International and regional law firms in the Dutch Caribbean

In 2012, Dutch Caribbean Legal Portal (“DCLP”) reported on regional and international firms active in the Dutch Caribbean. DCLP reported that the Dutch Caribbean in fact holds only two law firms that qualify as true regional firms.
 
These firms were VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne and HBN Law, both with their main office in Curacao and other offices in Aruba, Bonaire and St. Maarten. These firms were 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 2013 law firm ranking. Until now (January 2015), this has not changed. 
 
Spigthoff  (no. 3 in the DCLP 2013 law firm ranking) since 2012 changed its name into Spigt Dutch Caribbean. In 2014, the firm severed its ties with Dutch law firm Spigthoff Litigators, which latter firm ceased to exist later that same year. Spigt Dutch Caribbean now independently offers its services from a single office in Curacao. Attorney Davina Mansur manages the Aruba business for the firm from Aruba, where she resides. This year, one of the founding partners of the firm, Karel Frielink, left the firm to join BZSE Attorneys (see hereafter). Moreover, Annemarijke Back 
Kolling left Spigt Dutch Caribbean to start her own practice; Bach Kolling Mediation & Law. 
 
The smaller corporate transactional boutique firm of STvB Advocaten has, besides an office in Curacao, offices in both Amsterdam and New York, from which they contribute to the Dutch Caribbean and Surinam 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. Van Doorne has climbed from position 10 to position 8 in the 2015 edition ranking of the Top 50 largest Dutch firms by Dutch legal magazine Mr. HBN Law 
has no presence of its own in The Netherlands, but has an association with Dutch law firm Pels Rijcken (which takes the 10th position in the aforementioned Mr. Top 50). HBN Law recently strengthened its presence in Aruba by taking over the Aruban law firm of Mr. C.A. Hese.
 
The law firm Soliana Bonapart & Aardenburg (no. 4 in the DCLP 2013 law firm ranking), with a main office in Curacao and a small office in Bonaire, recently expanded its operations to Sint Maarten by merging with the law firm of mr. Chairo Bloem.
 
The Aruban law firm David Kock Legal has offices in Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire and an office in Colombia. 
 
However, they are not seen in international work yet.
 
New in 2015 is the expansion of Sint Maarten law firm BZSE Attorneys. Karel Frielink, partner at Spigt Dutch Caribbean for many years, has started the Curacao office of this Sint Maarten firm.
 
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 & Aardenburg  is a member of Global Law, a smaller international law firm association.
 
Some of the Curacao and Aruban law firms are also active in Suriname (notably: Soliana Bonapart & Aardenburg, VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne, HBN Law, STvB Advocaten and SMS Attorneys). The firm SMS Attorneys used to have offices there. Unfortunately, they closed shop.
 
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 Blackstone Westbroek,  and Loyens & Loeff. Loyens & Loeff even has an office in Curacao, 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.
 
It is not surprising that the law firms in Curacao have the most regional and international ties due to the fact that Curacao historically is the region’s international financial center, as a consequence of its still important international financial services 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.
 
Also worth mentioning is the Curacao law firm Sulvaran & Peterson, specializing in criminal law and active in high profile criminal cases. This firm has offices in Sint Maarten and Bonaire.

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