May 6, 2021

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of Higgs & Johnson

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By MORGAN ADDERLEY From Tribune242

The reception was held at the Baha Mar convention centre.

THE noted law firm Higgs & Johnson is celebrating 70 years as a trailblazing Bahamian law company with the launch of a scholarship at the Eugene Dupuch Law School.

Last night, the firm held a reception at the Baha Mar convention centre to honour its platinum anniversary. The event also marked the launch of the Higgs & Johnson Charitable Trust.

#According to a press release, “a key award of this programme is the Sir Geoffrey Johnstone Memorial Scholarship tenable at the Eugene Dupuch Law School.”

Ahead of the festivities at Baha Mar, The Tribune spoke with Higgs & Johnson Managing Partner Oscar Johnson Jr. He discussed the firm’s dynamic past and its future goals.

According to the company’s website, Higgs & Johnson was founded in January 1948 by Godfrey W Higgs, CBE, and his friend Mervyn Johnson, a former registrar general.

This act alone was revolutionary, as at the time most Bahamian lawyers either worked independently or formed father-and-son practices.

In 1950, Sir Geoffrey joined the company. He served as senior partner from 1968 to 1998.

When asked which aspect of the firm’s history he is most proud of, Mr Johnson referred to these distinguished men.

He said: “I am most proud of the sterling example which has been set by our founders for the members of the firm, and which has been reinforced by the firm’s leaders throughout its history.

“That example has set the standard for every facet of the firm’s operations, and the approach which is taken by its people to all that we do.”

According to the website, Higgs & Johnson is a “full service law firm,” providing “comprehensive services throughout a wide spectrum of commercial, trust and financial matters.”

Based in Nassau, the company opened additional offices in Grand Bahama (1999), Lyford Cay (2001), and Abaco (2007).

In 2009, Higgs & Johnson achieved another milestone when it “became the first Bahamian law firm to expand outside of the Bahamas through its merger with the Cayman law firm Truman Bodden & Company.”

The firm’s website notes: “This merger showcases the first law practice to straddle both the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands.”

When asked if the firm plans to pursue similar partnerships with other international law firms, Mr Johnson said: “The firm continues to assess, and re-assess, the opportunities for expansion outside of the Bahamas. Any decision to do so would be predicated upon sound business principles, and the opportunities which we see to achieve sustained growth by doing so.”

However, he said Higgs & Johnson does plan to expand to other areas of legal practice.

“We continuously assess the need for additional legal services, and have embraced additional service offerings such as e-commerce and fintech. We shall continue to do so as circumstances demand.”

Mr Johnson also told The Tribune his perspective of how the firm has changed in the last 70 years.

“The changes which are most striking, of course, centre around the advances in technology which we have all experienced.

“Additionally, the changes which have taken place in the economic environment in which we operate have resulted in significant growth in the size of the firm over the years.

#“The recent regulatory changes which have taken place have conversely caused the firm to continuously review its business model, and to adapt to the changing arena in which we operate.”

He added: “Throughout it all, we aim to be a firm of the greatest integrity, which is committed to excellence in the service which we render.”

This commitment to integrity is exemplified through the creation of the charitable trust.

When asked what inspired this particular method of philanthropy, Mr Johnson said: “For decades, Higgs & Johnson has supported various community organisations and causes, in particular those associated with education.

“So as to channel that support, and additional support, more efficiently and effectively, the members of the firm determined to establish the Higgs & Johnson Charitable Foundation.”

According to the press release, the trust is “designed to fund the firm’s corporate social responsibility programme. The entity will focus on the area of education, with additional support given to organisations which work to improve Bahamian communities through art and cultural patronage, disaster relief and humanitarian outreach, environmental conservation efforts, health care initiatives, and youth programmes.”

Mr Johnson did not provide the names of any specific institutions.

Instead he told The Tribune: “We propose to continue to support the many organisations and causes which we have traditionally supported, and will look to expand our giving upon a programmed basis as we go forward.”

However, he did expound on the Sir Geoffrey scholarship, saying: “Due to the exceptional contributions of Sir Geoffrey to Higgs & Johnson, we have for some time (even prior to his death) sought to determine a fitting means by which we could recognise such contributions; and to honour him as a great Bahamian. We, therefore, decided to establish the Sir Geoffrey Johnstone Memorial Scholarship, in his honour.”

Even after 70 years of success in the legal field, Higgs & Johnson is still committed to growing and excelling. When asked about the way forward for the company, Mr Johnson said: “The firm is focused upon ensuring that it maintains its acknowledged reputation for excellence in terms of the quality of the legal services which it renders to its clients, while ensuring that it does so responsively and with the highest levels of client service.

“In addition, we continue to grow in terms of numbers of attorneys, and numbers of offices, to provide expanded services and convenient access for our clients.”

IMAGE: Philip Dunkley, QC; Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette; Attorney General Carl Bethel and Higgs & Johnson Managing Partner Oscar Johnson Jr.

For more on this story go to: http://www.tribune242.com/news/2018/feb/02/celebrating-70th-anniversary-higgs-johnson/

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