The Firms

February 17, 2012 2:24 PM

A Firm for the Falklands: Scotland's McGrigors to Keep Island Office Open Post-Merger

Posted by Brian Baxter

San Carlos Water Inlet

Occasionally, The Am Law Daily likes to check in on the far-flung outposts of large law firms.

With the thirtieth anniversary of a transatlantic war looming and a British royal in the middle of renewed tensions between the United Kingdom and Argentina, now seems like a good time to check the status of the lone law office maintained by a major firm with an eye on oil and gas work in a particularly exotic locale: the Falklands Islands.

McGrigors, one of Scotland's largest firms, has had a satellite office in the Falklands's capital of Port Stanley since 1988, according to spokesman Fred Banning. And the firm intends to maintain its island presence even after its upcoming merger with larger British firm Pinsent Masons.

Gavin Farquhar—an Edinburgh-based corporate, shipping, and projects partner who started the Port Stanley office—wasn't immediately available for comment, but Banning told The Am Law Daily the firm has two lawyers stationed in the Falklands full time.

While the Falklands are widely known as the home to five species of penguin, it's another natural resource—namely, oil—that is raising hopes about the islands' future business prospects. The economy of the Falklands has traditionally been based on agriculture, be it through sheep farming or fishing, but now the potential for an oil boom that triples the size of British reserves has some major companies considering investments in the region.

McGrigors's energy practice is currently advising several oil exploration and service companies with interests in the area, Banning says. Among the firm's clients: Desire Petroleum, a British oil exploration company that has drilled in the waters surrounding the Falklands, and Falkland Oil and Gas, which shares a Port Stanley address with McGrigors's local office.

Though oil companies have done intermediate wildcatting work in the Falklands since the late 1990s, new deep water drilling technology offers the potential for tapping into previously inaccessible areas. Recent research, albeit backed by the oil industry, estimates that Falklands oil could be worth $180 billion in royalties and taxes for the U.K., potentially making it that country's answer to the shale boom that continues to generate work for many U.S. lawyers and their firms. (Click here for a white paper about Falklands oil prepared by McGrigors.)

Looming in the background, however, is an escalating political feud between the U.K. and Argentina, which continues to refer to the islands as Las Malvinas. The long-running dispute between both countries last flared up thirty years ago with a two-month war that ended in a decisive British victory. Among the recent signs that ill will persists on both sides: the planned sale in the U.K. of a telex touting Argentina's surrender in the 1982 conflict and an Argentine soccer league's move to rename a division after a battleship sunk by a nuclear-powered Royal Navy submarine during hostilities.

As for McGrigors, the Edinburgh-based firm's merger with London-based Pinsent Masons will be finalized on May 1. The combined firm, which will have about 1,500 lawyers, will have gross revenues totaling $445.7 million and operate under the Pinsent Masons banner.

Picture: San Carlos Water Inlet, Chris Pearson, Wikimedia Commons


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Colonialism still much for the countries that want to teach democracy and human rights to the rest of the world !

The population of the Falklands is proudly British and wishes to remain so. Democracy pure and simple.
Argentina lost all prospects of colonising when it invaded. Never again.

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