Placed Lawyer Interview

Name:

Position:

Firm:

Island:

Gemma Lardner

Associate, Insolvency Litigation

Harneys

Grand Cayman

Why did you choose this location and is it living up to expectations?

Having worked for several years in a busy Insolvency and Restructuring Litigation team in Sydney, I was in need of a change. I wanted a better lifestyle but wasn’t willing to compromise on the quality of work that I was doing. A number of the offshore jurisdictions offer this compromise but I picked the Cayman Islands because (a) it is the fifth largest financial centre in the world so there is a huge variety of work and significant deals taking place on a daily basis; (b) it is an increasingly popular jurisdiction for offshore funds which is an area I was keen to explore further; (c) it is more modern than some of the other offshore jurisdictions and (d) while insolvency litigation is decreasing in some other offshore jurisdictions, it was on the rise in the Cayman Islands. My life in the Cayman Islands has exceeded my already-high expectations as I’m engaged in a variety of interesting matters for clients around the world at work and have a fantastic social and sporting life outside of the office.

How did you go about meeting new people when you arrived on island?

I was lucky enough to be contacted by a future colleague before I left Australia, who then met me at the airport when I arrived and showed me around on my first day. That was invaluable. More generally, I’ve actually found that because most of the people I meet have also come to the Cayman Islands from somewhere else (Australia, England, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica to name just a few), they go out of their way to make you feel welcome and included. It helps to throw yourself into life here and say yes to every invitation so you can meet as many people as possible. I developed a really diverse group of friends within just a few weeks which really helped me to settle in, find my way around and feel at home.

Were there any nasty shocks that you were not prepared for when you arrived on the island?

I had researched life on the island pretty thoroughly (websites, blogs, whatever I could get my hands on) and would recommend that anyone looking to move offshore do the same, because some aspects of life are very different. The main things I prepared myself for in Grand Cayman were the narrower range of modern conveniences (for example, you have to physically go to the electricity company office to set up your account and online banking is much less sophisticated) and the prices. Having said that, I haven’t found cost of living as expensive as anticipated, compared to Sydney. The one thing you cannot fully appreciate from the research is the effect of “island time” – everything happens so much slower here and it takes some getting used to.

Were there any nice surprises?

I am a coeliac and so made sure that there were gluten free options available on Island before I decided to relocate. While I knew there would be some stock in the supermarkets, I had no idea how much variety there would be! I have had gluten free doughnuts, waffles and bagels while here, which has been a nice surprise. There is also a surprising amount of gluten free pizza available on island.

What was the most noticeable difference about your new role when you first arrived?

My day to day role as an Associate does not differ too much from my role as a Lawyer in Sydney. The main difference is that the work in the Cayman Islands is much more global than in Australia so in any given day I can be on a teleconference with London, Hong Kong or Sydney. This is one of the things I love about the work here. I’ve also found that you get a lot more client contact because it’s a smaller community, so you have more opportunities to build meaningful relationships with clients, much earlier than you would in other jurisdictions. Also, our office overlooks the Caribbean, which is a significant upgrade from my former Sydney office.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The people. I selected a firm with a great character, staffed by fantastic partners, associates and support staff. I have felt incredibly supported and welcomed since I arrived on island. We work really hard but we also always find something to celebrate, which makes for a great, collaborative atmosphere.

What’s the most interesting matter you have worked on since you’ve been here?

A contested winding up application for a Cayman-domiciled fund, with investors based around the world. It’s been great to help me get across local procedural and insolvency rules and there’s constantly new issues coming up which keeps me on my toes.

What car do you currently drive?

I am currently leasing a car. Moving to a new country is obviously an expensive exercise and buying a car is one of the most expensive steps, especially when you factor in insurance, servicing etc. I’m planning to buy an SUV (you need one here to minimise damage to the car’s undercarriage from the water and sand) but while I save up and decide which model I want, I have opted for the leasing solution in the interim. There are lots of car leasing companies on island which offer car rental plus full insurance, roadside assistance and servicing for a flat monthly fee. Leasing is a great value option when you’re still trying to find your way round and not quite ready to make a car commitment.

Which is your favourite beach on the island?

I love Seven Mile Beach for a morning or afternoon dip, it’s not only beautiful but it’s also across the road from my apartment so there’s easy access. My favourite snorkelling spot is Smith’s Cove which is about a 10 minute drive south and has some excellent reefs right near the shore. Last time I went with friends we saw a huge variety of fish, stingrays, reef sharks and squid. It’s a really stunning spot both in and out of the water.

Which is your favourite restaurant or bar on the Island?

The Ritz makes the best Piña Coladas for Friday night after work drinks. My favourite café is the Greenhouse which makes delicious fresh, local and gluten free breakfast and lunch. My favourite restaurant on the island is anywhere that serves jerk chicken – I can’t get enough of it.

If you weren’t a lawyer, which other job would you like on the island?

I’d be a sea wench on the Jolly Roger.

What’s the best advice that you would give someone considering the move offshore?

Two things: Firstly, research thoroughly. Knowing what you’re getting into and the realities of living on a remote Caribbean island will help you adjust when you get here. And secondly, when you do get here, say yes to everything. You will meet so many people, have so many random and wonderful experiences and settle right in.