Offshore magic circle

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Maples and Calder is the largest offshore law firm by number of lawyers.
Head offices of Harney Westwood & Riegels.
Walkers' head office in the Cayman Islands

The offshore magic circle consists of several leading law firms practicing in offshore jurisdictions.[citation needed] The term was adopted[by whom?] as an imitation of the more widely recognised London Magic Circle of law firms.[citation needed] The concept of an offshore magic circle was first suggested[by whom?] in the wake of a series of cross-jurisdictional mergers and expansions by various firms.[citation needed]

Although there is no agreed consensus over precisely which firms belong in the offshore magic circle, a 2008 article in Legal Business[1][full citation needed] suggested that an offshore magic circle might constitute the following:

Based on the number of lawyers, those firms constitute nine of the ten largest offshore law firms.[2][3]


In the wider legal community, it has been suggested that the 'magic circle' label is a little self-aggrandising. Not only does the group suggested by Legal Business seem fairly big (with nine firms, as opposed to the five firms in the original magic circle) but it also appears to contain a fairly high percentage of the total number of offshore firms, including almost all the significant Channel Islands firms.

The major offshore firms recognise this criticism and do not use the 'magic circle' terminology. Edward Fennell, a legal columnist for The Times, has expressed slightly irreverent views of law firms designating themselves as part of an offshore magic circle.[4] However, the concept of an offshore magic circle has gone down very well with some of the smaller firms involved, and the phrase is actively promoted by legal recruitment consultants who earn substantial fees by persuading city lawyers to spend a few years working in an offshore jurisdiction.


Although not expressly endorsing the term, the Chambers legal directory in its 2008 edition recognised the move towards multi-jurisdictional offshore firms, and including a new ranking for offshore firms globally rather than by jurisdiction.[5] Arguably this was the first formal attempt to frame a defined offshore magic circle, although the directory pointedly did not use the term.

That list included all the same names as the list produced by Legal Business for the putative offshore magic circle. The directory expressly stated that single-jurisdiction firms, no matter how good, would not be considered.

The Lawyer magazine produces a list of the top twenty offshore law firms by number of partners, published each February.[6]

Multi-jurisdiction firms[edit]

The following table sets out the offshore jurisdictions in which the principal multi-jurisdictional offshore firms have offices (correct as at June 2012). The table does not list "sales" offices, such London, Zurich, Dubai or Hong Kong. Dublin is included in this table due to the move of Maples and Walkers into the "onshore" market where they now compete with the Irish law firms.

Multi-jurisdiction offshore law firms
Firm Lawyers (2016)[2] Bermuda BVI Cayman Dublin Guernsey Jersey Mauritius Other "Home" jurisdiction
Appleby 210 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Isle of Man, Seychelles Bermuda
Bedell Cristin 84 Yes Yes Yes Singapore Jersey
Carey Olsen 188 Yes Yes Yes Yes Channel Islands*
Conyers 128 Yes Yes Yes Yes Anguilla Bermuda
Harneys 139 Yes Yes Yes Yes Anguilla, Cyprus British Virgin Islands
Maples 291 Yes Yes Yes Cayman Islands
Mourant Ozannes 186 Yes Yes Yes Yes Channel Islands*
Ogier 173 Yes Yes Yes Yes Luxembourg Jersey
Walkers 180 Yes[7] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Cayman Islands

* Carey Olsen was formed by the merger of two roughly equivalent sized firms from Jersey and Guernsey. Mourant Ozannes was formed by a merger of firms from Jersey, Guernsey and the Cayman Islands.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Issue 181, Offshore Review, February 2008.
  2. ^ a b "The Offshore Top 30 2016: The rankings". The Lawyer. 22 February 2016. 
  3. ^ The odd one out is Hassans, a Gibraltar based law firm which ranks 9th in terms of total lawyer numbers—one place ahead of 10th-ranked Bedell. Bedell has seven more lawyers than 11th-ranked Collas Crill.
  4. ^ "The Times & The Sunday Times". Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  5. ^ "Offshore - Global-Wide". Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  6. ^ "Offshore | The Lawyer | Legal News and Jobs | Advancing the business of law". The Lawyer. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  7. ^ "Taylors in association with Walkers". Walkers. Retrieved 21 September 2016. 

External links[edit]