The Americas / Spotlight on a young lawyer from the Falkand Islands: Krysteen Ormond JP
In this edition of the CLA Newsletter, we introduce Krysteen Ormond JP, a recently-qualified solicitor from the Falkland Islands, currently practising in London with European law firm, Fieldfisher.
Firstly, how big is the legal field in the Falklands? Surely everyone must know one another…
The legal field is really quite tiny compared to other jurisdictions! Government Legal Services are the biggest employer of legal practitioners, followed by private law firms Waverley Law and Falklands Legal. All in all, there are only around 15 lawyers in-country, plus two recently-qualified solicitors practicing in England. The majority of practitioners emigrated to the Islands from other Commonwealth jurisdictions, including Botswana, South Africa, Australia, Scotland and England & Wales; to date, the Falkland Islands has ‘home-grown’ three lawyers (all women!) – Ros Cheek, Statute Law Commissioner for the Falkland Islands Government, Delen Montgomerie, who works in-house for Natural England, and myself.
What was it like to grow up in the Falklands?
People always ask me this and I struggle to answer because I don’t know what it was like to grow up anywhere else in the world. I was born 6 years after the end of the Falklands War (my parents met following the Battle of Goose Green) and so the wake of conflict was always there. I learned how to identify unexploded ordnance and who to tell, and I knew not to walk on certain beaches which may contain landmines. But I also remember this incredible sense of freedom, with rolling hills and the biggest skies you’ve ever seen, and being part of a nation that was rebuilding itself. The opportunities available to me from having grown up in the Islands post-war are vastly different to my Mum’s generation and the opportunities for my godchildren are even better still. Thankfully, the demining process completed in 2021 means I now have the choice to walk on any beach I like and I can focus on ordinances rather than ordnance…
Your pathway into qualification is a little unusual. Can you tell us more about it?
I should start by saying everything I have ever done I have done off the back of a chance encounter! There was no post-16 education in-country when I was younger so I had to study in England. I was the first in my family to attend university and frankly, didn’t know how the system worked. I picked languages and cultures, as it was an area I excelled in, but might not have been my passion per se. I became involved in citizenship diplomacy for the Falkland Islands Government (“FIG“) around the same time an invitation to a conference turned into a scholarship to do a Masters examining civilian experiences of the Falklands War. That then led onto a full-time role back in the Islands with FIG in their Public Relations & Media Office, building new strategies for public diplomacy, overseas lobbying, and PR for the Islands. I loved the role and thought I’d never leave home again, but then in 2014 I was appointed as a Justice of the Peace and that changed everything. I realised how much I liked the law and thought, “maybe I could be good at this” so, with a combination of scholarships and spending my mortgage fund, moved back to England to study the GDL and the LPC. During the GDL, the then-Attorney General of the Falklands blind copied me on an email to an oil and gas company, suggesting I might be a fit for an internship. The internship turned into a paralegal role, which turned into an in-house traineeship. All I had ever known was transactional oil and gas and I assumed that would be my career track forever. During the training, I seconded to Fieldfisher’s disputes team and adored it – on qualification, I re-joined Fieldfisher as a permanent team member.
I qualified just around the time of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Falklands War. It was a really poignant time for me, to be able to reflect on everything my country has achieved over the previous four decades, and all the ways I have pushed and pushed to reach qualification; it felt like I was at a crossroads at the same time as my nation and it was exciting to think about what might come next.
So, as the third ever home-grown lawyer from your nation, what does come next? How does that fit with your current practice?
Obviously, I would love to be able to go home and practice. The community have supported me – emotionally and financially – through my journey to qualification and there will come a time I need to go home to pay that forward. For now though, the best way to honour their investment in me is to keep gaining experience in London, so that when the time does come, I am going home to practice as the best lawyer I can be.
Having a contentious practice might not be the obvious choice in terms of upskilling myself for working as a generalist in the Falklands, but the breadth of opportunity I have at Fieldfisher has given me an excellent foundation and an exposure to varied sectors.
I work broadly across three areas: commercial crime, regulatory health and safety, and international arbitration. Health and safety and commercial crime have a lot of complementary skills and networks, and international arbitration allows me to utilise my language skills and my commercial background to add value. Choosing between one or the other would be like having to choose my favourite child.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other Young Commonwealth Lawyers?
(1) Grow your network early. Immerse yourselves in organisations like the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the young branches of your industry groups (such as the Young Arbitrators and ADR Forum). You might feel like you do not have anything to say, or that your contacts are not big decision makers, but we are the partners and the CEOs of the future and that is important. Someone you knew when they were a junior web developer will go on to be the Tech MD who calls you for advice when you are a Senior Associate.
(2) Embrace your heritage. Your life story is your greatest strength and not your biggest weakness. Tell people about it and be proud of the journey you took to become a lawyer. We may not all turn into Baroness Hale, but you definitely all climbed mountains to be admitted as lawyers and you deserve to give yourself credit.
Krysteen Ormond JP