PLC Which lawyer? The offshore law firm elite 2009
This article reveals the results of the first ever PLC Which lawyer? Offshore Super League.
Despite the recent downturn in the financial markets, expansion has been a defining feature for many offshore firms over the past two years. Diverse geographical reach is increasingly seen as a key factor in weathering the economic malaise, with many firms looking to position themselves strongly in resilient markets such as the Middle East and Asia.
Based on PLC Which lawyer? research as of July 2009, this article:
Reveals the results of our first ever offshore law firm Super League.
Briefly reviews some key developments that have taken place at each of these law firms over the last 18 months.
Nine firms qualified for inclusion in the Super League, based on the fact that they are endorsed by PLC Which lawyer? in two or more offshore jurisdictions (see Methodology box for more details).
Taking first place in the inaugural Offshore Super League is Appleby. With its roots in Bermuda, the firm has transformed itself into one of the largest offshore players through a series of mergers and new office openings over the last few years. Its most recent merger, with leading Manx firm Dickinson Cruickshank, has been a significant factor in it leapfrogging Ogier to the top of the table. The merger adds a further 11 partners to the global partnership, which now stands at 73 − the largest of any offshore firm on our list. In addition to the Isle of Man, Seychelles and Bahrain operations were added to the firm’s extensive global network in 2009. The firm notably features in the top tier in the Bermuda and Cayman markets, while in Jersey it comfortably falls within the top five.
Jersey-headquartered Ogier comes in a close second this year. The key factor behind its high placing is that, while it has a market-leading position in Jersey, it also performs solidly across the BVI, the Cayman Islands and Guernsey. Notably, the BVI office was strengthened in April 2009 with the arrival of Ray Wearmouth from leading BVI outfit Harney Westwood & Riegels. This combination of consistency and geographical reach is a stand-out feature that distinguishes the firm from many of its competitors. Its latest office addition, in Bahrain, in the second half of 2008 saw it join up with accounting firm Keypoint to offer personal and corporate trust services for regional clients, including high net-worth individuals.
Channel Islands firm Carey Olsen makes a noteworthy debut in the inaugural Super League in third place. What makes this achievement all the more impressive is that its recommendations come from only two jurisdictions (Guernsey and Jersey), a testament to the strength and depth of its practice across the key corporate and commercial fields in both Channel Islands. A global dimension is added to the practice through its “best friends” relationship with offshore giant Maples and Calder (see below), giving its clients access to high quality advice across key offshore jurisdictions. In a purely speculative scenario of a merger between these two firms, their combined points in this year’s Super League would propel them comfortably to the top of the list.
In fourth position is Caymans-headquartered Maples and Calder. The firm’s quality is reflected in its Cayman rankings, where it receives top level endorsements in all key corporate and finance areas. However, the growth of its Dublin office − it is the only offshore firm to be endorsed in the PLC Which lawyer? Irish rankings - has been particularly impressive, not only for the pace of its growth but for the quality of recent hires from leading Irish firms. In June 2008 it brought in Edward Miller, bolstering its corporate expertise, and this was followed by the arrival of Barry McGrath on the funds side. More recently it has added significant litigation strength with the arrival of Caroline Preston as of counsel. It is also worth noting that the firm is the only offshore practice currently ranked by PLC Which lawyer? in the United Arab Emirates.
Rounding off the top five is Conyers Dill & Pearman. Like many of its offshore counterparts, the last 18 months have been defined by an expansionist strategy. The official opening of its Mauritius office, a key offshore hub for funds and investment work related to the Indian and African markets, is its most recent addition. This followed soon after its Brazil launch, the first for an offshore firm, at the end of 2008 in an effort to tap into the growth of both inbound and outbound investment. However, for the present, Bermuda and the BVI remain its two key strongholds, particularly the former where it achieves a top tier ranking for all practice areas covered.
Following on from the aborted merger with Walkers, which would have created a global offshore superstar, Mourant du Feu & Jeune, in sixth place, has continued to consolidate its position in its core markets of Guernsey, Jersey and the Cayman Islands. While dominant in its Jersey homeland across areas such as finance, investment funds and private equity, its lower profile Guernsey office continues to build a reputation in these fields.
Originating from the Cayman Islands and in seventh place in the Super League, Walkers has used the current market conditions as a springboard to adopt a new management structure, which rationalises its key focus areas into global practices. A consequence of this is the closure of its highly rated Cayman’s real estate practice in September. But while it may have streamlined elements of its practice at home, the firm has made strides outside the Caribbean. February 2009 saw it open in Singapore, while a series of hires at all levels have strengthened its already strong position in Hong Kong. The firm makes it into the Super League primarily off the back of its excellent Cayman and BVI practices, but it is also rated for its finance expertise in Jersey.
In eighth position is Guernsey-headquartered Ozannes. Its reputation in Guernsey is second to none, where it boasts a consistent top tier performance across all the main corporate and commercial fields, particularly in the key funds and finance arenas. While its Jersey office continues to consolidate its position in the market, the firm is reported to be looking further afield to Dubai and Singapore for possible future bases.
Rounding off the table in ninth place is Jersey-based Bedell Cristin. The firm has positioned itself well to weather the financial crisis through its market-leading disputes and restructuring practices in Jersey, while in Guernsey it is visible in key areas such as corporate, funds and private equity work.
The PLC Which lawyer? Offshore Super League is based on research conducted by PLC Which lawyer? (see www.whichlawyer.com). The rankings in this article are based on the position online as at 28 July 2009:
Basis of research: surveys of general counsel drawn from PLC Law Department Profiles, as well as client feedback and peer reviews by lawyers in or active in each jurisdiction. On the basis of the research, we rank lawyers and law firms for their expertise in certain practice areas.
Practice areas included in this Super League are banking & finance (lenders and borrowers, and securitisation), corporate/M&A, dispute resolution, investment funds, private client, private equity/venture capital and restructuring and insolvency.
Jurisdictions considered are Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man and Jersey.
Law firms and lawyers are ranked in each practice area as “leading”, “highly recommended”, “recommended” or “recognised” in the jurisdictions in which they have a presence or relevant capability.
The PLC Which lawyer? Offshore Super League results are calculated by aggregating the results of law firm and lawyer recommendations in the practice areas and jurisdictions listed above, with different points allocated to the level of recommendation. Firm recommendations are given more weighting than individual rankings. To qualify for inclusion in the Super League, a firm must receive recommendations in a minimum of the two jurisdictions covered in the Super League.
Firms are ranked by total score and then by number of recommended lawyers, so if firms receive identical scores they are ranked in accordance with which firm has the most recommended lawyers.
Policy on mergers: points are aggregated if a full merger has been implemented or formally announced before the calculations for the Super Leagues commence. Points for correspondent and alliance firms are not aggregated.
Firm names are abbreviated to those used in the home jurisdiction.
PLC Which lawyer? is added to and updated continuously online. For a full explanation of the research and practice areas/subcategories covered, please visit www.whichlawyer.com.
Offshore Super League 2009
Number of recommended lawyers
Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Isle of Man and Jersey
British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guernsey and Jersey
Guernsey and Jersey
Maples and Calder
British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Ireland
Conyers Dill & Pearman
Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands
Mourant du Feu & Jeune
Cayman Islands, Guernsey and Jersey
British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Jersey
Guernsey and Jersey
Guernsey and Jersey