Jersey and Guernsey house offices of all the world’s most prestigious offshore law firms. A move here promises exposure to top-tier international work, the opportunity to learn from market-leading colleagues, a sustainable work-life balance, and the chance to earn well and pay less tax. All while enjoying an enviable coastal lifestyle. Island life won’t be for everyone, but for many, it really is the answer. So, is it for you?
The Islands of Jersey and Guernsey
- British Crown Dependencies
- Just off the Normandy coast
- The best climate in the British Isles
- Miles of unspoilt coastline
- Renowned tourist destinations
The Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey are British Crown Dependencies, technically not part of the United Kingdom but intrinsically and constitutionally linked. The islands are not members of the European Union but have negotiated special agreements allowing them to benefit from aspects such as free trade, and concessions such as not requiring work permits for EU citizens.
The largest of the Channel Islands, Jersey is situated in the Bay of St. Malo, around 100 miles from the coast of England and only 14 miles from the French coast. It covers 45 square miles and is permanent home to 90,000 people, a number that swells dramatically over the summer tourist season.
Located to the north-west of Jersey, Guernsey is around 70 miles south of England and 30 miles from the coast of Normandy. Covering 25 square miles and home to around 65,000 people, it is also the administrative centre for the smaller Channel Islands of Alderney and Sark.
“The work is varied, interesting and demanding! And the work-life balance is excellent”
- Tourism and Finance
- World-class offshore financial centres
- Islands deliver significant positive impact to the UK economy
- Centre for banking, funds, corporate/trust services and insurance
- Low taxation
Guernsey and Jersey are widely respected international financial centres based on a range of economic, regulatory, and reputational considerations. Despite being sometimes portrayed as a haven for tax avoidance, reports have in fact shown the islands to have a significant positive impact on the UK and Global economy, and what’s more, with a record of stability, good governance, and standards of compliance that compare well to any of their neighbours in Europe.
Finance accounts for a major share of both islands’ economies, with estimates ranging between 40% and 60% depending on how it is measured. The banking, funds, corporate/trust services, and insurance sectors are major employers and wealth generators, and have fuelled growth that allowed them to maintain stability despite a buffeting during the global financial crisis and recently the Covid pandemic. Combined, the two economies hold around £200bn in deposits, well over £700bn (NAV) in managed funds and are home to 40-50 international banks and tens of thousands of registered companies.
The success of these two jurisdictions over the last 50 years has fuelled a substantial infrastructure around the finance sector, nowhere more so than among its law firms, more of which below. Outside of the Finance sector, tourism is the other major source of income with many thousands of visitors arriving every summer, predominantly from the UK, but increasingly from Continental Europe, to enjoy its tranquillity, climate (the best in the British Isles) and miles of unspoilt coastline.
The Legal Sector in the Channel Islands
- World-leading offshore practices
- Buoyant market
- Corporate, finance, funds, private wealth and litigation work
In line with the rest of the offshore world, the Channel Islands markets are dominated by what is sometimes referred to as the ‘offshore magic circle’.
This group (see links below) comprises the historic leaders from each of the major offshore financial centres, all of which now have networks of offices spanning the world’s leading offshore jurisdictions, as well as several key onshore locations. These firms have grown rapidly both financially and in terms of headcount and would dominate any list of the world’s leading offshore practices. Beyond this are some very good boutiques that prosper not least from the frequency with which the big firms can be conflicted out of matters.
Their success has been built on a platform of world-leading expertise in Corporate, Finance, Investment Funds and Private Wealth, and associated contentious work in Commercial Litigation, Insolvency and Trust Disputes. With the islands constantly striving to stay at the cutting edge of developments in their core markets, notable growth is now also happening in the Fintech and Digital Assets sector.
While some lawyers are locally trained, a large majority of the teams are ex-pats with many having relocated from the leading law firms in the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
The Recruitment Market
- Banking and Finance
- Investment Funds
- Commercial Litigation and Insolvency
- Trusts & Private Client
The majority of vacancies tend to come up in Banking, Finance, Corporate, Funds, Commercial Litigation, Insolvency and Trusts. Roles also arise in Fintech/Digital Assets, Financial Services/Regulatory, Real Estate and Employment
Opportunities exist at all levels – and senior roles are becoming ever more common – but the most frequent are those at Associate or Senior Associate level (up to around 8 years' PQE). More junior candidates can be sought after if they have great training or particularly relevant experience, especially in an area such as funds. Moves at a senior level are most likely where someone has a particularly sought-after skill set, has prior offshore experience, or can bring a book of contacts that promises to deliver business.
Whilst City experience is highly valued, it is far from essential and in fact, some firms have a real liking for candidates with a background in a good regional firm, commenting that the size of office and nature of the role offshore is more comparable to this than it is to a Magic Circle firm in London. Regardless, if you have good relevant experience in a firm that is recognised in its field, you will find options in the Channel Islands.
“Best decision I have made in terms of career with varied, stimulating levels of work”
Being a Lawyer in the Channel Islands
- High-quality International work
- Valuable offshore experience
- Jersey/Guernsey law
- Excellent work-life balance
- Good salaries
Whilst both Guernsey and Jersey are undoubtedly a world apart from city life, the deals, the cases, and the clients are just the same. As a Channel Islands lawyer, you will frequently be instructed by major onshore law firms, offering opinions on often very complex, technical aspects of offshore law. The client base is not confined to the European region either. Like their onshore counterparts, offshore lawyers will often find themselves advising on matters with a distinctly Global dimension.
