Walkers lays off 8 per cent of staff

Law firm Walkers is laying off 15 members of staff in Cayman and more than 30 others worldwide, and closing its local criminal law and real estate offices.

The company is making 8 per cent of its staff redundant locally and internationally.

The company will close its criminal litigation department and its real estate department later this year to concentrate on its core business of hedge funds and corporate restructuring, according to a spokesman for the firm.

Referring to the criminal litigation department, which took on pro-bono and legal aid cases, the spokesman said: ‘We are coming out of that area of business. It will be an orderly retreat,’ adding that the department would stop practising in September this year.

‘There are a number of reasons why. Obviously the global economic slowdown has started to hit Cayman. It is not a core business for Walkers. It was always done as a way to give back,’ the spokesman said.

Walkers first began taking criminal cases a decade ago. The department is small, consisting of one barrister, Philip McGhee, and an office administration.

Mr. McGhee who was in Cayman on a two-year contract is expected to return to the UK, according to Walkers, while the company said it would meet its obligations with regard the office administrator.

The law firm insisted that it was not pulling out of the criminal litigation business due to problems with payment by Legal Aid.

Cayman’s legal aid budget ran out in mid-December last year, half-way through the financial year, because legislators provided only $937,000 of the $1.85 million court administrators said they needed. That was the fourth consecutive year funds ran out.

The Walkers spokesman said the company had eventually been paid for the legal aid cases it took on, but said the amount of legal aid payments were ‘negligible’ and most cases were pro-bono.

He said the company planned to come out of the real estate business around September also, once it had completed some outstanding business in that area.

The cutbacks are also being made in response to a 40 per cent decline in the number of new corporations registering in Cayman.

‘This is an unprecedented situation we find ourselves in,’ the spokesman said.