Hiring not firing

Many firms are dealing with the fallout from the recession by cutting back staff and closing offices. Offshore firm Conyers Dill & Pearman, which is forging ahead with plans to beef up global expertise, is not one of them.

Bermuda-headquartered Conyers has spent most of the summer recruiting at the partnership and associate level.

In the Cayman Islands the firm raided rival Maitland for attorneys-at-law Sara Collins and Bernadette Carey (23 June 2008).

In London it hired hedge fund associate Devalingum Gopalla, who specialises in investment into and out of India, China and Africa. Gopalla was previously a barrister at Mauritian firm Belgrave International.

And in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Dawn Smith rejoined the firm as a partner and Tameka Davis from Anguilla-based Webster Dyrud Mitchell was appointed as an associate.

According to managing partner John Collis this is just the beginning of a hiring spree for the firm.

“Before the recession we targeted expansion into the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] economies,” he explains, adding: “There comes a point when you have to give the engine rooms time to start working…There’ll be more hires over this period, all offices will get to a substantial size, including Sao Paulo.”

Conyers launched in Sao Paulo in December 2008 under regional managing partner Alan Dickson. This was a fitting end to a year that had begun with the opening of a Moscow base (14 January 2008) and also saw the launch of an office in Mauritius to target work coming out of India (13 October 2008).

The firm primarily targets work emanating from Fortune 500 companies with multi-jurisdiction operations. It is evenly spread across the globe’s key offshore jurisdictions and, says Collis, has a balanced mix of both contentious and non-contentious work.

“We’re not as affected as other firms by the recession,” he says. “We’d no heavy dependence on a single practice area.”

Collis believes the recovery will be led by the BRIC economies Conyers has worked so hard to invest in pre-Lehman.

His analysis of the post Lehman world goes like this: “There was a panic in November. By January and February things really tailed off, but come June and July it started to come back in slingshots.”

The developing nations, he says, are less riddled with financial problems and will rebound quicker than the UK and US.

Already this year Conyers has assisted the Hong Kong arm of Reed Smith  in advising on one of the largest Asian IPOs this year, winning an instruction from China Zhongwang Holdings on its $1.3bn (£800m) listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (1 June 2009).

Collis is a realist about the rate at which Conyers can grow. Opening too many offices too quickly will lead to disaster, he believes, and so instead the firm is now looking to concentrate on developing what it already has.