Legal professional thinking about relocating to Cayman? Some considerations:
Throughout the last four years, I have helped countless lawyers and legal support staff to secure new positions in the Cayman Islands. When law firms in the jurisdiction cannot secure suitable local talent, it is common that they would have to look to overseas for suitors. I have faced all sorts of questions and misconceptions about what it is like living and working here from curious legal professionals overseas so I have put together answers to some FAQs below which might help you to make your decision if you are considering the move.
You will be challenged
A quick Google search of the Cayman Islands would show you photos of white sands, palm trees and crystal-clear blue waters – similar to search results for ‘paradise’. Yes, Cayman does have a valid reputation for providing the better work/life balance for legal professionals than many of the world’s other top financial centres and offers an outdoor and sociable lifestyle, however, this does not mean that you should expect to regularly finish your working day at 5pm to head off to the beach for happy hour.
Legal professionals in Cayman are challenged with demanding roles working with top institutions and major onshore law firms across the world, who all have high expectations. You will still be working hard on highly sophisticated transactions, learning, and expected to demonstrate ambition to develop your career. However, the more relaxed, flexible office cultures and less intensive billable hours do mean work/life balance is more than often an improvement compared to top firms in London, Dublin, Sydney, Toronto etc.
Cross-qualification: automatic eligibility
Expat lawyers admitted in Commonwealth jurisdictions such as England & Wales, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada who have three or more years post qualification experience (at the time of writing) are automatically eligible for admission to the Cayman Islands Bar as an Attorney-at-Law once they have secured employment and a work permit. There are no examination requirements unlike other popular jurisdictions.
Corporate lawyers: funds are a part of the fun…embrace it.
Cayman is a world leading jurisdiction for the domicile of investment funds such as private equity, hedge, mutual, etc.. While there is still plenty of corporate transactional work available in Cayman, funds transactions are unavoidable to some extent at many of the international law firms and some corporate lawyers even transition into fully-fledged funds lawyers. Most corporate lawyers who relocate to Cayman have limited, if any, experience relating to funds transactions. Worry not, comprehensive training is given and due to the similarities, corporate lawyers tend to adapt quickly and many go on to build very fruitful careers. There is no PQE discount for lawyers who do not have funds experience.
Dispute Resolution – what to expect
Dispute Resolution lawyers are often very impressed by the quality of work available in Cayman. The jurisdiction offers large, complex, cross-border disputes relating to insolvency, corporate, trusts, civil fraud etc.. With leaner dispute resolution teams than usually found onshore, junior lawyers tend to find themselves having deeper matter involvement. Lastly, Cayman is not a split jurisdiction like England & Wales for example, so attorneys who previously worked as solicitors often have the opportunity for involvement in advocacy should they choose.
What about my prospects after Cayman?
Most legal professionals who I assist do not intend to stay in Cayman for their entire legal careers and in fact, law firms usually would not expect you to (although most lawyers remain in Cayman much longer than they originally intended!). A common question I am asked by lawyers is, “what would my career prospects look like if I eventually leave Cayman?”
Cayman lawyers tend to find themselves having more autonomy and involvement in matters and clients than they do onshore from a junior stage of their careers, all while still attending to high-quality work. Not only does this help them to mature faster as a lawyer, but also to fuse solid relationships with many valuable clients and onshore law firms at earlier stages in their careers.
A quick LinkedIn search would prove that many of the lawyers who have left Cayman in the past have continued to build successful careers, with the Cayman experience often being an advantage.
Cayman is very family friendly
A common obstacle that legal professionals assume is that the move would not be possible with children. In fact, I have helped numerous families to relocate to Cayman. Law firms tend to extend relocation assistance to dependents (spouses and children) to ensure the move is as easy and cost-efficient as possible for new hires.
Cayman has great benefits for children – an outdoors lifestyle, high-quality private education with flexible curriculums, a wide range of cultures from across the world, cost-friendly childcare and a quality healthcare system. The islands also have a reputation as a safe place to live, with one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
When considering the prospect of schooling for your children, you should bear in mind that places in the top private schools can be competitive so make sure to start your search as early as possible. A list of private schools and their fees can be found on Cayman Resident.
Start your search early!
Application and interview processes usually take around one or two months and if you are successful, the work permit process could take between three to six months (at the time of writing). Your notice period would usually be an additional length of time on top of this.
If you are thinking to make the move in the next six to nine months, I would suggest getting in touch now.
If you are curious to find out more about life and work in Cayman, please also feel free to reach out and I will be happy to provide guidance.