Offshore galore

Are there early signs that some offshore firms are starting to adjust to the new economic climate?

In terms of the economic cycle the offshore world has always been slightly behind the onshore market. Offshore firms are now beginning to react to the slump.

As Ozannes newly-appointed senior partner Peter Ferbrache says, the global economy is tough, but that’s not going to stop the firm looking to expand into new jurisdictions. “We’re conscious of the fact that the world economy is not the healthiest, but we moved into Jersey during difficult times,” Ferbrache told The Lawyer last month (6 April).

While offshore firms adapt to the downturn by looking to build litigation credentials (Conyers Dill & Pearman, for example,  litigation associate Stephen Leontsinis from Bell Dewar & Hall for its Cayman office), many are also having to consider their own business models.

Recruitment will slow down significantly and where hires are made they are likely to be strategic rather than opportunistic. As Appleby director of human resources Gareth Russell says: “Our planning this year has focused on ensuring we have the right number of people in the right places to deal with the work available.”

New firms are already starting to emerge. In the Isle of Man two former Dickinson Cruickshank partners have defected from the firm to launch their own boutique. Insolvency partner Rob Long and commercial property partner Mark Humphrey may be ahead of the game on this one and are already looking around for some lateral hires.

While onshore the profession has been shrinking for several months, with firms such as Allen & Overy and Linklaters carrying out widespread restructurings of their practices, the offshore market is unlikely to contract at such a rapid pace. That said, offshore firms are starting to reposition to protect themselves from having to make the same cuts as their onshore counterparts.