On a day-to-day basis there will of course be some differences. You will be working on Jersey/Guernsey law for starters, and whilst both are heavily based on English law there will be differences. You will also notice that the volume of matters you advise on increases while the elements of the matter that concern you become more focused. On the plus side, you can expect to spend less time on the heavyweight documentation that consumes the life of many onshore lawyers, but on the other hand you will need to be confident juggling several demands, and the ability to think on your feet will be priceless.
The work-life balance is one of the things that attract people to a move offshore and it is not a myth. At the risk of slipping into cliché, this is perhaps the ideal work-life move. Nobody will pretend it is an easy ride and lawyers here undoubtedly work hard, but there is little of the ‘jackets on chairs’ culture of staying late that is so prevalent in some markets. Furthermore, wherever you live on either island, you won’t have far to commute!
Gross salaries tend to be around the mid-City level, but when you take into account the lack of VAT, national insurance at less than half UK levels and a 20% maximum income tax rate, earning potential is good. 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. Firms will also provide full assistance with applications for required licenses and work permits (where required).
With salary scales being adjusted regularly, particularly in what is a rather volatile market at present, we have not included a full salary survey in this guide. However, if you would like bespoke advice on the type of package you could expect in the Channel Islands market, get in touch and we would be happy to advise.
“If you are looking for an offshore career then the Channel Islands have excellent professional opportunities”
As a foreign lawyer there will be limitations to what you can sign off and for a litigator, limitations on your court representations (something to consider for Barristers in particular). For most solicitors it will make little difference on a day to day basis but you will still be encouraged to sit for qualification as a Jersey/Guernsey advocate as soon as you become eligible after two/three years’ (respectively) practice on the island.
Work permits are not required for UK citizens. For non-UK citizens a work permit application would need to be made on a case by case basis and will be determined by the level of expertise that the candidate brings and the relative availability or lack of that expertise within the existing market. Given the high demand for (and shortage of) legal expertise, prospects are good and if you are being interviewed by a firm then the chances are they are confident they can get the permit.
Both islands have regulations governing the leasing and purchase of property. In all likelihood, lawyers securing a role on either island will be granted a license that provides full access to the rental market.
All concerned recognise that getting your accommodation right is a vital cog in making the move work so you can rest assured that firms will not only advise you on the regulations, but they will also recommend estate agents to talk to who can give you a practical sense of what would be available and probably even give their local tips on the best places to live!
Jersey typically outperforms the UK in terms of secondary school exam results, perhaps in part due to the fact that around 55%-60% of students are in either fee-paying or selective education. Within the fee-paying sector, standards are high (and fees tend to be lower). Primary education is widely considered to be excellent.
Similarly, Guernsey has an outstanding reputation for schooling, with both state and fee-paying primary schools considered to be excellent. Selection takes place prior to secondary level meaning that children at 11 can apply to secure a place in a Grammar School or indeed a scholarship to one of the island’s excellent fee-paying schools.
The Career Path
People sometimes ask if a move offshore will limit their career. It won’t. We have tracked the moves of hundreds of lawyers entering the offshore sector, over several years, and found that while many remain offshore, those who seek to return to onshore practice find roles with some of the most prestigious outfits in the market. Simply, experience gained in a top offshore firm is highly regarded, whether in London, in another offshore market, internationally, or in-house.
In fact, many people find the thought of returning onshore unappealing and choose to remain offshore, either aiming for Partnership, every bit as (or arguably more) realistic as onshore, or moving to one of the other centres where the offshore firms proliferate. Cayman, BVI, Bermuda, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Mauritius – all are potential next steps for a Channel Islands lawyer, as is the London office of an offshore firm
Origin Legal is a specialist legal recruitment company launched in January 2005 by a management team that first came together in 1996. Our international team has been helping lawyers to make life-changing moves to the Channel Islands since 2000. We aim to simplify what is a potentially complex move, employing our vast experience to advise on every stage from initial fact-finding through to starting at your new firm.
- To find out more take a look at some of the following links:
- Financial Services Commission – www.jerseyfsc.org and www.gfsc.gg
- Finance – www.jerseyfinance.je and www.weareguernsey.com
- Government – www.gov.je and www.gov.gg
- Media – www.thisisjersey.com and www.thisisguernsey.com
- Tourist Information – www.jersey.com and www.visitguernsey.com
- Legal 500 – www.legal500.com/c/jersey and www.legal500. com/c/guernsey
- Carey Olsen – www.careyolsen.com
- Walkers – www.walkersglobal.com
- Mourant – www.mourant.com
- Ogier – www.ogier.com
- Bedell Cristin – www.bedellcristin.com
- Appleby – www.applebyglobal.com
- Collas Crill – www.collascrill.com
If you would like to find out more about the market, discuss potential opportunities or just ask a few questions about living and working in the Channel Islands, please get in touch. If you would like to send us a CV you can rest assured that it will be treated confidentially and never released without your advance approval. If you prefer to chat first, you can contact us any time on the details below:
Jason Horobin ddi. +44 (0)1206 233 514 [email protected]
Charlotte Hooper ddi. +44 (0)1206 233 515 [email protected]