Interview with: Vanessa King, Managing Partner
O'Neal Webster | View firm profile
What do you see as the main points that differentiate O’Neal Webster from your competitors?
Most of our competitors are firms from other jurisdictions which in recent years have opened offices in the BVI. O’Neal Webster is different in that we are a BVI firm, operating in the BVI for over 25 years. Therefore, we know our territory, its laws, policies, practices, and people very well. Our long-standing position in the BVI, along with our talented, service-oriented professionals, gives our clients a critical edge.
Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?
A new limited partnership act came in to force in the last quarter of 2017. The Limited Partnership Act, 2017 modernizes BVI partnership law and introduces several key new features. We expect this Act to create new interest in the use of limited partnerships and will also booster the funds’ offerings.
Additionally, in 2018 the BVI Micro Business Companies Act (MBCA) came in to force. This legislation creates a new corporate vehicle and new markets. Microbusinesses are a growing, vibrant, and profitable economic segment throughout the world. Such enterprises provide flexibility for individuals to operate on their terms, according to their skills and passions. The MBCA is designed to be much simpler than a standard BVI Business Company. It is transparent, affordable, easy to use, and available on an internet platform that permits direct access to information and MBC management from a computer or mobile phone. The MBCA application programming interface (API) envisions support for the blockchain-based trading economy and other fintech developments, such as smart contracts and token sales, where the validity of the MBC, its principals, and beneficial owners can be verified electronically. The most fundamentally exciting and essential part of this product is that for the BVI and corporate law, broadly, the MBCA represents a first regarding the relationship between law and technology.
What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?
We have restructured and refined the manner in which we serve clients by employing “client teams” comprised of attorneys with different practice specialties. The client team structure provides better coverage and efficiency. Team members are briefed on client operations and objectives and stay updated on open matters. When a client calls with a question regarding any legal issue, our team can quickly respond to their needs in the context their operations, goals, and current status, without wasting time getting up to speed.
Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients and the services you can provide to them?
Definitely. Technology makes real-time service a real thing. As a firm, we are always exploring new applications to improve process, communication, reporting, and security for our clients.
Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?
The firm’s practice is quite diverse. We advise private clients, government authorities, offshore structures, clients involved in dispute resolution, and more. Where we think there is a common interest amongst our clients, we can make introductions to expand their networks and help them develop their respective businesses or investments. Our clients greatly appreciate this added service.
Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms? Where do you see the firm in three years’ time?
Clients do look for stability and strategic direction from their legal advisors. We have found ourselves becoming more involved in the businesses of our clients, and we see this as essential in our role as advisors.
Looking ahead, we had to slightly revise our strategic plan following Hurricane Irma, which hit the BVI in the fall of 2017. In revisiting the program, we’ve gained more clarity and improved our focus. We expect significant growth in the next three years in our key areas of corporate and finance, investment funds and regulatory, dispute resolution, real estate, and trusts and estates, while streamlining other services that we offer to provide greater efficiencies. Beyond our BVI and London offices, we are currently expanding our footprint into key locations that will enable us to serve our global clients fully and look to continue that expansion and growth in the coming years.