13 November 2019
Jersey: Fit for the future
Jersey’s position as one of the world’s leading international finance centres has not been achieved without considerable effort and resolve. It is a status that has taken many years to foster yet requires constant focus and effort to nurture and protect, as well as to develop and adapt in line with changing market circumstances and international demands.
There is much to be said for Jersey’s history of financial stability and security but for it to maintain its standing internationally and to retain a competitive edge in a dynamic and ever changing world, it needs to have a sound political environment, an effective regulatory structure and a robust yet flexible legal infrastructure that, collectively, gives confidence to investors, residents and the international community, is conducive to business and operates in line with ever increasing international standards and expectations.
While it is clear that Jersey enjoys a political, regulatory and legal landscape that enables it to maintain its status in the premier division of international finance centres, it is important to recognise the role that key stakeholders have in achieving and maintaining this positioning.
One of the major contributors in this respect is the part played by Jersey’s legal profession. While it is a profession that is steeped in tradition and heritage, it has adapted to Jersey’s needs and aspirations, acting and reacting to market trends and opportunities and has been instrumental in helping Jersey to attract business both locally and internationally, providing effective and flexible support for new streams of business activity and revenue for the Island. With legal expertise spanning the whole spectrum of banking, corporate finance, trust, fund, property, personal and offshore law, lawyers in Jersey play a critical role in establishing and maintaining Jersey’s position as a jurisdiction of trust and integrity that is fit for the business world of the 21st Century.
The legal profession in Jersey certainly has strength in depth; there are now over 340 Jersey law qualified advocates and solicitors in private practice in Jersey, across no fewer than 47 firms, ranging from the long established sole practitioners who largely focus on the local personal and small business market and a range of medium-sized full service firms to the large, multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional firms who are engaged by local businesses, FTSE companies and international conglomerates, while also taking instructions from the so-called ‘Magic Circle’ firms in the City of London on matters of Jersey law.
The collective strength of Jersey’s legal profession – its skills, its responsiveness, its tenacity, its expertise and its experience – cannot be underestimated. The whole is, without doubt, greater than the sum of its parts, although according to the Legal 500, many of the ‘parts’ of the profession in Jersey are quite exceptional. The last five years has also seen the entry into the market, in line with demand, of a growing number of niche, specialist firms, focusing exclusively on key market sectors, such as corporate, criminal or family law. In addition to the number of lawyers in private practice, significant benefit is derived (for the Island) from a further 70 locally-qualified advocates and solicitors who are working for trust companies and banks and using their legal expertise to nurture and grow these vital parts of Jersey’s business community, while ensuring that the high standards by which Jersey has become known are maintained.
Jersey may have more lawyers per head of population than, for example, in the UK but this is reflective of the diverse and specialist nature of Jersey’s operating environment and business mix, as well as the demand for legal services that does not appear to be abating, as demonstrated by the statistic that no fewer than 240 new advocates and solicitors have been sworn in over the past decade and there being no indication in the market place of a surfeit of lawyers looking for employment.
The legal profession in Jersey is immensely proud of its overall contribution to the Island, which is far wider than the purely financial Gross Value Added contribution of £200 million per annum, particularly its role in sustaining existing business streams while securing new business opportunities, underpinned by legislation that members of the profession have been instrumental in creating. This ensures the confidence of investors is maximised, whilst making certain that international standards are met at all times. As the statutory regulatory body for Advocates and Solicitors of the Royal Court of Jersey, The Law Society of Jersey has a key role to play in representing the interests of its members, helping to shape the legal framework, supporting its members in the practice of law and in upholding the highest standards of professional conduct.
In this regard, as well as working with the government to review and reform the system of legal aid which has, historically, been entirely funded by the profession, it has worked tirelessly to transform the legal landscape, helping to update historic laws and creating new market leading legislation that both keeps Jersey’s doors open for business and encourages new streams of business, while playing its part in streamlining processes to improve judicial efficiency and implementing new conduct and client money rules to protect the interests of the clients its serves and in the wider public interest.
It is, though, the collective strength of Jersey’s legal profession, its skills, its responsiveness, its tenacity and its experience, the depth of which truly makes a difference to Jersey, its prosperity and, above all, its position as a highly regarded international finance centre and for that we can be truly proud.
An original version of this article was published in Jersey - First for Finance, November 2019.
© Carey Olsen 2019.