When Mirto Murray first arrived at Dutch Caribbean island Curacao for his legal internship, he’d planned to stay on the island for two months and then have a short break in Miami. After that he was due back in the Netherlands where he planned to look for a permanent job.
Some 27 years later he’s still living in Curacao where he manages a highly successful boutique law firm that specialises in corporate law, M&A and commercial work, litigation and even white collar criminal cases. He has no regrets about living the island life – his home is just a stone’s throw from the central courts – with his Curacaoan wife and teenage son.
Internship in the Netherlands
“The idea was to come for two months and then go back to Holland and start the process of looking for a job,” he smiles. “I had already done my internship at a firm in the Netherlands. My idea was to do another internship outside the Netherlands and then go back there.”
“But having been exposed to the island life, and realising I might never have to wear a winter coat again, I decided to stay in Curacao.”Initially, Mirto was going to give it three years: “In those three years I got completely hooked and I never left.”
Murray Attorneys at Law
Fast forward to 2017 and Mirto decided to set up Murray Attorneys at Law. The firm has six attorneys and five support staff. He defines the business as a boutique law firm handling corporate law, commercial activities and also assisting in government cases.
Murray Attorneys’ client base is global, ranging from Chinese companies (the firm’s website also has a Mandarin language page) as well as Dutch, European and US businesses. “But, of course, we also have local clients
on Curacao and the other Dutch Caribbean islands. As lawyers, we are also allowed to practice law and represent clients on all the Dutch islands. So basically from time to time we’ll be flying to the other islands as well.”
One of the areas that takes up a lot of Mirto’s time is M&As and business investments – he recently helped to assist a company that wanted to sell a large beach resort to a bigger neighbouring resort. Unsurprisingly, tourism is a big investment on the island and across the other Dutch islands.
“We’re part of the Dutch kingdom and have a lot of investment going on here. Businesses seek our advice to purchase real estate in Curacao or invest in local businesses. We also have a lot of Dutch activity in the tourism industry, whether it’s hotels, resorts or transportation. A lot of Dutch individuals are active in that sector and the Netherlands is our main country of export and import.”
Another area of the practice’s focus is shareholder disputes. These can vary from director liability to the firing of managing directors and disputes among shareholders.
“We currently have a big case going on in Curacao, which in monetary terms is upwards of €500 million. It’s a Dutch case where the opposing party is associated by Dutch lawyers and is very big for the island. We had pleadings last in appeal.”
The island government is also a client with cases that tend to be either litigation, or advising on large contracts, such as construction and the leasing of real estate: “It’s very diverse. We have a court case about asbestos at the moment, for example, and the requirements of a company to be able to remove asbestos – and they have not met the criteria. The government has denied their permit, so they sued the government.”
Interestingly, for a mainly corporate law firm, Mirto’s practice also handles criminal cases – “although these crimes are more likely to be money laundering and fraud, often also tax related matters.”
“I’ve never defended a client of a burglary, for instance, because we don’t handle those cases. A typical white collar suspect will not want to engage a lawyer who only does criminal law and handles murders, drugs cases, burglaries and therefore retains our services.”
Mirto is proud that his firm is proactive and always one step ahead of clients’ needs: “We’re not only lawyers who get called once the problem has occurred, but we also try to look for the next level for our clients whether it’s financing, construction etc; we always try to be ahead of the curve.”
Murray Attorneys at Law – a proud culture
Above all, Mirto is proud of the culture of Murray Attorneys at Law. The practice is based on honesty and trust – often informing clients about issues they’d rather not hear.
“I believe honesty is the single most important thing. Being honest with your clients also means saying, ‘No, I will not take up this case. Maybe because I don’t see it working out in your best interests.”
“As an entrepreneur in the corporate world, why should you be called by your lawyers having to read draft documents, draft proceedings and or being active in anything other than running your business? We try to change that paradigm by saying, what would you be able and willing to do get rid yourself of this issue?”
Mirto believes that a lot of entrepreneurs who feel wronged often want to have their day in court and right those wrongs – and that’s very important. But they also have to know when to settle out of court: “We need to be honest with them about that. And then, of course, it’s a matter of getting the best settlement possible.”
This policy also has helps to ensure Mirto’s practice has regular referrals from clients who admire the firm’s honesty and integrity. Another source of referrals and general networking with like-minded professionals is IR Global, and Mirto often travels to the network’s regional conferences. Last year he attended Barcelona and before that the annual conference in London.
“I try to attend at least one annual conference. Being part of the network is really valuable to me and the firm.”
Work life balance
Away from working at Murray Attorneys, Mirto spends time with his family, travels across the region and to Europe and the US. He’s also an avid reader and writer.
“Yes, I like to relax, but I’m also always busy doing something. I used to be the president of the law journal in the Dutch Caribbean. I’m a member of the board, but no longer the editor in chief. I am still doing a lot of writing,
it keeps me thinking and on top of my game as a lawyer. That’s really important to me.”