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Jonathan Rowe celebrates 15 years

Jonathan Rowe, a Partner in our Commercial Property & Development and Residential Property teams, is celebrating 15 years with CooperBurnett LLP. His experience before joining us includes time spent in both the City and Bermuda, so we thought we’d find out more.

Jon initially qualified with a law firm in Farringdon and found himself in an excellent position, having specialised in commercial property, at a time when the sector was really ‘taking off’.

He was then taken on by one of the ‘magic circle’ law firms.

“This was a great place to continue my training and it had a very good property department,” says Jon. “I also worked under a slightly ‘renegade’ Partner and that was fun. He encouraged me to get involved with residential property deals, as well as commercial property and that was unusual.”

Jon then moved across to McGrigor Donald/KLegal, which was pushing the concept of law firm and accountancy firm under one roof. Legislation soon came in though which prevented firms from providing non-audit advice to audit clients which, as Jon explains, ‘killed the model dead’.

“I started to see people around me being made redundant and it wasn’t a great time,” says Jon. “I think I hung on because of my past City experience.”

Reading The Lawyer one day, Jon saw an advert for a post in Bermuda.

“My Dad was stationed there with the Navy for a while and my Mother and older sister lived there with him before I was born,” says Jon. “I grew up on their stories; I was told how my Mother would regularly nearly topple off her bicycle as my sister, on the back, grabbed reeds along the roadside. I also had an Uncle who worked for the Bank of Bermuda. We’d travelled there over the years. I liked the place and liked the rum, so the advert caught my eye.”

Jon discovered that an English property lawyer could practice in Bermuda, so it would be a straightforward transition. He applied for the job, had an interview in London and was then flown out to Bermuda for a second interview. He secured the position and moved his family out there for three years.

“It was a perfect place to bring up young children and I was working for the number one firm on the island,” he said. “It also felt like a re-set for my career, after a fairly depressing period in London. In addition, I was able to get involved with residential property again, which I’d enjoyed earlier in my career.”

The time came to return to the UK and Jon had already decided that he didn’t want to continue his career in London.

“My wife’s family lived near Tunbridge Wells and we liked the area, however I wasn’t familiar with the local legal scene, so placed my CV with a recruitment agency,” says Jon. “I was ideally looking for a role which combined residential and commercial property – which I appreciated wouldn’t be easy to find.”

He had some initial discussions with CooperBurnett in 2007 but Jon wanted to stay in Bermuda until spring 2008 for a handover. He then met with CooperBurnett in April 2008 and joined us in June that year.

“To be honest, it was a tricky start, as the credit crunch had hit and it was like a ‘mini ice age’ for commercial property,” Jon explains. “Thankfully, I wasn’t purely specialising in that area.”

He was made a Partner at the firm in 2011.

“After working in the City, the culture at CooperBurnett was a breath of fresh air,” Jon says. “Looking back, I only really joined a large City law firm, as that’s what was expected of me. I wasn’t a ‘corporate beast’ and I felt like I was in money-making machine; the billing targets were impossible to achieve and we were being managed like battery hens.”

Nowadays, Jon does less residential property work but helped out during the busy period of the Stamp Duty holiday.

“I have discovered that my residential property knowledge is particularly useful when dealing with developer clients, as it’s helpful to know how they will eventually sell those properties,” says Jon. “I still really enjoy the variety of work I get involved with.”

He says that the commercial property market is not that busy at the moment and mortgage rates are having an impact, so his time is being spent on more lease work.

“I will also work alongside the Corporate and Commercial team, if one of their deals has a property aspect to it,” Jon says.

Back in the 1980s, Jon almost didn’t become a lawyer.

“Before heading to university to study Politics and Philosophy, I spent my gap year working on a trading floor in the City,” says Jon. “It was exciting and the money was great. In fact, I was earning more then than I was ten years later as a lawyer!”

“Feeling despondent, I visited my former colleagues in the City,” Jon says. “But it was the Autumn of 1987 and Black Monday had hit, so the atmosphere was very different. They advised me not to come back. So, I returned to university, managed to move to a different hall and continued on my path to becoming a lawyer.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

When he’s not at work, Jon enjoys gardening and getting involved with house-related projects, as well as cooking ‘nice stuff’, which he enjoys alongside a glass of wine.

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June 2, 2023
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