A “boutique” law firm with roots in the United States has recently established an office in the territory in an alliance with an established Virgin Islands firm.
The firm Kobre and Kim, which has offices in the US, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, announced last month that it plans to establish an office in the territory.
Two English barristers, James Corbett, QC, and Tim Prudhoe, will lead the office, though the firm plans to recruit additional associate lawyers and administrative staff, Mr. Prudhoe said in a July interview. He added that the firm specialises in complex commercial litigation.
Much of the growth in that field is coming from countries such as China, where VI companies are often used in international joint ventures.
“We’ve had a particular amount of joint venture disputes and large scale insolvencies which have created interest in Asia that have really led for the demand for us to open in the BVI. It’s a demand led issue,” Mr. Prudhoe said.
The VI-based firm SimonetteLewis entered into a “strategic alliance” with Kobre and Kim, according to a press release. The two firms will temporarily share office space and collaborate on cases, according to Helene Anne Lewis, a senior partner with SimonetteLewis.
The alliance does not represent a rebranding of the firm, according to the release.
Mr. Prudhoe said that because Kobre and Kim is a relatively small firm, with 150 employees worldwide, it is able to litigate complex cases without becoming entangled in legal conflicts of interest that can arise at large law firms between lawyers who do corporate advising and a firm’s litigators who try cases in court.
The firm markets itself as “conflict-free,” a term that refers to avoiding potential conflicts of interest, Mr. Prudhoe said.
“We are not a firm that tries to avoid the courtroom,” he said, adding that many of the firm’s attorneys were former US federal prosecutors.
In addition to the international disputes, the firm also focuses on arbitration. Such alternative dispute resolution methods are gaining popularity worldwide, Mr. Prudhoe said, adding that the growth “reflects that litigation all around the world is an expensive and sometimes frustratingly slow process.”
Speaking before a classroom full of students at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College last July, Financial Services Commission Managing Director Robert Mathavious said he’d like the VI to become a leader in arbitration.
“For people who want alternative forms of dispute resolution, for people who want to do so less costly, swiftly and so forth, why can’t we get another piece of the pie?” he said. “Right now at the commission, we are planning what I’d like to think will make the BVI even more distinctive, more competitive, more attractive for international commerce.”
Mr. Prudhoe said that though he believes there is a large concentration of talented lawyers in the VI, growing the territory’s arbitration business will take the territory into competition with jurisdictions such as Singapore, Bermuda and New York.
“Whilst I think it’s right that the BVI have that on their radar, I think they’re aware that just having highly competent local professionals won’t be enough to get the work,” he said.