Jersey lawyer sets up his own firm
We haven’t interviewed anyone who has set up their own firm for a while. So this week we spoke to Andrew Pinel, a partner in Jersey firm Pinel O’Shea, which he runs with a colleague from a previous firm. He’s enjoying it so far and talked to us about working for himself.
mtl: Hi Andrew, tell us about life pre-Pinel O’Shea.
Andrew: After studying law in England, I returned to Jersey (where I’m from) to start work at Carey Olsen, where I qualified. There’s a different system of law in Jersey and Advocates in Jersey are similar to barristers in England. There are a number of exams to pass over several years and I qualified in 2004.
I moved to Crill Canavan, a medium-sized firm, where I met Carl O’Shea, a dual-qualified Trusts and Tax lawyer who had moved over to Jersey from an English firm. Together we set up an investment funds team within the firm, and in doing that had our first taste of setting up a business from scratch. It progressed well, we brought in clients, did the marketing and saw that it could be a standalone business.
mtl: What made you make the jump to going it alone and how did you do it?
Andrew: There were the obvious incentives of being our own boss and running the business as we wanted. For about ten years I’d been thinking of running my own firm, but we didn’t start planning it until 2010 as it is difficult to build something up while also being committed to your current employer. Along the way we also read a couple of Moretolaw interviews, for example the one about Onside Law LLP.
We set up the firm in July 2010. The major challenge has been the amount of administration involved. We’ve had to follow legal and regulatory procedures and produce manuals to cover things like anti-money laundering regulations. We set up the IT system largely by ourselves, I constructed the website (saving us thousands of pounds) and we do the marketing in-house.
Our three core areas of work are investment funds (setting them up and then advising them), corporate and commercial work (company law and banking) and trusts and foundations (within corporate structures and private client work including tax, family and wealth planning). Alongside this, we offer regulatory advice. We have a third partner now who used to work for the Jersey Financial Services Commission and therefore has both a legal and regulatory background, which is great for the business and for our clients. We also have a finance director to do the books.
Jersey is a small market so it is easy to get to know other lawyers and clients and most of our clients are within five minutes walk of our office. We’ve had to do a lot of marketing and meet a lot of people but work has come from it. Our low overheads mean that we can charge competitive rates. We don’t have any assistants yet but have room in our office premises and are planning to grow within the space in 2011.
The highlight so far is the general sense of enjoyment that we now get from work, with no Sunday evening feeling of dread. The business is progressing and making money and people have really supported us – we were even offered free furniture for the office when we were starting out, which saved us thousands.
For the first 15 years of qualified life, each Advocate has to undertake work for people in need of advice by way of our Legal Aid system and we didn’t appreciate how much work and money would be involved in dealing with this. However there’s nothing that I know now that would put me off doing it if I had my time again.
mtl: Do you have any advice for readers?
Andrew: If you are setting up your own firm, I’d recommend trying to do as much as you can yourself to keep costs down, as it takes a while for the income to come in. Keep things lean and simple.
If you are interested in working in Jersey, the best thing to do would be to contact someone you know at a law firm here. Jersey Finance promotes the industry and has a lot of information about moving to and working in Jersey. You could also try the Economic Development Department. The beaches are the highlight for me but the compact working environment, relaxed approach, top level work and small community (meaning that people are generally pleasant to each other) are all reasons to work here.
You can find out about qualifying as a Jersey Advocate here: www.jerseylaw.je. It is possible for a Jersey firm to bring someone over to work with the relevant licences if they are not Jersey qualified, although there are quotas of local and non-local staff that must be adhered to. To be a partner here you need to be a Jersey qualified Advocate.
mtl: Thank you Andrew and good luck with your expansion next year.
You can see the Pinel O’Shea 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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