The Offshore Legal Recruitment market began 2021 strongly with an increased demand across all key practice areas. Whilst the full effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were far from behind us, a steady workflow and an increased pool of lawyers looking to relocate meant that all of the Offshore firms began 2021 optimistically.
As ever, the Channel Islands began their NQ recruitment much earlier than their Onshore counterparts. These firms were able to take advantage of renewed confidence amongst candidates and secure top-level talent. The early part of the year saw more hires in the transactional space, however, as the year went on we saw an increased demand to recruit into the dispute resolution teams which will likely continue into the New Year. The early part of 2021 saw an increase in lateral ‘on-island’ hires due to border closures and difficulties with relocating international candidates. Balance has now been restored and the easing of travel restrictions led to a continued interest in candidates looking to relocate from the UK, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. This is largely due to steady workflow and the continued growth of the key practices in the Channel Islands. We were continuing to see Visas granted despite some delays. We also saw firms increasing relocation packages to accommodate for any necessary quarantines and being flexible around start dates.
The Cayman Islands entered 2021 with uncertainty around the impending Legal Services Bill and what this would mean for recruitment moving forwards. The Bill seeks to raise the minimum qualification level for foreign qualified associates from 3 PQE to 5 PQE. As a result, there was a slightly mixed approach to recruitment at the beginning of the year. Some firms looked to hire large numbers of 3 PQE associates whilst others exercised more caution and sought to hire at the 5 PQE levels whilst they waited to see what the full effects of the Bill would be. As the year moved on with lack of certainty as to when the Bill would be implemented, we saw firms again looking to hire at the 3+ level and this trend will continue into the New Year. Another exciting development in the Cayman Legal market was the news that Hong Kong qualified lawyers are now eligible to be admitted to practice in the Cayman Islands. We have seen extensive hiring into the key practice areas of Corporate Funds, Banking & Finance and Dispute Resolution but we have also seen interest in the Trusts and Financial Regulation spaces.
The start of 2021 was a little bit quieter for inbound recruitment in the British Virgin Islands. The BVI market will always remain a popular destination for dispute resolution lawyers and this has been consistent throughout 2021. However, we have seen an increased interest across all practice areas in the second half of the year and we expect this to continue into 2022 with many firms currently looking to expand their transactional practice groups.
The Bermuda legal recruitment market has been the busiest we have ever seen and this trend looks to continue into 2022. We saw a particular interest on the transactional side with firms looking to support their broad corporate/finance teams. There have been some key new entrants to the Bermuda market who have looked to grow out their practices and compete with the traditional market leaders. This has meant that recruitment has been steady throughout 2021 with all of the firms looking to strengthen their offerings.
Offshore London was also particularly active from a recruitment standpoint in 2021. We saw the most activity at the Associate level from 3 PQE and above. Equally, there was strong interest in senior-level hires with several firms looking to recruit Partners and Counsel. London recruitment has been a mixture of lawyers looking to relocate back to the mainland in addition to dedicated hires to support their Caribbean and Channel Islands teams. The key firms in the market have made some impressive hires into their Corporate/Finance and Dispute Resolution teams with a continued appetite to hire into both their transactional and contentious teams in 2022.
The in-house market has also been busy with several key clients in Bermuda looking to add strong transactional lawyers to their teams’. These opportunities are perfect for lawyers looking to make their first move in-house or those with some prior in-house experience looking for something different. The Channel Islands in-house market was a little quieter in 2021 but we expect to see an increase in demand moving into 2022.
With COVID-related travel restrictions continuing to ease, firms are looking to continue their steady hiring across all locations in 2022. As competition for candidates continues, we have seen a noticeable increase in salaries across both the Caribbean and the Channel Islands. This is a trend we expect to see continue as firms look to review their salaries in an effort to secure the top talent in the market. 2021 has also seen firms look into their flexible and remote working policies with many looking to make significant adjustments in 2022.