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Caymans-based Maples and Calder and Channel Islands-based Carey Olsen are the latest offshore giants to team up following in the footsteps of Walkers and Mourant du Feu & Jeune, who are in merger discussions.
The arrangement will see the firms cooperate in relation to offshore legal work, but falls short of the recent trend towards full-scale mergers between offshore law firms.
Henry Harford, managing partner of Maples' London office, explained that there were "significant parallels" between the two firms and the agreement was "similar to the 'best friends' business model adopted by a number of leading London firms".
As part of the agreement, Maples and Calder will stop practising Jersey law, with its Jersey clients referred to Carey Olsen. Maples' Jersey office will, however, remain open and will continue to advise on Cayman law.
Negotiations are ongoing, but Maples expects its Jersey lawyers to either relocate within the firm's international network or move across to Carey Olsen.
Managing partner of Carey Olsen's Jersey office Alex Ohlsson said: "We prefer this approach to that of establishing small presences in other offshore jurisdictions where it is hard to compete effectively with existing firms."
The announcement comes as the offshore market waits to see whether offshore giants Walkers and Mourant du Feu & Jeune will merge. As revealed in The Lawyer (22 October), the firms have confirmed that they are in merger discussions.
If successful, the combination would create a 300-lawyer offshore powerhouse firm, far surpassing the current offshore leader Maples, which stakes a claim to 210 lawyers.
Carey Olsen is the largest law firm based solely in the Channel Islands, with 100-plus lawyers and offices in Jersey, Guernsey and London. Maples and Calder has seven offices across the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Caymans, Dubai, Hong Kong, London and Jersey.
In particular, the agreement focuses on sharing expertise between Carey Olsen's Jersey and Guernsey offices and Maples' expertise in relation to Cayman Islands and BVI law.