Attorneys in Paradise
Explore Enchanting Foreign Cultures in Micronesia
By Robert Diemer
Help-wanted ads in the legal press tempt stateside lawyers with visions of hammocks strung between palm trees and tropical drinks in coconut shells. But ask almost any American attorney who has worked in Micronesia and they’re likely to say the reality is quite different—and vastly more rewarding.
Practicing law in Micronesia is challenging. Lawyers might find themselves negotiating international treaties or constitutional amendments. It’s exciting, too, to work on islands of postcard beauty where the pace of life is quite different from that of the mainland. Best of all is the chance to explore enchanting—and frequently frustrating—foreign cultures, where the people just happen to speak English as well as their native tongues.
Specialists are in demand for many positions. Experts in international law, environmental regulation, and government contracts are always needed. Legislatures have an ongoing need for those versed in preparing and editing bills and resolutions. Lawyers with experience in several different fields are needed as well, particularly at the states’ attorney general offices. As anywhere, experienced attorneys have an edge, but lawyers right out of law school find jobs on the islands in both government and private practice.
As on the mainland, no one is likely to consider an unsolicited resume unless a position is vacant or will soon open. Likewise, do not travel to Micronesia in hopes of getting an interview or job. The 30-day tourist visa is strictly enforced.
Daily legal newspapers, particularly in Hawaii and on the west coast, like the Recorder or the Daily Journal, often carry advertisements, as does the National Employment Monthly, which specializes in government attorney jobs. Some web sites below have links to employment pages listing open positions. Many Americans in Micronesia learn about jobs through word of mouth. Patience is critical.
Remember that a little knowledge can go a long way. Candidates should educate themselves about current island issues.
Salaries are low by U.S. standards, but higher than in other developing nations. Taxes are minimal and the cost of living is low. A housing allowance is included in almost every contract. And few jobs anywhere can beat the fringe benefits: Micronesia ranks among the finest scuba dive locales on the planet, and for kayaking, snorkeling, and deep-sea fishing it can’t be beat. Local food, especially fresh fruit and fish, is terrific. The frequently minimal time demands of some jobs means expatriates may have plenty of time for hobbies, exploration, and reading. Bring that copy of War and Peace.
For More Info
The FSM and Marshall Islands embassies maintain excellent web sites with many links. Both are good sources for general information and issues, although some information is dated. Go to www.rmiembassyus.org. The FSM Government web site links to an employment page with current listings. Palau National Communication Company’s web site is the best for that country: www.palaunet.com.
Island newspapers come and go, but Guam’s Pacific Daily News sets the standard. The online edition is www.guampdn.com.
ROBERT DIEMER worked for the FSM Supreme Court and the FSM Public Defender Office for several years. He has written on Micronesia for several publications, and now lives in Paris.