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Ernest Morrison, Managing Director, discusses the current state of the legal market in Bermuda

1) What do you see as the main points that differentiate Cox Hallett Wilkinson Limited from your competitors?

Cox Hallett Wilkinson Limited is a leading law firm in commercial and corporate and dispute resolution matters in the Bermuda legal market. Our commitment is to provide a high standard of professional advice delivered by a talented and experienced core team of attorneys and to develop long-standing relationships with our clients and counsel around the globe.

2) Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

There continues to be a high level of transactional and advisory activity as Bermuda continues to attract clients seeking the highest quality advice and services. Recognised as a well-regulated and stable environment, Bermuda offers a suite of legal structures (including but not limited to trusts, exempted companies, exempted limited liability companies and partnerships) that can be tailored to individual circumstances across a number of industries, including insurance. This drives both the transactional and dispute resolution areas of our firm’s practice.

Our dispute resolution team continues to act on a number of contentious and of non-contentious trust matters. They have achieved success for clients in a number of recently reported judgments that have enabled trustees and beneficiaries to effectively continue to manage family wealth through Bermuda law trusts. The dispute resolution team is also regularly involved in complex commercial litigation matters - often with related proceedings before the Bermuda Courts and foreign Courts.

The corporate and commercial department continues to assist on the largest infrastructure development undertaken in Bermuda, cross-border restructurings and several large asset-financing matters. The recent trend in Bermuda’s insurance industry has seen a consolidation of several key industry players. Such consolidation allows the continued growth of the key players, while also creating room in the market for new start-ups to establish their presence in Bermuda, particularly with an eye on the impact of Brexit. Bermuda’s Solvency II designation continues to attract interest from those insurers looking to establish in a premier insurance market. The Fintech industry continues to expand along–side the Government of Bermuda’s commitment to develop Bermuda as a Fintech jurisdiction of choice.

3) What's the main change you've made in the firm that will benefit clients?

Cox Hallett Wilkinson is committed to practical, timely and cost effective manner. The firm is led by experienced leading attorneys, with 20-40 years experience in their fields, supported by an efficient team of highly skilled Senior Associates and Associates. Its attorneys continue to remain current with legal developments and are often involved in cases that shape Bermuda law. Our clients benefit from this pool of accrued knowledge. The full-service nature of our commercial firm, together with our strong international relationships, equip our firm to satisfy our client’s local and cross-border needs effectively. Our firm also strives to provide updates to our clients on new regulatory developments in Bermuda, such as the introduction of the beneficial ownership register and the introduction of data protection legislation, to ensure that our clients are informed and positioned to adapt to change.

4) Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

Technology has had an undeniable impact on how we interact with our clients, locally and internationally. The rise of Blockchain and other Fintech products in the Bermuda’s legal market have given rise to a new industry, which has received the full support of the Bermuda Government and led to several new pieces of legislation as Bermuda seeks to amend its banking laws in order to establish Bermuda as the jurisdiction of choice for Fintech.

Additionally the rise of risk management has resulted in the need for increasing cyber security to protect our client’s interests while balancing the need to maintain confidentiality and comply with the new European data protection requirements (GDPR), as well as Bermuda’s own regime (PIPA).

Social media continues to provide new methods of communicating with our clients in the form of client alerts and bulletins, as well as engaging new clients.

5) Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

Our corporate attorneys have developed a broad corporate skill set and together we advise on a wide range of matters. By way of example we assisted with Bermuda law matters relating to a reinsurance arrangement transferring financial responsibility for all of the structured settlement annuity contracts and smaller block income with $5.7 billion in total statutory reserves to a Class E life insurer established in Bermuda. Additionally our attorneys have advised several clients with new bond issues and assisted with numerous asset financings and security registrations.

Our litigation team provides strategic advice reflective of a thoughtful analysis of legal, commercial and personal considerations and risk. By way of example, we have acted for trustees in trust variation applications to maintain privacy of ultra high net worth families whilst facilitating effective wealth planning for successive generations; and acted for beneficiaries in contested trust applications as to achieve stability of significant underlying businesses of which they derive wealth.

6) Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms ‐ where do you see the firm in 3 years time?

It is our experience that our clients look for and expect stability and strategic direction from their legal advisors, as it is critical to provide such stability. Our large international clients regularly review their corporate structure from a tax and legal perspective and expect their legal advisors to work collaboratively with their other advisors to ensure compliance with their strategic objectives, both short-term and long-term.

As more jurisdictions continue to introduce new requirements as to transparency and reporting, we expect that our client base will continue to restructure their affairs to ensure cross-border compliance with these requirements. CHW attorneys are continuously adapting to new industry developments, regulatory changes and best practices to ensure that our clients receive the best possible legal advice.

In three years time, we expect to see our firm continue to expand its current sophisticated client base and to continue to thrive as a competitive firm in Bermuda.

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