With global legal recruitment markets seemingly slowing down a little in 2019, the offshore markets haven’t seemed to have taken any notice. I can’t remember a stretch in recent times, such as 2019 has been, where there has been so much demand across the jurisdictions and also general personnel change.
Coming off what was an already busy 2018, firms seemed set to grow their presence in previously small jurisdictions for them, while we also saw a few new entrants along the way.
In the Channel Islands, Jersey maintained its position as the largest hirer in terms of pure headcount of all the jurisdictions, while Guernsey, quieter in recent times, seemed to bounce back. All the traditional areas of corporate; banking; funds and litigation continued to be most in demand but there were odd busy periods within Real Estate; Trusts; and Regulatory which have their own difficulties when looking to hire.
It is clear that firms are broadening out their search when looking for associates and South Africa proved extremely popular once again this year given the training and high quality of work undertaken by the lawyers. Given the continued lack of supply for the Channel Islands, I think we are safe to assume that this trend will continue. The change to Jersey immigration will hopefully also go some way in making the sponsorship process where needed much simpler.
One of the main reasons 2019 felt so busy was the sheer amount of hiring undertaken in Cayman by pretty much all the firms. Corporate; Litigation; and Funds lawyers found themselves in a situation with multiple options and a very fast-moving market. I also think it is the first time in a long while that we have seen salaries in Cayman start to shift upwards slightly.
Australia and Canada, to a certain extent, continued to prove popular as destinations for relocation, with London associates keener than ever to make the move. The impending legislation changes in Cayman could change the recruitment landscape somewhat, but until there is more clarity on exactly what it will impose firms are continuing in the same vain as always.
The one piece of respite this year was to be found in the BVI. After an exceptionally busy 2018, it was always going to be a quieter 2019. Firms seemed very settled and aside from a few departures here and there, generally didn’t lose too many people. The market seems to be picking up as we head towards the end of the year and litigation in particular is showing signs of being a key area of growth for 2020.
The surprise package of 2019 has by far and away been Bermuda. Notoriously quiet for many years, there has been an unprecedented amount of hiring throughout 2019, focused not just on the customary key players but also the newer entrants as they look to grow their Bermuda bases. Traditionally a destination passed over by candidates looking to move due to lack of options, the quality of work and lifestyle on offer has naturally proved very attractive. Demand remains high and we very much expect this growth to continue into the New Year.
Looking at the onshore bases of the offshore firms, London was unusually busy during 2019 and we found ourselves inundated with needs, mainly within the transactional space. I think it is unlikely that there will be significant further growth in 2020 but I would expect some senior hires, as firms look to gain market share.
Given the current political turmoil in Hong Kong, it has slowed down significantly in terms of hiring later in the year but proved as popular as ever in the first half with firms growing in both litigation and transactional. I think we will have to wait and see how things unfold before we get a sense of what 2020 will hold for Hong Kong and Asia offshore in general. Singapore was mostly stable throughout the year, as was Dubai.
Whatever the bigger global impact of Brexit, the offshore market has thus far proven resilient to the recruitment slowdowns elsewhere and if things continue as they are, the flow of candidates from the major financial centres is only going to continue.
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