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British Virgin Islands > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Legal market overview

In addition to its reputation as a tourism destination, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) is a highly attractive destination for international business and for the offshore registration of companies.

Partly due to high-profile scandals, such as the Panama Papers, which revealed the real owners behind thousands of shell companies - over half of which were set up in the BVI - the jurisdiction, however, recently faced challenges to its reputation.

Meanwhile, the BVI beneficial ownership regime came into force in June 2017; it created a secure, non-public search platform called BOSS (Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System), giving effect to commitments made to the UK to facilitate the sharing of beneficial ownership information.

In 2017, the jurisdiction experienced a new entrant when Channel Islands-based law firm Collas Crill merged with BVI legal practice Farara Kerins to become Collas Crill Farara Kerins, named as such for a transitional period in the BVI; while high-profile moves included Maples and Calder hiring corporate lawyer Christopher Newton from Ogier, which itself recruited senior commercial litigator Nicholas Burkill from Dorsey & Whitney, where he headed the London trial group. Other significant news included Maples and Calder’s former funds and regulatory head Tim Clipstone leaving the firm; BVI litigation and trusts head Arabella di Iorio intends to join Advocates BVI.

This year the Legal 500 introduces banking, finance and capital markets and real estate sections into the BVI chapter to reflect the growth of these practice areas. In real estate, the jurisdiction’s lawyers regularly advise overseas investors, purchasing property in the BVI, on the requirement for a Non-Belonger Land Holding Licence.

It would be remiss of us to ignore the ‘Paradise Papers’ leak of November 2017, which involved the leaking of millions of financial documents that were quickly obtained by the press. Over half of those documents came from Appleby and Estera, Appleby’s former fiduciary arm. Naturally, this led to much international press attention for Appleby, which was founded in Bermuda and also has offices in the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

It remains to be seen the extent to which this adverse publicity will impact the firm’s reputational credibility (and thereby the volume and consistency of its work for a premium client base). But at this stage – we write this mere weeks after the leak – it is too early to allow even this level of press attention to affect our rankings.

The In-House Lawyer

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