Grand Cayman is home to a sophisticated legal market and houses offices of every major offshore law firm. The leading outfits boast strong benches of litigation and dispute resolution lawyers comprised of locals and ex-pats, solicitors and barristers (including QC’s), a majority with credentials from the biggest and best onshore firms in the world. The work is complex, cross-border, high-value and professionally rewarding. (See www.legal500.com)
Demand for contentious expertise is currently higher than it has been in years. We are consistently looking for solicitors and barristers for leading firms, with openings at all levels from 3 years’ PQE to Counsel. There has rarely been a better time for commercial litigation / dispute resolution lawyers to explore the Cayman market.
The Cayman Islands legal system
The Cayman Islands has its own legal system, and you will be advising on Cayman Islands law. Fortunately, it is based closely on English common law and so most of the principles and foundations will be familiar to you. Nevertheless, there is a learning curve, and it is a commonly held view that new arrivals take up to six months to really feel accustomed to Cayman law. (See www.judicial.ky)
Complex commercial and trust disputes will typically be heard before the Grand Court in the Cayman Islands, with appeals escalating to the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal. The Privy Council in England remains the final court of appeal for Cayman Islands disputes. (See www.judicial.ky)
admission as a cayman islands attorney
As it stands, lawyers qualified in the United Kingdom, Jamaica and other Commonwealth jurisdictions which are recognised as equivalent (for example Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) can gain admission in the Cayman Islands without the need for any additional study. You will require a minimum of three years’ post-qualification experience. (See www.judicial.ky / www.cilpa.ky)
Commercial litigation lawyers in the Cayman Islands advise a high-end client base that might include investment banks, funds and asset managers, and multi-national corporations. Trust litigation lawyers will often be advising ultra-high-net-worth private clients, beneficiaries, or trustees, and/or associated financial institutions such as family offices and trust companies.
You will frequently be instructed by, and working closely with, onshore Counsel, on matters that cross multiple jurisdictions but there are also plenty of disputes which centre around the Cayman Islands market and on which you will take the lead. Geographically, strong links with London and New York remain, but Cayman lawyers can expect to work with clients all over the world.
Type of work
Litigation and dispute resolution teams in the Cayman Islands advise on the full gamut of commercial, insolvency and trust litigation but most disputes fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Shareholder/Director disputes
- Breach of contract
- Fraud and asset recovery
- Freezing orders
- Enforcement of judgements
- Banking litigation
- Contentious restructuring and insolvency
- Distressed investment funds litigation
- Trust and estate litigation
- Insurance litigation
- Professional negligence
- Regulatory and compliance
Some firms field specialist litigators in insolvency or trusts for example, but in most cases, a litigator moving to the Cayman Islands will be exposed to a broad range of work across these fields. You can also expect to be client facing from the outset with all lawyers, at all levels encouraged to take on responsibility and contribute to client development efforts. The Cayman market is one that rewards more commercially minded lawyers.
Advocacy in the cayman islands
The legal profession is fused in the Cayman Islands, so all admitted lawyers are entitled to stand in court. In practice, advocacy is handled by employed barristers or specialist external counsel with the requisite courtroom experience.
As a solicitor you may enjoy a bit more exposure to court work, but the probability is it will be in a support capacity. Likewise, even employed barristers will often act in support of external counsel where there is a need for a particular area of expertise or experience.
legal salaries in the cayman islands
Commercial litigation / dispute resolution lawyers are in high demand in the Cayman Islands and salaries reflect this. Rates vary across firms and roles but as a general guideline (all in US dollars):
- 3 years’ PQE: $140k - $160k
- 4 years’ PQE: $150k - $180k
- 5 years’ PQE: $160k - $190k
- 6 years’ PQE: $175k - $200k
- 7 years’+ PQE: $185k - $215k
- Counsel: $215k - $250k
Salaries are tax-free and firms typically offer bonus schemes, full benefits, and relocation allowances.
If this sounds interesting, the first step is to get in touch with Jason Horobin at Origin Legal for an initial discussion. You don’t need to be ready to sign up - we are happy to answer questions and help with your fact-finding as you explore whether this is the move for you.
Once the process starts, interviews are conducted by videoconference and will typically involve two or three stages, with discussions centred on both your professional attributes and your personal motivations for making the move. Offers can come around quickly – and it is too small a market to ‘play the field’ – so we recommend doing as much thinking and research as possible before starting the process. (See Interviewing for an International role).
Start dates are typically around six months later, accounting for the interview process and visa applications, followed by (for UK lawyers at least) three months’ notice period. It is possible to reduce this time frame in some circumstances or if your notice period is shorter.
For more information on the commercial litigation and dispute resolution market in the Cayman Islands, or to discuss any aspect of your international job search, please get in touch with:
Jason Horobin +44 (0)1206 233514 [email protected]
Charlotte Hooper +44 (0)1206 233515 [email protected]
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