"My relationship with Walkers started 16 years ago when I was awarded a legal scholarship to attend the London School of Economics and Political Science," shares Shamar Ennis, a Finance and Corporate Partner at Walkers. "At the time, I was only 18 years old and had just completed my A-Levels at Cayman Prep & High School. Like most kids at that age, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I 'grew up'; I probably changed my mind every week," she quips, "but with some guidance from my parents, Anthony and Karla Ennis, and after completing work experience placements with various local law firms, I came to understand the practical benefits of a legal career. The legal profession provides a clear career path with opportunities to progress and the skills you develop are highly transferrable to a variety of different industries. Also, given Cayman's position as a leading financial centre, I knew that lawyers would always be in demand and therefore, job prospects after my degree would be promising."
As a young and ambitious lawyer, Shamar set her sights high and sought opportunities to grow both personally and professionally, including putting her hand up for a secondment to Walkers' Hong Kong office in 2014. She had no way of knowing that an 18-month stint in Hong Kong would be a catalyst for further professional growth, or that she would find herself back there seven years later on a second secondment assignment.
At 33-years-old, she is one of the youngest partners at Walkers and wants to inspire other young Caymanians to pursue a career in law.
Shamar shares a bit of her journey from law student to Partner at Walkers in the following interview.
Q: How has Walkers helped progress your career?
A: Walkers' emphasis on training has been pivotal to my continued professional development over the years. Whilst Walkers is well known for its comprehensive and highly-regarded articled clerk training programme, which has been around for over 35 years, what is less known are the various ongoing training programmes for lawyers conducted throughout all our offices. These programmes have deepened my technical skills and helped me to keep up with the latest market practices and regulatory changes over the years.
Walkers' global network of offices has also been invaluable. My first international secondment was critical to my personal growth and also helped me transition from a junior to mid-level lawyer. I enjoyed learning from my colleagues in Hong Kong and returned to the Cayman office all-around more confident and with more varied experience. As a 'client-facing office', Hong Kong provided me with an abundance of opportunity to engage with clients and to develop my own business development style. This in turn lifted my confidence to pursue new clients and opportunities.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for me, is the culture of mentorship within the firm. From my early days as a summer intern working with former-partner, Wayne Panton, to the mentorship I've received over the past 11 years and counting from Philip Paschalides and David Collins in our Cayman office and Andy Randall and Kristen Kwok in our Hong Kong office, I've come across so many people at Walkers who have a genuine interest in training young Caymanians and facilitating their progression. In recent years, Walkers has formalised a mentorship programme for newly qualified lawyers. I am truly pleased to serve as a mentor in the programme and look forward to assisting in the careers of the next generation of up-and-coming Caymanian lawyers, as my mentors did for me.
Q: What has it been like moving from Cayman to Hong Kong?
A: I knew from a very early stage that I wanted to do a secondment and Asia was my top choice so, without hesitation, I jumped at the opportunity.
Whilst I was extremely excited, it was daunting to leave my family and friends and move to the other side of the world on my own for my first secondment. However, my colleagues in the Hong Kong office were very welcoming and ensured that I settled in well.
Once you get to Hong Kong, you realise there is a lot to love about this city: the food, the diversity, the culture and history, the people, nature etc. Not to mention, Hong Kong is a central hub with fantastic international links. It is a very easy and enjoyable city to live in.
Professionally, re-joining Walkers' Hong Kong office as a new Partner has already been incredibly rewarding and beneficial to my continued growth as a lawyer and now as a leader within the firm. As with every other stage in my career, Walkers has provided incredible support to help make this next chapter a successful one. It was also fantastic to see the extraordinary growth the Hong Kong office experienced in such a short period of time, more than doubling in size since I was last here and now with just under 50 fee earners. It's a dynamic office to be a part of and I'm excited for what's to come.
Q: What has been the biggest cultural adjustment for you?
A: I didn't really experience culture shock but one thing it did take me a while to get used to was the sheer volume of people everywhere, all of the time. Luckily, it doesn't take long to escape the chaos and crowds of the city and find your way to any number of hiking trails, beaches, nature reserves, parks and other nature areas. It's a side of Hong Kong I didn't know about until I arrived and a welcome change of pace every now and then.
Q: What advice would you give a young, aspiring lawyer?
A: I think it's important to be realistic about the demands of the profession so I would encourage any students aspiring to be lawyers to reach out to people in the industry to see what their experience has been and, if possible, try to get work placements at a few different law firms.
A career in law will require a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but the pay-off is a very rewarding career, with opportunities for continuous professional and personal growth.