British Virgin Islands-based Harneys, an offshore law firm with a large Caribbean footprint. has launched a legal services office in Shanghai, making it the first major offshore firm to do so in mainland China.
The outpost, led by managing partner Kristy Calvert, first opened in 2015 as a liaison and business development office. The Chinese Ministry of Justice approved Harneys’ application to offer international legal services earlier this year, according to a statement by the firm.
Calvert, a corporate lawyer, joined Harneys in 2015 from another offshore firm—Ogier—where she headed its liaison office in Shanghai. Before that, she served as in-house counsel at mining giant Rio Tinto’s Asia operations.
The firm said its lawyers in Shanghai will work closely with colleagues in Harneys’ Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore offices. The firm advises Chinese clients on the offshore aspects of corporate, finance and funds transactions, litigation, and restructuring matters. It also represents high net worth individuals and families on trusts and estates work.
“Establishing a full-service legal team on the ground in [mainland China] is a key milestone in our strategic plan for Asia,” said Jonathan Culshaw, Harneys’ Hong Kong-based Asia managing partner.
Harneys is the first major offshore firm to launch legal operations in mainland China. According to Justice Ministry records, Appleby, which was hit by a massive data breach last year, received a license to offer legal services in Shanghai via its Mauritius joint venture Appleby (JV) Ltd. & Cie in 2013. But representative partner Malcolm Moller is based in the Seychelles, while other partners dealing with China matters are based primarily in Hong Kong.
Other offshore firms, including Maples and Calder, Conyers Dill & Pearman, Carey Olsen, Mourant Ozannes, and Walkers, do not have an office in mainland China and handle relevant work from Hong Kong.
In September, U.S. litigation boutique Kobre & Kim also expanded its China practice with the opening of an office in Shanghai; the firm banks on a unique mix of U.S., British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, and Hong Kong law offerings.