Moving to the Channel Islands as an NQ Lawyer
Each year there are multiple opportunities in Jersey and Guernsey for NQ lawyers who have trained in a good commercial law firm. These roles are with some of the best offshore law firms in the world and they offer an unbeatable combination of high-quality work, City level income and a genuine work-life balance.
Should this be on your radar? Below we look at the many advantages of making the move as well as a few potential reasons why it might not be for you.
QUALITY OF WORK
Top firms recruit high-quality lawyers because they do high-quality work. Jersey & Guernsey are world-class financial centres, and the firms advise on the offshore elements of the same major cross-border transactions/cases that you would find in any big City/international law firm. Newly qualified lawyers who have made the move are frequently surprised by the complexity, variety and sheer size of the matters that they are soon involved in.
TYPE OF WORK
Transactional lawyers typically advise on a smaller part of a greater number of deals, with the challenge of juggling multiple, varied and complex matters rather than ploughing through lengthy documentation for weeks on end. It suits lawyers who enjoy a fast pace of work. Litigators will likely see a mix with some cases requiring heavy ongoing involvement throughout the matter and others needing much more targeted input as they offer specialist Jersey or Guernsey law advice.
Channel Islands law firms recruit many from the leading commercial firms across the UK and Ireland, but also routinely out of the Australian, New Zealand and South African markets. Wherever your colleagues were trained, you are likely to find that their credentials are every bit as strong as those in your average City or international law firm. As a junior lawyer you will be working closely with, and learning from, some of the best in the business.
Any NQ arriving in the Channel Islands via a training contract in a large onshore firm, will soon notice the increased levels of involvement, responsibility and client contact. There is of course a learning curve (you will not be thrown in at the deep end!) but this is not a place where you will be held back. Teams are smaller and lack the multiple layers of Senior Associates and Partners that exist in a larger firm, so this is a great environment for someone who is able and willing to progress quickly.
Newly qualified lawyers in the Channel Islands can expect a starting base salary in the region of £65k to £70k per annum and subject to a maximum tax rate of only 20%. The lower tax means that the net value of this package is equivalent to a gross mainland UK salary that is several thousand pounds higher. Bonuses are attainable and stretch up to 30% for high achievers. All firms offer relocation assistance (cash + transport + temporary accommodation on arrival) and the usual benefits.
SENSIBLE WORK-LIFE BALANCE
These are serious law firms doing high-value work, so of course there can be the occasional late night or weekend, but these really are the exception. There is just no culture of being in the office for the sake of being seen in the office. Lawyers in the elite Channel Islands firms work hard but have a far greater degree of control over their practice and it’s quite normal for offices to be emptying out by 6.30pm in the evening. Few high-end markets can match the Channel Islands on this front.
The experience you gain in the Channel Islands will carry you a long way whether you remain offshore or return to the onshore world. Some settle in the Channel Islands for the long-term and see no reason to leave; some move on to other markets in the Caribbean, Asia or Australasia. And if you should decide to return for a stint in London? We have tracked lawyers making that move and can confirm that they go on to join some of the best onshore law firms in the world. This is certainly not a one-way ticket!
A relaxed coastal lifestyle with great beaches and beautiful scenery makes the islands ideal for people who enjoy surfing, diving, sailing or cliff-top walks. For those who prefer their sport on dry land, you will find an abundance of facilities. The ex-pat nature of the islands creates a friendly, social culture and means that you will have every opportunity to enjoy the many high-end restaurants and bars. And for a change, the French coast is an easy day trip, or you can be in London in an hour.
As one NQ said when we asked them for feedback a few months after arriving in Guernsey “I really thought it was too good to be true!”
For him, it wasn’t, but this move is not for everyone, so in the spirit of balance, below are a few potential drawbacks to consider:
TYPE OF WORK
As noted above, some lawyers will find themselves advising on a smaller element of a greater number of matters. Those lawyers who thrive offshore enjoy this immensely but if you are someone who revels in being at the centre of things, or someone who enjoys being part of a big team working on a lengthy project, you may find it difficult ceding responsibility for running a matter to an onshore firm. Also, note the point on responsibility – this is not the place for someone who doesn’t enjoy client contact.
Guernsey and Jersey have their fair share of things to do, and when the sun shines and tourism season is in full swing, they are positively buzzing. But they are small islands, and they are a far cry from city life. If you thrive on the fast pace that comes as standard in the city and your interests revolve around the latest gallery or restaurant opening, or the ability to visit a different place every time you socialise, you should consider the possibility that you may find the pace of island life a little slow.
Nobody expects you to sign up for life, but these firms are acutely aware that they provide great experience and could be used as a stepping-stone into a big firm in London or elsewhere. They are looking for lawyers who view this as a positive career step and who are excited by the professional and personal opportunities it affords. If you decide you want to return home in a couple of years, no problem, but if you would really prefer to be in London now, they might find you out in interview!
It is an obvious one, and it comes with any relocation, but it is important to consider the connotations of being away from close friends and family. The Channel Islands are easily accessible – less than an hour’s flight into London and direct routes into locations across the country – but if Covid lockdowns taught us anything, it is not to take freedom of travel for granted. Of course, we’re hoping for no more of that, but do just make sure that you are comfortable with this element of your move.
If this has piqued your interest, we would love to talk with you, even if you are only at a preliminary stage in your planning. Get in touch on the details below:
Jason Horobin +44 (0)1206 233514 [email protected]
Charlotte Hooper +44 (0)1206 233515 [email protected]
CURRENT MARKET CONDITIONS (SPRING/SUMMER 2022)
A number of leading firms are recruiting NQs in both Jersey and Guernsey. Opportunities exist in the following practice areas, for lawyers with good training and a relevant seat:
- CORPORATE - M&A
- CORPORATE – INVESTMENT FUNDS / ASSET MANAGEMENT
- CORPORATE – PRIVATE EQUITY
- CORPORATE – INTEREST IN CRYPTO/FINTECH
- BANKING & FINANCE – GENERAL
- BANKING & FINANCE – DEBT CAPITAL MARKETS
- BANKING & FINANCE – LEVERAGED FINANCE/FUND FINANCE
- COMMERCIAL LITIGATION & INSOLVENCY
- COMMERCIAL PROPERTY
- INTERNATIONAL TRUSTS / PRIVATE WEALTH
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