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Nicola Palios, the former CEO of Mourant Ltd, talks to Katie Le Quesne about her role in developing a small Jersey law firm into an internationally renowned leader in financial law


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HIRTY years ago, Jersey law firms mostly provided traditional legal services to island-based clients. How things have changed. The 1980s and 1990s offered big rewards to confident and able legal entrepreneurs who set their sights on developing business in other parts of the globe. None did it better than those at Mourant. The last 15 years have seen accolades pile one on top of another, and Mourant is widely


acknowledged to be in the top tier of the world’s leading financial law firms. In the past few months alone its trophies include becoming Hedgeweek magazine’s Best Offshore Legal Firm and Cayman’s overall Law Firm of the Year. It is also independently rated as advising more FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies than any other offshore legal practice. One of the key players in this explosive expansion has been a young woman who, even before starting school, harboured the dream of one day being a successful lawyer. Nicola Palios nursed her ambitions through school in Northumberland and law studies at Oxford. In Jersey, at Mourant, she found just the right environment to propagate her talents – becoming a Partner in 1995 and Chief Executive in 2003. She understood the exciting possibilities ahead, and while she developed an international reputation for her


expertise in corporate finance, cash box structures and securitisation, Mourant established bases in 10 different jurisdictions. In her 22 years at Mourant, the firm grew from 70 employees to 1,050. It was, says Nicola, a deliberate strategy – Mourant saw the opportunities and seized them before anyone else.


The firm’s insightful development included an awareness that becoming so big would stretch – and before long, exceed – the capacity of a purely Jersey company. Its biggest and most profitable divisions have now been sold off to global players, and with Mourant Ltd in wind-down mode, Nicola is moving on and – for now – away from Jersey. But what next for someone who has achieved so much? On her last day at Mourant, Nicola talked to businesslife.je.


You’ve been with Mourant since 1988. What brought you to the firm in the first place? I met a Jersey man at Oxford and married him – that is what brought me here. He was working at Mourant, so when I qualified I followed him, intending only to stay for a six-week summer job. We didn’t think it would be a good thing for us to work for the same firm, so the intention was always for me to move to another Jersey practice. But I had been working as an assistant to Ian James, a partner in the firm, specialising in commercial law, and he persuaded me to stay. I liked the people I was working with and I liked Mourant. It was still quite unusual for women to be doing law in Jersey, especially at a high level, and Mourant was one of the firms that was very


June/July 2010 businesslife.je 25 ➔


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