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Walkers Bermuda bullish about island’s prospects

Going strong: John Rogers, Walkers’ managing partner, Singapore, far left, and Ingrid Pierce, global managing partner, Cayman Islands, fourth from right, with Walkers Bermuda partners Nicole Tovey, second left; Jonathan Betts; Natalie Neto; Sarah Demerling; Kevin Taylor, managing partner, Bermuda; and Peter Dunlop (Photograph supplied)

Law firm Walkers Bermuda, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary on the island, said it is bullish about Bermuda’s future prospects.

It also believes that Britain’s separation from the European Union, after lengthy negotiations that concluded last month, provides opportunities for firms based in Bermuda and other major offshore international financial centres.

Walkers Bermuda started out with a team of five people in 2016. Today it has 39.

Jonathan Betts, partner at Walkers Bermuda, said the firm had set itself some ambitious targets and had exceeded them in its first five years.

“There is no doubt that being part of such a well-recognised and highly regarded global legal brand such as Walkers has benefited us in attracting clients and new business, as well as servicing existing clients of Walkers who were looking for top-tier representation in the jurisdiction,” he said.

“On top of that, we launched with a very strong, but small, team of professionals which we have very successfully grown so that we now have 18 lawyers as well as a team providing corporate, fiduciary, compliance and listing services. We are very client-focused, service – driven and highly responsive; all key attributes that clients are seeking from their service providers, whether in Bermuda or elsewhere, both offshore and onshore.”

Kevin Taylor, managing partner, said the firm had attracted top Bermudian lawyers and offered them the opportunity to have “a stimulating career with a law firm that has a strong international focus and reach by creating overseas secondment opportunities”.

He added: “We see this as being hugely beneficial to the individual, in terms of exposure to markets such as London and Hong Kong, and for Bermuda, as a jurisdiction, via increased representation in major financial centres. Thus far two of our associates have benefited from the secondment programme.”

Walkers has been involved in a number of notable engagements. An example from last year was acting as Bermuda counsel to the Saturn Power group on the development of a solar-powered electricity generation plant at LF Wade International Airport.

When asked about highlights, Mr Taylor said there had been so many it was difficult to select specific ones. He said: “We are particularly proud of the work we have done with some of the most notable private equity firms and financial institutions in the world on multiple, return engagements. It is also gratifying that we consistently work with the most notable international onshore law firms on deals and disputes and they have also become loyal partners.”

In the aftermath of Brexit, the firm sees challenges and opportunities.

Ingrid Pierce, global managing partner (Cayman), said: “Brexit actually presents new opportunities for firms based in major offshore international financial centres. There will be challenges, of course, but anticipated regulatory changes will create additional work for other jurisdictions, including through the restructuring of vehicles.”

Bermuda is home to selection of offshore law firms. When asked if the island might be able to sustain only a certain number of law firms, Mr Betts said: “We are of the strong view, which has been borne out by our experience to date, that additional law firms can leverage their relationships and global reach to attract new opportunities, clients and business to the jurisdiction. We feel that the Bermuda legal industry will ’rise with the tide’ and that all firms should benefit from this approach.”

Walkers advises on the laws of six jurisdictions from ten different offices globally. Mr Betts said Bermuda is a leading offshore financial centre and it is “essential that the jurisdiction is home to a number of leading offshore law firms that can service clients' needs across a number of jurisdictions”.

Looking ahead, Ms Pierce said the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on major Caribbean international financial centres had been limited. She said work levels remain strong across Walkers, and in Bermuda it is seeing a particular increase in disputes, not only on the restructuring side, but in commercial litigation as well.

She added: “In a recent client survey, technology, pharmaceuticals, biotech, and distressed investments emerged as the top four sectors for growth, which suggests opportunities for firms to expand or benefit from new work streams in 2021. There are opportunities for firms that remain efficient and agile in the new environment to better support their clients and their employees.”

As for Walkers Bermuda and its goals for the next five years. Mr Betts said: “We will continue to build upon the strong start that we have had in Bermuda. We see more opportunities to grow our teams across the corporate and finance, re/insurance, funds, regulatory, insolvency and restructuring, dispute resolution, employment and private client practice areas.”

While Mr Taylor said it was important for Walkers to continue, through its scholarship, pupillage and secondment programmes, to support Bermudian law students and young Bermudian lawyers to achieve their professional goals with Walkers. He added: “In summary, we are bullish about Bermuda's prospects. We will continue to be at the forefront of promoting the jurisdiction and what it has to offer, including through our Bermuda registered associates practicing internationally.”

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Published January 27, 2021 at 8:04 am (Updated January 27, 2021 at 8:04 am)

Walkers Bermuda bullish about island’s prospects

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