Awards preview: offshore law firm of the year

On 22 June, 1400 people will crowd into the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane for the most eagerly-awaited event of the year. With only one week to go, The Lawyer brings you a sneak preview of the shortlisted individuals and teams


Carey Olsen

Few could doubt the significance of Carey Olsen’s victory for Grupo Torras in the largest offshore case in recent times. As well as the recovery of millions of dollars stolen from a Jersey trust account belonging to what was once Spain’s largest company, the case has dramatically advanced commercial law both offshore and onshore. Careys also advised on a host of key deals during the year, including acting for the Jersey-based mining company Marakand Minerals on its AIM flotation. Meanwhile, since the March 2003 merger of Carey Langlois and Olsens to create the current firm, it has boosted its income and client list by opening offices providing financial services advice in Monaco and Zurich.

Maples and Calder

Maples and Calder has recruited a number of new partners this year, and with 86 fee-earners across three locations is now one of the largest Caymans law firms. Offices in Hong Kong and London, opened in 1995 and 1997 respectively, provide advice across multiple time-zones. 2003 saw the firm assisting the Cayman Islands government in implementing new Japanese retail mutual fund regulations. Maples initiated discussions with the Japanese Securities Dealers Association to ensure that funds established in the Caymans met their standards. Since the regulations’ publication in November 2003, Maples’ Asia office has advised on a number of Caymans unit trusts publicly offered in Japan.

Mourant du Feu & Jeune

Mourant du Feu & Jeune’s biggest deal of last year was also the most groundbreaking: restructuring Drax’s Jersey debt following the collapse of the power company’s largest customer, TXU. Working alongside City firms, Mourant helped avoid what could have been a disaster for Europe’s largest coal-fired plant. The firm put no fewer than six teams on the job to represent Drax itself, various bank committees, Jersey financing vehicles and a host of trustees. All this required tightly coordinated court hearings in three jurisdictions. Mourant also had a fantastic year in funds work, which last year in Jersey reached the $100bn (£54.58bn) mark, the highest in the island’s history.

Ogier & Le Masurier

At the beginning of 2003, Ogier & Le Masurier had not attracted too much notice, despite its unusual position among its Channel Islands competitors, as it boasted offices in both Jersey and Guernsey. Since then it has joined up with Boxalls in the Cayman Islands, becoming the first offshore firm to establish a pioneering transatlantic merger; it set up offices in New Zealand, again being the first offshore law firm to do so; and it also opened in London. Departmentally, its banking practice has made big strides forward, including being appointed as Channel Islands lawyers for Dresdner Kleinwort Benson and Standard Chartered Grindlays.

Ozannes

One of the oldest law firms in Guernsey, Ozannes is particularly strong in litigation, in the last year advising Westminster City Council on its case against Dame Shirley Porter. A highlight of 2003 for its burgeoning corporate group was acting as Guernsey legal adviser to French utility company Suez on the sale of Northumbrian Water. Ozannes was recently awarded training accreditation by the Law Society and its first trainee qualified in May 2004.

Walkers

Focusing on corporate and international finance, Walkers now operates from offices in the Cayman Islands, London, the British Virgin Islands and, since 2003, Hong Kong. The most notable transaction in 2003 was advising KAL Japan ABS I Cayman on the issue of Y27bn (£135m) of secured floating rate notes, due in 2006. This was the first ever transaction to issue asset-backed securities denominated in yen and the first to securitise future revenue flows in Japan. Walkers also won a court battle on behalf of Ernst & Young to prevent special administrator Enrico Bondi from administering Parmalat’s Cayman Island companies.