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Becoming a shipping litigation lawyer

Shipping litigation is niche area in the legal jobs market. It involves dealing with a wide variety of shipping related legal issues, including loss and damage to cargo, shipping competition law, international trade and the purchase and sale of ships. But how do you secure a shipping litigation job? Read on to find out.

Tips for applying for jobs

Employers look for a consistent career history when hiring so you need to thoroughly research the firms you are applying to - find out which shipping companies these firms normally work with and then look for parallels with your own career. 

When applying for jobs, your CV will also need to be completely up-to-date with the latest shipping cases you have worked on. 

Shipping litigation involves dealing with a wide variety of shipping related legal issues, including loss and damage to cargo, shipping competition law, international trade and the purchase and sale of ships. 

In-house shipping litigation jobs

The in-house jobs market is strong and there are a lot of opportunities within the shipping insurance sector, especially in P&I clubs. But contentious shipping jobs are rare because most ship owners are based outside of the UK. 

Private practice shipping litigation jobs

There is always a high volume of litigation, whether it is cargo going missing/being destroyed or ships capsizing and as a consequence, specialist lawyers are regularly recruited.

Most demand is at the 18 months – 4 years’ PQE level – because the majority of roles are newly-created and firms are keen to build on this level of experience and grow their teams. 

There are some vacancies at partner level and when applying for partner positions it is important that you are able to demonstrate that you have a book of business to bring with you.

Can you break into this area? 

You are likely to find it hard to break into this area if you have a generalist contentious background as it is such a niche field. Firms always look for experience that is directly relevant to the role. At Robert Walters, we do know of cases where organisations have considered in-house lawyers with required skills, although they always look closely at the types of shipping litigation a professional has experience of (e.g. whether they have previously worked in merchant shipping or client vessels etc).

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