International and regional Dutch Caribbean law firms

The Dutch Caribbean holds only two law firms that qualify as true regional firms. These firms are VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne and HBN Law, both with their main office in Curaçao and further offices in Aruba, Bonaire and St. Maarten.  These firms are ranked in terms of size (number of lawyers) at respectively no. 1 (VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne) and no. 2 (HBN Law) in the Dutch Caribbean Legal Portal (“DCLP”) 2012 law firm ranking.

Spigthoff  (no. 3 on the DCLP 2012 lawfirm ranking) has a strategy to offer its services from a single office in Curaçao. It has to be noted that they do have a significant presence in The Netherlands in the form of Spigthoff Litigators. Also the smaller boutique corporate transactional firm of STVB Advocaten (no. 11 on the DCLP 2012 law firm ranking), has, besides  small offices in Curaçao satellite or representative offices in both Amsterdam, and in  New York, from which they contribute to the Dutch Caribbean practice.

VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne also has its own presence in The Netherlands in the form of a Dutch Caribbean Desk in Amsterdam, as well as an association with Van Doorne, a Dutch law firm. HBN Law has no presence of its own in The Netherlands, but has an association with Dutch law firm Pels Rijcken.

The above Dutch Caribbean firms all do international work – i.e. they act for international clients and in international matters. Doing so, they compete for Dutch Caribbean corporate work with large Dutch firms, mainly those with offices in New York, such as Nauta Dutilh, De Brauw, Stibbe and Loyens Loeff. Loyens Loeff even has an office in Curaçao, but this office only practices tax law. Also, Dutch firm Houthoff Buruma is active in the Dutch Caribbean and, incidentally, recently announced its opening of a New York office with the “acquisition” of two lawyer boutique firm Sprenger & Associates.

The Aruban law firm, David Kock Legal (no. 5 on the DCLP 2012 ranking) has offices in Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire and an office in Colombia. However, they are not seen in international work yet.
As regards the participation of Dutch Caribbean firms in international associations of law firms, VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne is the exclusive Dutch Caribbean member of Lex Mundi, while the firm of Soliana Bonapart & Partners (no. 4 on the DCLP 2012 law firm ranking) is a member of Global Law, a smaller international law firm association.

Some of the Curaçao and Aruban law firms are also active in Suriname (notably: Soliana Bonapart, VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne, STVB Advocaten and SMS Attorneys). The firm SMS Attorneys (no. 6 on the DCLP 2012 law firm ranking) used to have offices there. Unfortunately, they closed shop, due to Surinam law being very strict on foreign lawyers establishing themselves in the country.

It is not surprising that the law firms in Curaçao have the most regional and international ties due to the fact that Curaçao historically is the region’s international financial center, as a consequence of its still important off-shore industry. For now, the other Dutch Caribbean jurisdictions primarily focus on local clients. Of course, with the constitutional changes and consequent repositioning of the islands, that may change over time.

Dutch Caribbean Legal Portal

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