James Willmott - 2011 update

Last time we spoke to James Willmott (in 2009) he was enjoying life working at Pinsent Masons and living in Malvern, having previously worked for Allen & Overy in both London and Singapore and Jones Day in Singapore.  However in 2010 he moved to Jersey with his wife and two daughters, where he is now a 7yr PQE corporate lawyer at Carey Olsen.  We asked him how it is going nine months into his new job.


You can read James' original interview here and his 2009 update here.


mtl:  Hi James, it was all going so well in Birmingham – what changed?   


James: The recession happened, which meant that I wasn’t going to get the career progression that I needed, as firms in Birmingham were being squeezed.  For example, we couldn’t find a primary school that we liked, but there was little chance of affording a private school without me being on a partner’s salary.  So with a heavy heart I decided that my time at Pinsent Masons had come to an end and I started job hunting mid-2009. 


Having got used to having a decent amount of space and a garden, we didn’t want to go back to London or Singapore and the situation would have been the same at competitors in Birmingham and in other English cities.  Instead we decided that somewhere off-shore would suit us and I shortlisted Jersey, Guernsey and Bermuda.  The Channel Islands were my preferred option as although Bermuda salaries are very high, the flights back to the UK and Singapore are long and expensive. 


I didn’t get any responses after sending out my CV in 2009.  In the Autumn of 2009 I did an in-house secondment which was very useful in order to see what clients want from a lawyer and reinforced why service provision is such a high priority.  When I went back to Pinsent Masons in December 2009 I decided to just stay put and patiently wait for promotion.




Career timeline



Law, King's College London



LPC, Nottingham Trent



Trainee, A&O



Assistant, corporate department, A&O, London



Assistant, corporate department, A&O, Singapore



Bought the Hideout bar with two friends



Assistant, Jones Day, Singapore



Assistant, Pinsents, Birmingham


Assistant, Carey Olsen, Jersey


However in January 2010 the market started to move and I was offered a video conference interview with Carey Olsen in Jersey.  I was offered the job and after a family visit to check out the island we moved in May 2010.  It was hard to leave Pinsent Masons as I had goodwill there and liked the work and the people, but sometimes you have to make difficult decisions for the sake of your family life. I left Pinsent Masons on good terms, and have managed to do a fair bit of work with them since arriving in Jersey.


mtl: How’s it going in Jersey?


James: I’m doing mostly M&A work and it is going very well.  Rather than just supporting London firms, we also do transactions out of Jersey and get high level work like the purchase of a chain of Channel Islands stores by Waitrose.  There is less legal opinion work than I had expected.


When I first started I had to learn the basics of Jersey law and in the autumn of 2011 I hope to start an advocacy course on the side of work which takes two years to complete in order to be Jersery qualified. Getting a basic working knowledge wasn’t that difficult as the company law is similar to English law and I wasn’t too busy at the start.  I’ve found though that there aren’t many text books on the law or much judicial precedent.  Instead, lawyers feel much more connected to the changing nature of law here as partners in firms get involved in shaping the law through consultations over reforms. 


To be a partner I would have to finish the two year course before I could legally even be a partner let alone make partner within a firm.  Carey Olsen is still making people up every year though which is encouraging and the recession hasn’t hit Jersey as much as England. 


As a family we would very much like to stay in Jersey in the long term and I have enjoyed this job more than any other job.  Life here offers a combination of good work and regular hours and I see more of my children than I’ve done before.  I live on a farm overlooking the sea and even if I work late it’s only a 15 minute drive home.  There are lots of good places to eat, it’s close to France for holidays, it’s safe, there are great schools and nurseries and it’s an easy community to break into because of all the ex-pats.  I have a licence that would entitle us to buy a property, though prices are high.  


St Helier has a large and fully working port to deal with its agricultural exports, which means that your first view of the sea front is a shock rather than the image Bergerac might convey.  However the town is pleasant and the rest of the island is very nice, with country lanes, lots of little villages and one dual carriage way for commuting!  The beaches are amazing and although winter is bleak, the summer makes up for it. 


mtl:  Thank you James and good luck in Jersey.


You can see the Carey Olsen website here.


If you know any other lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives or who have a great work/life balance then please get in touch.





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