A Record Number of Offshore Lawyers Achieve Rankings in Chambers Global

Data from Chambers Global 2023 shows a record number of individual lawyers achieved recognition in the ranking tables for the Offshore financial centres of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Published on 15 February 2023
Written by Oliver Dimsdale
Oliver Dimsdale

Increase in lawyer rankings in 2023

A total of 270 individuals were ranked in the most recent release of Chambers Global. This is a significant increase from the 2022 guide, when 254 lawyers were ranked, and represents a gain of nearly 100 more individuals than were featured in 2014.

The 2022 rankings themselves represented a sharp increase from the previous year; this is easily explicable by the fact that rankings for 2021 were informed by the research conducted during 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic saw an entirely understandable decline in the number of referees taking up the offer of a research interview. The most recent edition of Chambers Global draws upon higher levels of feedback, as the world – we hope – leaves COVID behind in the past.

In Cayman and the BVI, it is also worth highlighting that female lawyers represent a greater percentage of the overall total when compared with 2022. The BVI saw the proportion of female lawyers increase by 20%, while there was an increase of 25% in Cayman.

As law firms across the globe prepare for the 2023 Chambers research period, it is worth reflecting for a few moments on the reasons why the rankings have grown to the extent that they have.

Growth in the Chambers Research Team

Over the past ten years the Chambers research team has grown exponentially, allowing us to research the world’s major economies and financial centres in greater and greater depth. At its most basic, this means a greater number of research interviews. The clearest example to illustrate the benefits of this approach is the growth in the number of ranking tables. The ranking table for Cayman Islands Real Estate was first introduced in Chambers Global 2019, while Cayman Islands Financial Services: Regulatory makes its debut as a standalone section in Global 2023. The introduction of both these tables brought previously unranked individuals into the rankings.

The increase in the number of research interviews has gone hand-in-hand with an ever-more detailed level of analysis, by which the research team holds true to one of Chambers and Partners’ core company values: continuous improvement. We are committed to the high standards of our research, while acknowledging that there are always areas we can do better. The cumulative impact of this approach over several years has naturally resulted in deeper and more comprehensive coverage, with a higher number of individual ranked lawyers.

Increase in demand for offshore lawyer rankings

During the same period, from 2014 to present, there has been a significant increase in demand for Offshore lawyers based in the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Bermuda.

The legal markets in these jurisdictions have grown significantly, with all law firms reporting an uptick in work. To meet this demand, firms have hired new lawyers, at all levels of seniority; put simply, there are just more lawyers out there to rank. This has also come at a time when the Offshore world has become increasingly globalised.

Looking at the Chambers rankings for the Channel Islands and Offshore Caribbean, you will see the same names recurring with regularity. The Channel Islands law firms Mourant and Ogier have had operations in the Caribbean for well over a decade, with their competitor Carey Olsen following not long behind.

Recent years have seen other leading Channel Islands law firms Collas Crill and Bedell Cristin set up shop in the Cayman Islands via mergers with – respectively – Charles Adams, Ritchie & Duckworth (CARD) and Solomon Harris. All five of these Channel Islands players also have a presence in the BVI.

Cayman Island the most popular

The Cayman Islands remains the most popular domicile for investment funds in the world. As such, the jurisdiction continues to be an especially busy and crowded marketplace, as well as a heavily regulated one. The past few years have seen a particularly strong emphasis on regulation, as governments have striven for greater transparency, and to clamp down on practices such as base erosion and profit shifting. This is reflected in the ranking table for Cayman Islands Financial Services: Regulatory, which is, incidentally, a section where the number of ranked women exceeds the number of men.  

In addition to the above-mentioned names, the Cayman Islands rankings in Chambers Global (viewable here) feature law firms such as Dillon Eustace (a pre-eminent law firm for investment funds in the Republic of Ireland) as well as Kobre & Kim, a global boutique focusing on disputes and corporate investigations.

Significant interest in BVI fund launches

The BVI has also proved to have enduring appeal for law firms, including those existing outside the traditional Offshore ecosystem.

In early 2022 HFW made headlines when it set up in the BVI by acquiring the former operations of leading Bahamas law firm Lennox Paton. The jurisdiction is also home to a compact office of Withers, a law firm best known for its representation of high net worth individuals.

Compared with Cayman, the BVI is a less popular choice of domicile for investment funds; nevertheless, the Chambers research has highlighted significant interest in BVI fund launches, and this shows no sign of going away. The transactional section for BVI now acknowledges this, having recently been retitled Corporate & Finance, including Investment Funds.

More presence in Bermuda

For many years, Bermuda has been a tougher market to penetrate, with strict rules concerning the operation of law firms headquartered outside the jurisdiction. These rules have relaxed in recent years, with Cayman-headquartered Walkers establishing a presence on the island in 2016 and Carey Olsen following suit two years later. The launch of both these law firms in the jurisdiction has provided ample opportunities for lawyers to stand out. As such it is no surprise to observe the corresponding growth of the Chambers rankings.

In addition to the changes already highlighted, it is worth noting that Offshore legal markets are growing increasingly sophisticated, and are home to a notable number of boutique law firms with no presence outside their home jurisdiction. Larger law firms have responded to ever-more stringent regulation by heavily investing in dedicated regulatory teams, while simultaneously keeping pace with client demand when it comes to deal activity.

As we prepare for the 2023 research period, it will be exciting to fascinating to see what further changes lie ahead for these thriving markets.

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