practice in the state of NY and I am making Aliyah in Jan. 2013 from NY. I have a few questions and would like to be in touch with you. Is there an email address where I can reach you? Many Thanks!

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Kate says

Is it socially acceptable to tell lawyer jokes in Israel?

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uba babs says

I want to know if it is easy for a qualified lawyer in Nigeria to come to Israel for practice,does he or she needs additional training in Israeli law before he or she can?

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Adam says

Hi everyone,
Is this thread still active?
I would be very grateful for some guidance.
Adam

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Karen says

Why don’t you say the real truth! Don’t make Aliya, they’ll suck you dry!! Israelis are true modern day thieves.

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    Jacob Share
    Jacob Share says

    Well that’s offensive. What are you basing that accusation on?

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Arafat Elmoungy says

Dear Jacob ,

I’m interested in to get position as Law Lecturer , Legal Researcher or Legal Counsel , can I get any opportunity?

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