07 Feb 2022

HFW opens in the British Virgin Islands in rare move for an onshore law firm

UK firm absorbs BVI office of Bahamian disputes boutique Lennox Paton along with local managing partner and two associates

Headshot of Scott Cruickshank

Scott Cruickshank

In a rare move for an onshore law firm, HFW has secured an offshore base, taking over the British Virgin Islands office of Bahamas litigation firm Lennox Paton. 

The move sees Lennox Paton’s local BVI managing partner, Scott Cruickshank, move to the UK firm with associates Jonathan Child and Helen Chen.

Cruickshank, a Scottish advocate by training, qualified in 1997 and spent more than ten years at the Scottish Bar before relocating to the BVI, requalifying and joining Lennox Paton in September 2009, rising to become head of litigation.   

His background is steeped in complex, high-value corporate and commercial litigation such as the billion-dollar Renova Industries litigation, as well as credit crunch insolvency and restructuring claims such as the collapse of Kaupthing Bank. 

His shareholder and joint venture disputes have encompassed Russian, CIS and other emerging market-related offshore disputes, while 2021 saw the latest in a series of successful Privy Council appeals in Mark Byers v. Chen Ningning (2021), a claim related to the global collapse of shipping conglomerate Pioneer Freight Futures Company. 

That background – and additional experience in enforcement and interlocutory relief such as worldwide freezing orders, fraud and asset tracing – promises to make him a good fit for HFW’s offshore clients. 

The move will benefit the firm’s London litigators, including new arrival Barry Vitou, but also its Russian and Asian clients, for whom offshore corporate structures in the Caribbean are second nature.   

“We have been looking seriously at the BVI for several years – it’s a major litigation centre and most of the international cases relate to fraud, insolvency/restructuring and shareholder disputes, which are key areas of strength for our team globally,” said HFW head of litigation Noel Campbell.

Citing client demand for the BVI’s legal system – the country has promoted itself as a jurisdiction of choice for arbitration – Campbell said the move would serve HFW’s offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Brazil. 

It would also strengthen the firm’s “strong track record of Russia-related disputes, including high-profile matters such as the winding up of the Boris Berezovsky insolvent estate in London”, he added. 

The launch cuts across the traditional model of off shore law firms working as co-counsel with on-shore firms, although both Kennedys has an office in Bermuda for insurance-related work.

Campbell, however, stressed continuity in HFW’s approach to Lennox Paton, having worked extensively with the firm, Scott and his team for more than ten years.

He noted that  “Scott is one of the few litigators on the island with such a long and continuous experience of the BVI courts". 

Cruikshank stressed the move was “a natural progression” given his past relationship with HFW and its active disputes presence.  

Senior partner Richard Crump said the deal was “another important step in our continued international expansion, giving us a first-rate team in a jurisdiction that is becoming increasingly significant for cross-border transactions and complex international litigation".

“This move underlines our longstanding commitment to the BVI, where we have been litigating for decades, as well as to investing in the markets that are important to our clients," he said, adding that further hires could not be ruled out as the firm targets further growth after a busy 2021.  

Last week, HFW revealed that Giles Kavanagh, the head of HFW’s aviation practice, will succeed Crump as the firm’s senior partner in April, Crump having led HFW through a 15-year period of growth in terms of footprint, headcount and revenue.

Lennox Paton, meanwhile, promoted real estate lawyer Nateisha Anderson-Bain to the partnership in December 2021 in Nassau, while disputes partner Metta MacMillan-Hughes was appointed as Queen’s Counsel that same month.

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