Hurricane Ivan hits Cayman firms

Law firms in the Cayman Islands are struggling to relocate staff to safe havens around the world in the wake of Hurricane Ivan, which hit the islands last week.

Disaster recovery programmes have been launched, with scores of fee-earners and staff in the main firms being flown out to the US, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) or London.

Jonathan White, chairman of Ogier, which shares an office in the Caymans with associate firm Boxalls, said he expected at least eight lawyers to be flown in to its Jersey office by last weekend. Others may be sent to the US and neighbouring Caribbean islands.

The firm is also still trying to make contact with missing staff and lawyers who were caught in Hurricane Ivan.

“We’re trying to identify all our staff. Communication is very difficult. We have no reason to believe that anything has happened to them,” said White.

Walkers is dispatching at least seven litigators – most of whom fled to Miami before the hurricane – to the BVI. It is also seeking to rent space from its law firms and clients in New York, where it plans to send many of its corporate funds lawyers and support staff. A further 12 lawyers – mostly those with young families – have been relocated to its London office.

Angus Foster, senior partner at Walkers, said: “A lot of staff have lost their houses and have nowhere to live. Some secretarial staff have nothing but the clothes they were wearing. We’re arranging for them to fly back [to their country of origin] or to Miami.”

Appleby Spurling Hunter’s Cayman office suffered roof damage and flooding. Its group managing partner Peter Bubenzer said: “Damage is partial rather than total.”