In its sixth year of business, Solomon Harris has built a place for itself in Cayman's legal fraternity and created a solid practice and an enviable track record.

Solomon Harris is a full-service law firm, specialising in international offshore work, with a number of niche specialties.

Although Sophia Harris started the firm just over five years ago, it has quickly established its place among the leading law firms on the Cayman Islands. The firm has seven attorneys, all with prior large firm experience, who have a combined total of more than 100 years of the practice of law. Eight support staff round out the firm.

"We are a niche commercial law practice that specialises in international offshore work from the Cayman Islands, the world's second-largest domicile for captives," explains Paul Scrivener, a partner in Solomon Harris. "Captive insurance constitutes an important part of our practice and is increasingly attracting attention alongside our mainstream areas of investment funds, capital markets and banking and trusts, which have traditionally been our most significant disciplines."

New business

Of late, group captives and rent-a-captives have dominated new insurance business at Solomon Harris. "Chief financial officers, treasury managers and risk managers have an increasing interest in what might be available offshore," Scrivener says. "They are not necessarily restricting their operations to their own time zone." The firm's client base is drawn from North America, Europe and other, less traditional markets.

While wholly-owned captives may be the wave of the future for the very largest corporates, the firm's partners believe that continued strength is likely in the rent-a-captive market for smaller companies. Cayman's lead in the provision of segregated cell companies is providing opportunities for local service providers.

"Segregated portfolio companies will be of increasing importance in the rent-a-captive arena," Scrivener says. "Only the largest will be able to afford the luxury of owning their own captive. The legislative framework for segregated cell companies is robust and practical and has been very much in demand, as the statistics indicate."

The Cayman Islands was among the very first jurisdictions to commit to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) initiative, and the effect has been powerful. "Our clients were supportive of the decision by the Cayman Islands to formalise adherence to the highest international standards," says Harris. "It served as the first of a series of endorsements of Cayman by the international community and has sent a strong message to the world that this jurisdiction is a serious player."

Scrivener believes, contrary to received opinion in other quarters, that tax is not the key element in the complex decision process that leads to the formation of a Cayman captive. "While a tax-neutral environment is obviously helpful, tax is hardly ever a driver for setting up a captive," he says. "However the OECD and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) initiatives were resolved - and we were never in doubt that Cayman would emerge from the process with its reputation enhanced - the captive insurance industry in the Caymans was always unlikely to be affected."

Cayman law firms are often the first point of contact for clients new to the offshore world. In that capacity, "our role is often more that of business advisors than merely legal counsel," Harris explains. "Clients want a single point of contact, someone who can be relied on to form part of the team and pull everything together for them. We are more than happy to act in that capacity."

The services Solomon Harris provides often include introducing a potential client to a suitable Cayman manager and external auditor, demystifying the legal requirements for owner and captive alike and managing the application procedures. "We make a point of anticipating potential problems as soon as possible and addressing them with the client," Scrivener says. "It's part of the practical, hands-on approach that this firm brings to its operations."

The firm is not the largest in Cayman, but its partners see that as a plus for clients. "Our team is small and, consequently, focused," says Harris. "Clients don't get lost in the system, and they repeatedly tell us how much they value the personal attention."

As Cayman continues to grow its captive insurance business, a momentum has developed that has provided room for smart, young professionals to bring fresh approaches to the professional disciplines. The firm of Solomon Harris is a good example of the vitality and vibrancy of the Cayman market in the new millennium.

Contact details

Solomon Harris
Paul Scrivener
Barclays House
PO Box 1990 GT
Grand Cayman
Cayman Islands
Tel: 1 345 949 0488
Fax: 1 345 949 0364