Growing law firm seizes international opportunities

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Carey Olsen brings home Bermudian lawyers
Annabel Cooper

The life of a corporate lawyer in Bermuda is a busy one right now. Global economic distress alongside political unrest in Hong Kong has created business opportunities for trusted offshore jurisdictions, and the island’s law firms are therefore in high demand. This is particularly apparent at Carey Olsen, a relatively new entrant to Bermuda’s legal market, which has grown quickly into a team of 40 employees since opening an office here in November 2017. Having outgrown its first office on Par-la-Ville Road, the firm has moved into a new home in the Rosebank building on Bermudiana Road.

Led by managing partner Michael Hanson, Carey Olsen has not only provided additional opportunities for Bermudians at the beginning of their legal careers, it has also brought experienced Bermudian lawyers back to the island from overseas.

Sam Stevens, 40, an international arbitration specialist, returned to Bermuda in 2019 as counsel in Carey Olsen’s dispute resolution practice. Prior to that he had been with DLA Piper in Singapore. He had been considering a return to Bermuda, but it wasn’t until the island’s legal market opened up to new entrants that he made the move.

“As a Bermudian and having practised overseas for ten years, the fact that the Bermuda market was becoming more diverse with more international participants made it a more interesting proposition in terms of career opportunity,” he says. Carey Olsen appealed because, in doing his due diligence, Stevens learned that Hanson and dispute partner Keith Robinson, both have “big reputations” and “big followings” which gave him confidence in his decision. “I knew I’d be coming to a firm which had been founded by two well established names in the market, backed by a large offshore brand.”

Stevens also believes the Bermuda market offers experienced lawyers promising career opportunities. “As a Bermudian, if you have gone away and got some good international experience under your belt at quality onshore firms, you’re going to be much hotter property than if you’re operating in a larger legal market,” he says.

The Carey Olsen client list ranges from small and local up to large and multinational, and they are being kept particularly busy at the moment with work related to political events in Hong Kong. “About 20 per cent of the companies listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange are Bermuda companies,” he explains. “We’re seeing a steady stream of significant instructions from Asia, where companies listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, who have run into difficulty, are either looking to undertake a voluntary restructuring or are fighting off winding-up petitions.”

Counsel Henry Tucker was relocated from Bermuda to the firm’s Hong Kong office in order to service this restructuring and insolvency work.
“Equally, we’ve been acting for companies that are creditors of major Hong Kong-listed companies and are pursuing winding-up proceedings, which all happen here.”

Another aspect of the firm that appeals to both new and experienced lawyers, says Stevens, is that “the international offices are very collaborative”. In addition to Bermuda and Hong Kong, Carey Olsen has offices in the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, Cape Town, London and Singapore. There is, he says, “international mobility” which creates “an interesting dynamic for a young lawyer”.

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