The Offshore Interview: Chris Byrne, Maples and Calder

November 12, 2018

Chris is the Managing Partner of Maples and Calder (Jersey) LLP. He advises banks (and other specialist lenders) and corporates on commercial law issues and also has significant expertise in advising family office and philanthropic entities. Chris is also highly experienced in offshore listings, both on The International Stock Exchange and elsewhere. He joined Maples in 2018, having previously been a partner at another international law firm for 20 years, where he was global head of the Finance practice for many years. Prior to that, Chris worked with Allen & Overy in London and then Asia.

Maples and Calder is a leading international law firm advising financial, institutional, business and private clients around the world on the laws of the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Ireland, Jersey and Luxembourg. The Jersey office was formed in Spring 2018 by specialist lawyers who are well known in the local market as well as internationally for having acted in the highest profile cross-border transactions. By having a specialist commercial focus, the Jersey team is able to formulate and deliver corporate, finance, and investment funds solutions for a wide range of institutional and commercial clients.

Maples is one of the largest and oldest offshore law firms but has not had a presence in the Channel Islands until May 2018. What’s the background behind the decision to open in Jersey this year?

As you say, Maples and Calder is a very large firm: together with our fund and fiduciary affiliate, MaplesFS, we have over 1800 staff operating across multiple jurisdictions and time zones, and many of our institutional and other clients now operate across a number of those jurisdictions. We continually review how best to serve our client base and feedback from clients indicated that Jersey (and Luxembourg, where we also recently opened an office in October 2018) were jurisdictions where clients wanted access to the Maples group service.

Maples and Calder now has more than 150 lawyers spread across our Dublin, London, Luxembourg and Jersey offices. These offices, other than London, work both domestically in their home jurisdictions but are focused on work with clients across our global network.

You retired from the partnership at another international offshore firm last year. What made you decide to join Maples and help launch the Jersey office?

Good question: I was primarily attracted by the undoubted strength of the Maples brand and network, its client base and the quality of its partners, some of whom I had known for many years. Coupled with that, as a much younger lawyer, I had opened an office in Singapore for Allen & Overy and had enjoyed the experience tremendously. My wife was supportive – so I jumped at the chance.

The legal services market in the Channel Islands is already a very competitive landscape. How does Maples intend to stand out?

The legal services market in Jersey is certainly a competitive one but the last few years have seen change in a number of the longer established firms and we sense that the ‘usual suspects’ are being joined by a number of very credible competitor firms. As the largest offshore law firm by some distance, we feel that Maples certainly has the potential to make an impact in our core areas of corporate, funds and finance.

Beyond the obvious benefit of offering Jersey law advice on the ground, how will the office complement the firm’s existing network?

We are fully integrated into the key client teams across the globe and work closely with our counterparts in major financial centres, including Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and London.

What kind of reception have you had from clients so far?

It is of course early days (we had a soft launch in May 2018 with our formal opening in September 2018) but we have had a strong response across each of our core practice areas. By way of example, we closed a notable transaction for a private equity sponsor client, which consisted of a management buyout (Jersey target) of an independent UK dairy business. Acting alongside Allen & Overy LLP in London, we provided Jersey corporate and finance transaction support and acted as The International Stock Exchange (TISE) listing agent. In addition, we act for a major administration business on shareholder related issues, acted as listing sponsor for both high yield and other securities on TISE and, of course, have also acted for a number of lenders on financing transactions.

More offices can mean more conflicts. What’s your strategy to address that?

For us this is business as usual. The firm already operates across multiple jurisdictions and time zones and has a welldeveloped conflict process. In addition, our client base in Jersey is consistent with the client base in our other offices.

How do you see the office’s service offering evolving over the next three to five years?

As you would expect we maintain a watching brief on the market and our clients’ requirements. We believe we have the opportunity to grow further in our core offering.

Will we be seeing a Maples office in Guernsey in the foreseeable future?

It is too early to tell. Guernsey is an important jurisdiction for certain types of business but is not necessarily something we see every day. I was very involved with the establishment of another firm’s Guernsey office and know a number of lawyers in the island. We therefore work closely with a number of those lawyers and expect to continue to do so where appropriate.

The people you’ve hired so far have come from local competitors. In your view, why should someone leave an established top-tier Jersey firm to join a nascent Maples office?

As you say, we have hired lawyers from a number of competitor firms. I think each of those lawyers has been attracted to what Maples can bring to the island: that is, in summary, the scale and quality of its client base and offering. I also think that the market for lateral hires on the island has changed dramatically over the years. What used to be a fairly  static market for lawyers at all levels has changed and, as with London, it is now very possible for lawyers to move firms. If done carefully it can be a very good career move.

What do you think the next five years holds for the Jersey legal market? For example, is it likely that any other international firms will open offices in the near future?

I am sure that a number of other international firms keep Jersey under review and, just focussing on the commercial law end of the market, am even surer that the next five years will see dramatic change here. Before Maples’ arrival, I do not believe that another major non-Jersey firm had entered the local market for 10 years or so – it must be possible that others will do so, whether by a merger or by a green field move.