David Jin spends his days dealing with complex financial disputes in the Cayman Islands office of international law firm Appleby. But his professional life hasn’t always been white sand and offshore investments. The University of Wollongong engineering and law graduate worked for the Australia China Business Council after being admitted to the profession in NSW in 2011. He went on to spend four years as a solicitor in Sydney, developing his understanding of Chinese business culture and putting his language skills to use.
Jin talks about landing work among the big fish of dispute resolution in the Caribbean.
What led you to practise in Hong Kong and then the Cayman Islands?
I have been fascinated by the laws that govern international commerce, especially dispute resolution. In early 2017, I started looking at opportunities in Hong Kong given its status as an international city and as a place that would allow me to use my Chinese language skills. After two interviews, I was offered a position in the Hong Kong dispute resolution team at Appleby, with a focus on insolvency and restructuring.
While working in Hong Kong, a secondment opportunity to work in the Cayman Islands came up. I thought this was a great chance to experience dispute resolution in the Caribbean first-hand. I am currently in my second month here at Appleby’s Cayman office, and the team, led Peter McMaster QC, has welcomed me with open arms. They have not only helped me professionally, but also helped my wife and I to settle into our Cayman life.
What is a typical day at work like for you?
One of the main differences between practising as an associate in an offshore jurisdiction like Cayman and say, Sydney, London or New York, is the responsibility that you get. You trade the city for Caribbean beaches and the drudgery of narrow focus, cog-in-the-machine-work for cutting-edge litigation experience that you might have to wait years for in an onshore magic circle firm.
A typical day starts just before 8.30am, dealing with emails from jurisdictions in time zones ahead of the Cayman Islands. The day will involve work such as drafting advice and court documents, reviewing and ensuring that you are up to date with the law, and communicating with clients. Court hearings here are more common than may be the case “onshore”. As a British Overseas Territory, the Privy Council is the final court of appeal in the Cayman Islands. It is quite important to be well informed with up to date law both in Cayman and in the English courts.
What advice do you have for others with aspirations to pursue a legal career overseas?
There is always the risk of working overseas too early in one’s career, but the right timing is different for everyone. For young lawyers who wish to work overseas, it would be very beneficial to first work in Australia and check the PQE requirements of the jurisdiction you wish to work. In the Cayman Islands, expatriates can currently only work as an attorney once they have reached three years PQE, and if the firm demonstrates that it has not been able to identify a local candidate with the same skills and experience. Work experience as an Australian lawyer is highly valued in most common law jurisdictions, particularly the Cayman Islands.