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Leading lawyer calls for more crossover with financial sector

Leading local lawyer urges the creation of a specialized legal system in regards to financial services, so as to remain ahead of the competition. Although local pool of legal talent is well developed, opportunities still lie in diversification and international exchange. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Bahamas could position itself as a leader in private wealth management by introducing a more specialized legal system, according to one of the country’s top lawyers.

Heather Thompson, partner at Nassau law firm Higgs & Johnson, says there is a need for separate courts to handle cases concerning private wealth management and commercial law, as these would allow legal professionals to gain experience in the field.

“Overall The Bahamas does have a good reputation for servicing clients in private client wealth, but there have been criticisms about the availability of lawyers and the ability of the judiciary to deal with more complex matters where they do not have the experience,” she says. “That is not true of some of our judges, but if you had a court dedicated to these types of work, that would enhance our reputation.”

The lawyer, who has been with Higgs & Johnson since 1992 and specialises in trusts and private wealth management, believes that there needs to be more crossover between the legal and financial sectors in this area.

“Most people you talk to say we have enough lawyers, but there are not too many concentrated in the private client field,” she explains. “I do not think the field is closed, but to have more lawyers, you need more business, so what comes first–the chicken or the egg?”

Thompson also says there is a difficulty in encouraging diversification in the Bahamian legal profession and a need to strike a balance between fostering Bahamian talent and learning from the international community.

“We are often criticised as a closed shop,” she says. “Given the small population of lawyers in The Bahamas, you would meet such resistance to opening up the doors, but by limiting it to the local pool, you have missed out on networking opportunities.

“On the other hand, by limiting it you develop local talent. What we need is a happy medium.”

The Bahamas government signs a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with India in Nassau. This brings the total number of TIEAs signed to 24, the third with a major Asian economy, following agreements with China and Japan.

Financial gurus, economic analysts, brokers and investors gather on Paradise Island this week to debate the world's economic outlook and investment climate. Renowned wealth and asset managers, and financial commentators, including Mark Skousen, Peter Schiff and Forbes columnist Ken Fisher, discuss the investment strategies in a new economic era.

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