Offshore roundup

Offshore firms expand in London

Offshore law firms are on the move. Whether launching in new jurisdictions or moving to bigger premises, firms in the sector have been growing at a phenomenal rate.

As first reported by The Lawyer (16 January), Ogier has seen huge growth in London and Guernsey, prompting the need for new premises. The London team will transfer from its home at the Royal Exchange building to 47 King William Street. The move increases the firm’s London space almost fourfold, from 1,692sq ft to 6,243sq ft. Meanwhile, in Guernsey, Ogier is doubling its office space from 7,455sq ft to 16,349sq ft through a move from Coutts House to St Julians Avenue in St Peter Port.

Chairman Jonathan White says: “Ogier has expanded considerably in the past year and we’ve taken on considerably more people, growing from 370 to around 480 across the various businesses.”

Mourant du Feu & Jeune is also growing in London this month (January) and will move to bigger premises near Ogier at 68 King William Street (as first reported by The Lawyer, 16 January). The new offices will also house the firm’s administration staff, which until now have been based in Croydon.

The move coincides with the appointment of a new managing partner, Daniel Birtwistle, who moves across from Jersey in February to replace Jonathan Rigby, who will return to Jersey following a handover period.

Mourant’s growth in London since 2000 has also created a need for a second partner in the office and a lawyer will soon be heading over from Jersey to boost the City operation.

Mourant has also made a splash in Guernsey, launching its first office on the island. As first reported by The Lawyer (24 October 2005), the Guernsey operation will open for business in February, bringing Mourant’s tally of offices to four, including Jersey, the Cayman Islands and London.

The Isle of Man firm Cains also launched into the London market in October, its first office in the UK. The firm hopes to take advantage of the expansion of the Isle of Man’s economy, powered by its zero-tax strategy. The London operation is headed by corporate lawyer Daniel Mackelden, formerly of Walkers.

London is proving profitable for offshore firms. Enthusiasts say a base in the UK capital allows lawyers to be close to clients, as well as in the same time zone. A City base can also aid the recruitment of lawyers wanting to make the shift to an offshore firm, but who are not ready to make the leap to life on a small island.

But London is not the only place that offshore firms have had in their sights. As first reported by The Lawyer (21 November 2005), Walkers is aiming to take advantage of the burgeoning Middle East market by launching in Dubai. Managing partner Rod Palmer and partner Robert Varley will lead the office, which will offer advice on funds, private equity and finance, including Islamic finance products such as Sukuks, a type of Islamic bond.

Elsewhere, Gibraltar’s Marrache & Co opened its fourth office in October when it set up shop in Prague in the Czech Republic. The new two-lawyer office will focus on commercial and corporate work.

Practice group reshuffle at Carey Olsen

Carey Olsen decided to rearrange the furniture last year and merge a number of practice groups to create its new fiduciary law group. The rejig gave the firm one practice area in which it can now advise on contentious and non-contentious trust issues, pensions and wills and probate. The new team was too big for one person to handle, so three lawyers took on responsibility for leading the group: trusts and pensions specialist Paul Matthams, chairman Anthony Olsen and litigator Robert MacRae.

The fiduciary law group also gained a new partner through internal promotion. Konrad Friedlaender was appointed to the partnership from 1 January and is based in Guernsey.

Carey Olsen also took the decision to divulge itself from its private client trust company Quorum Management. The company was sold to Investec Trust at the end of 2005.

Matthams says there were two main reasons for the disposal. “We want to try to differentiate ourselves from the other law firms and also we don’t want to been seen to be competing with our clients,” he explained.

Unlike many offshore firms, the trust company was given its own name to help give it a separate identity, but after feedback from clients the firm decided a permanent separation was the only way to go. Carey Olsen now claims it is the only law firm in Jersey to be focused solely on legal services.

However, others firms seem unlikely to follow suit. A partner at another Jersey firm tells The Lawyer: “This move will work for Carey Olsen as it had fairly small market share of trust administration services. It will pick up a certain amount of work from the disposal, but the feedback from our clients has always been that they like our one-stop shop approach.”

Appointments, retirement and career moves

Changes at the top for Appleby Spurling Hunter and Collas Day and a new financial director at Ogier are just some of the career moves to have occurred in the offshore market in recent months.

As first reported in The Lawyer (16 January), Richard Ogier took up the role of senior partner at Collas Day from 1 January 2006 following an uncontested election. He succeeds Peter Atkinson, who retires at the end of March after 14 years as senior partner and 25 years with the firm.

Ogier tells The Lawyer: “It remains true that the market is becoming more competitive. My role as senior partner is to present leadership to the staff and be a focal point for clients.”

Bermuda firm Applebys found itself with a new managing partner in the shape of Shaun Morris, formerly the head of corporate and commercial. Morris takes over from Peter Bubenzer, who has his hands full as global managing partner.

The appointment caused management changes further down the line, with Judith Collis installed as the new head of corporate, Timothy Faries landing the role as head of trusts and Cameron Adderley moving into the role of leader of telecommunications, technology and IP.

Meanwhile, Ogier (the law firm, not the man) has been on a recruitment drive, but not for lawyers. Instead, the firm recruited a new group chief operating officer in the guise of former finance number two at Allen & Overy Jeremy Sleep. The firm has also revamped its internal management organisation, with each practice area now having its own managing partner or managing director.