Walkers Global doesn’t offer English or U.S. legal services, but the 400-lawyer international offshore law firm with roots in Grand Cayman, counts companies from those countries as its clients, including Blackstone, The Carlyle Group, Merrill Lynch and others.
This month, it announced two expansions: Opening an office in Bermuda; and the launch of Walker Professional Services, which will provide companies in Cayman with a registered office, registered agents, corporate secretarial services and other services. It hopes to launch Walker Professional Services by mid-June, marking its re-entrance to what it calls “the corporate and fiduciary services business,” after selling a similar business in 2012.
Founded as WS Walker and Company in 1964 in Grand Cayman, it rebranded as Walkers in 1999 and opened its first international office in London. In 2002, it opened in the British Virgin Islands, followed by Hong Kong in 2003, Dubai in 2005, Jersey in 2006, Singapore in 2009 and Dublin in 2010.
Now, it hopes to gain permission from the relevant authorities by the end of the year to open an eighth office in Bermuda. The lawyers there mainly will be involved in aviation finance, corporate fund formation and multidistrict insolvency litigation, according to John Rogers, Walkers’ managing partner, who added that many of the firms clients listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange have connections to Bermuda.
In an interview, Ingrid Pierce, global managing partner, and Rogers, who is also managing partner of the Singapore office, answered questions about their firm and what prompted the recent moves. Below is a transcript that has been edited for relevancy and brevity.
Big Law Business: Walkers describes itself as the first major international firm to enter Bermuda. What’s are your plans there?
Rogers: It’s fairly early days in terms of the physical location. We have secured a local Bermuda lawyer and we hope we will be open by the end of the year. We certainly intend to recruit locally and we’ve had discussions with lawyers in Bermuda. It’s an ongoing process to get to the opening date. We have deliberately decided to go with a greenfield process — we’re not merging with anyone. Our Irish project was a very similar approach.
Big Law Business: This sounds like an interesting niche?
Rogers: If we look at the major drivers of international multijurisidictional work, it’s going to be mainly English law and New York law. We don’t do either of those. We get a lot of referral work from other law firms and we see them almost like clients.
Big Law Business: Walkers was founded in 1964 in Grand Cayman, why are you only now opening in Bermuda?
Rogers: Our client demand has been there for a long time, but there was a change in government two years ago and we paid a visit and found an ‘open for business’ sentiment. We feel that it’s a good time to be investing in Bermuda.
Big Law Business: Bermuda is often cited as a haven for multinational companies seeking to capitalize on U.S. tax loopholes. Is this expansion tied to that?
Pierce: No. Bermuda is a key domicile for many international businesses providing legitimate, tax neutral solutions to the global financial services sector. Our expansion into Bermuda is consistent with our strategy of offering the laws of international financial centres.