This week, we analyze which law firms are the prefered partners of crypto fund managers globally.
Table of Contents
- The Offshore Magic Circle: A beacon in offshore financial centers
- Crypto fund managers' preferred firm: Walkers
- The new kid on the block: Riveles Wahab LLP
- Speaking of Appleby...
- The investment management specialist: Cole-Friemann and Mallon
- Magic Circle firms Harneys and Ogier share the fifth place
- Closing Out The Top 7: Schulte Roth + Zabel
- Charting the future: The evolving landscape of legal counsel
In the intricate world of crypto hedge funds, the choice of legal counsel plays a pivotal role. The most successful lawyers in this space often have a strong presence in the most common fund domiciles, notably the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands. While the market landscape is fairly fragmented, with no single crypto law firm holding more than 10% of the crypto hedge fund market, a particular group of law firms stands out: The Offshore Magic Circle.
The Offshore Magic Circle: A beacon in offshore financial centers
The term "Offshore Magic Circle" refers to the largest law firms specializing in offshore financial centers, such as the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. This term draws inspiration from the renowned London "magic circle" of elite law firms. The offshore list includes stalwarts like Appleby, Bedell, Carey Olsen, Conyers, Harneys, Maples, Mourant Ozannes, Ogier, and Walkers. Impressively, over 30% of crypto hedge funds have chosen to place their trust in one of these nine law firms. Among them, Walkers leads the pack, followed by Appleby, with Ogier and Harneys sharing the third spot.
Figure 1: The most commonly used law firms amongst crypto hedge funds, by number of funds represented
Crypto fund managers' preferred firm: Walkers
Walkers, founded in the Cayman Islands in 1962, boasts a rich legacy in the legal domain. It is the oldest Caymanian law firm. Walkers’ investment funds group offers advice on the laws of Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Ireland, and Jersey. These are the prime offshore domiciles for crypto hedge funds, in particular Cayman & BVI. 8.7% of crypto hedge funds report employing Walkers as their preferred law firm.
The new kid on the block: Riveles Wahab LLP
Riveles Wahab is a boutique firm specializing in hedge funds and private equity funds, founded in 2010. While they are not a part of the typical offshore magic circle, their representation amongst crypto hedge funds is impressive given their shorter track record. They are nestled comfortably in the second spot, between Walkers and Appleby.
Speaking of Appleby...
Appleby is a behemoth in the offshore law firm space. The original Appleby practice was founded in the late 1890s in Bermuda. Today, the firm employs over 200 lawyers across 10 global offices. 6.3% of funds in our crypto fund database employ Appleby for its fund services. Appleby also regularly publishes reports and insights about digital asset and blockchain regulation in the jurisdictions relevant to their clients, such as the BVI and Cayman Islands.
The investment management specialist: Cole-Friemann and Mallon
Cole-Friemann and Mallon (CF&M) is headquartered in San Francisco and exclusively services investment managers. Their clients include start-up managers as well as multi-billion-dollar firms. In this niche, they boast an impressive statline: Over 300 fund launches per year with a total of over 1,200 investment manager clients. CF&M is also a founding member of the CoinAlts Fund Symposium, a digital asset fund summit in San Francisco. Just over 5% of crypto hedge fund managers trust CF&M with their legal needs.
Magic Circle firms Harneys and Ogier share the fifth place
Harneys and Ogier each account for just under 5% of active crypto hedge funds. Both are members of the off-shore magic circle and have a rich history in the most prominent crypto hedge fund domiciles.
Harneys has a dedicated team advising digital asset and blockchain hedge funds throughout their full lifecycle, and also offers digital asset disputes & crypto recovery services.
Ogiers also offers full life-cycle hedge fund services, and through their web3 team even offer more innovative services for DAOs, DeFi projects, and Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs) like trading platforms and exchanges.
Closing Out The Top 7: Schulte Roth + Zabel
Founded in 1969, Schulte Roth + Zabel (SR+Z) is a firm focused entirely on private capital and investment management. Taking a more focused approach, similar to CF&M, allows Schulte to carve themselves a niche in the crypto fund space. Today, SR+Z advises 3.4% of crypto hedge funds. SR+Z also prides themselves on their Pro Bono work with more than 50 nonprofits worldwide. In the digital assets space, they advise investment funds on any activities related to digital assets such as ICOs, investments & transactions, and DeFi.
Charting the future: The evolving landscape of legal counsel
The crypto hedge fund space offers a refreshing sight: a high level of diversification when it comes to legal counsel. An issue we regularly bring to light in the crypto hedge fund space is the lack of diversification when it comes to fund service providers. For example, the custodian space is dominated by three major firms. The diversification of law firms might stem from pre-existing relationships between managers and specific law firms or even budgetary decisions.
To give some more context: While no single law firm advises more than 10% of the crypto hedge fund market, the seven most popular firms together cover roughly 40%. However, the remaining 60% of the market is split up across almost 80 competing law firms. As the industry matures, we might witness a tilt towards the larger, more established players. Prestigious “TradFi” law firms naturally carry a weightier reputation, so it's commendable to see their increasing involvement with digital asset managers. Yet, the current landscape also presents a golden opportunity for niche and more specialized law firms. The stage is set for them to carve out a significant name amongst crypto hedge fund managers.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice, endorsement, or recommendation. Consult with a qualified financial professional before making any investment decisions. Neither the authors nor 21e6 Capital shall be liable for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the information contained herein.
21e6 Capital is a Swiss investment advisor, connecting professional investors with optimal crypto investment products.
Please find more information about our authors on our homepage: 21e6.io
Jan Spörer is Due Diligence Manager at 21e6 and responsible for overseeing the content quality management of the 21e6 Crypto Fund Database.
Maximilian Bruckner is Head of Marketing & Sales at 21e6 Capital AG.
21e6 Crypto Fund Database, cryptofunds.21e6.io
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