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.
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.