From Top City Law Firm to Working as a Lawyer in The Cayman Islands: Associate Q&A
Sonder’s Offshore Consultant, Matthew Thomas, sits down with one of our success stories – a previous candidate who has since set up a slower pace of life in The Cayman Islands.
This interview sheds light on the pros, cons, and transition between working at a leading London City law firm in 2019 to moving to an Offshore firm in January 2020.
The candidate will remain anonymous at their firm’s request, as it’s important they are not seen to be affiliated with an agency. As a result, the candidate will be referred to as Associate (A).
Read below and gather some fantastic insights on what exactly you can expect from a big move to The Cayman Islands.
(MT): Hi, thanks for your time, it’s much appreciated, it certainly looks better weather where you are!
(A): Not a problem, Matt, it definitely is! I actually came back to England over Christmas for a week which was great, but the weather was definitely a shock to the system.
(MT): I can imagine! So, I guess logically, let’s go from the start. How did the process begin, and what was your position?
(A): Back in 2019, I was with a Magic Circle firm. I was trained and retained there and was pretty content, to be honest! However, a few months before Sonder got in touch, I had broken up with my partner and began to look into the possibility of moving overseas in a kind of “now or never” situation. So I had recruiters message me, but it was always about specific roles in the City, and they never really asked me what I wanted/what my goals were.
One day, I saw one of my LinkedIn connections had liked a Sonder post, and after some initial back and forth from the company page – I got in touch. Within 24 hours, I had a full detailed conversation with a consultant, and an Offshore guide and market map emailed over to me off the back of this. I was a bit surprised at the speed and detail. I remember having that ‘ping’ moment where I thought – yes, I can do this. And I was generally excited about it.
(MT): That’s great to hear, we do pride ourselves on detail and efficiency, and I’m glad we could help. What was it specifically about The Caribbean that interested you?
(A): Most definitely the weather, lifestyle, and opportunity to travel. I had an hour commute door to door either way for the last year living in London and, I felt like I needed a change. I knew I could go to Australia, but I feel like Sydney or Melbourne would still have the vibes of a City and would not have been enough change for me personally. The idea of being by the beach after work was a massive pull that ruled Asia out. I wanted to get a proper sense of outdoor living – one hard to find in London.
(MT): How did the interview process work for you and were there any challenges?
(A): It was smooth and conducted by video chat—a stark change from interviewing from top London firms. Sonder fully briefed me before the interview, and the general tone was relatively conversational. I think they were as concerned by my motivations as much as my experience, to be honest. I had 2/3 interviews with each firm, and once I verbally accepted with my current firm, they flew me out to look at properties and meet my soon-to-be colleagues.
I was fortunate that I ended up with three offers, but I would put that down to Sonder’s help more than anything else as I have spoken to other people about their processes, and they got nowhere near the same service I did.
(MT): Once again, that’s really great to hear. I didn’t join Sonder until after your placement, but our MD, Kevin, placed you. How did you find working together?
(A): Yes, that’s right, he was actually based in Sydney back then, but he didn’t let the time difference affect anything, he went the extra mile and was always available to reach quickly by phone/email/Zoom. He was honest about the downsides to a move, which I appreciated as it helped me make a considered decision.
His expertise proved especially helpful with interview technique, questions, content/format. His enthusiasm was infectious. I dealt with agencies in the past, and it sounded like they were just reading off a script or going through the motions. When I got the offers, Kevin was honest and gave his professional advice. He also didn’t just push me towards the bigger salary, which I really appreciated, especially since work/life balance was a big driver for me. Having that second opinion and support to make such a big decision was invaluable.
(MT): You touched on the downsides of a move there; what’s been the biggest struggle?
(A): Missing people. I left my grandparent’s behind, which was tough, especially to begin with. But, one positive (maybe the only positive of Covid) is people of that generation seemed to get to grips with technology, so Facetime and WhatsApp proved extremely helpful. I’m in group chats with friends my own age and speak daily but, of course, you worry about older family members. The networking here is excellent though, I’m surrounded by people from similar backgrounds, single, and grasping at life opportunities.
(MT): And from a career perspective, is there anything that you were worried about with a move Offshore?
(A): I am aware that I could have earned more money going to a US firm in London, for example. Something Sonder also made sure I was aware of. But, for me it wasn’t just about money. I wanted a better working balance and to explore life outside a City.
I’m also aware that Partners who look at my CV in the future may be less aware of what my Offshore firm does. This could put me at a disadvantage compared to people with more recent onshore firm experience. But I know Sonder has good expertise in explaining this to clients and, without wanting to sound cocky, I’m confident I can pick it back up. I still speak to ex-colleagues regularly and stay on top of major legal changes and market intel. I wanted a change of lifestyle without taking a significant step back and, I think I have married the two in this move. It’s also important to note that Offshore firms have a growing presence in London – so I could move to one of these if my recent experience proved to be too much of an issue.
(MT): It’s great to hear you overcame and initial doubts. Following on from that, what has been a big positive from the move? Besides the obvious glorious weather.
(A): I would have to say the quality of work-life balance. I say quality because I’ve never felt healthier since being here but, I also haven’t compromised on the quality of work. I’m still conversing with top city and US lawyers daily, but my days are shorter, and it’s much more outdoorsy. I think I will inevitably return to the UK in the future, but I worry about my work-life balance moving forward. I don’t think I could go back to Magic Circle hours now.
(MT): While we’re on future plans, what are your career prospects like? (We often get asked about where Offshore lawyers can go).
(A): I am on a good track here. I am due to make Senior Associate soon (all being well). Therefore, I will likely do another two years here and reassess, but who knows? If I do move, I know via Sonder that I have many good options, both Offshore & Onshore. My career was probably my biggest concern when moving as someone had told me it was tough to move back to the City after being here. However, I think that’s a bit of a myth, I’ve been working with UK lawyers and on high-profile transactions, so I’m confident that I could move back to a top firm and work with Sonder when I do.
(MT): It would be a pleasure to help when the time is right! Finally, I appreciate you’re busy. Any tips for anyone considering moving to the Caribbean?
(A): I would say be prepared to work hard still. The Cayman is a lot more chilled out but, it’s not a holiday. I’m surrounded by ambitious, motivated people who bring the best out of me, and we push each other. I would highly recommend getting into scuba diving while here. It’s simply incredible! Other than that, I would just say do it! You can always come back if you really don’t settle, but for me, it’s given me the professional benefits of London while being based on a tropical island. I’m so glad I took the plunge!
It was great chatting with a previous candidate, and we are always keen to keep in touch with former placements. If you have considered a move Offshore or to the Cayman Islands in particular, please get in touch for a confidential, impartial conversation.
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