New law firm makes “good landing” in St. Maarten

POSTED: 11/27/11 10:51 AM
The five attorneys that will work at the St. Maarten office of Van Eps Kunneman Van Doorne stand together during their introduction at Friday night’s opening of the new law firm. The new attorneys are (l to r) Norbert Hijmans, Peter van Dort, Michiel van den Brink, Michael Druijts and Marieke Quist.

St. Maarten – “We have landed and we are here to stay.” Those are the words Managing Partner of Van Eps Kunneman Van Doorne Frank Kunneman used Friday night to announce the official opening of the firm’s offices here in St. Maarten. The arrival signals the start of a relationship that will focus on building up the legal sector and contributing to the St. Maarten’s nation building efforts.

“St.  Maarten is in the middle of a great and mighty challenge. St. Maarten is building a nation. A nation is more than a flag, an anthem and a legal structure. A nation is a building in which every citizen feels at home. A nation is a building that every citizen wants to extend and improve. A nation implies a true feeling of unification, a national identity. We at Van Eps Kunneman Van Doorne are very proud to be part of this identity. We look forward to work with you and live with you. Most of all we look forward to help you to make this island the great nation it will surely be,” Kunneman said.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams welcomed the firm’s expressed commitment and use the opening to encourage this firm and others to assist the government in building knowledge based society.

“We truly consider this opening a sign of your confidence and I look forward to seeing you execute your professional and social agenda. I also wish to continue the talks we have begun on various points. It’s a good landing and now let us see if we can find a space for your plane amongst the others,” Wescot-Williams said.

Asked later about her plea for firms to give more to the country the prime minister added, “What we want as government is for the firms to contribute to counseling, informing and educating the population by giving just a little bit more. We have not said we want anything specific, choosing instead to leave that to the individual firms and lawyers, but we are asking them more generally to think about what extra contribution they can give.”

That desire by the prime minister is matched by a stated commitment from Kunneman, who said that the firm will continue with information sessions and lectures on new laws and legal topics.

The first foray into this was the firm’s sponsorship of last year’s forum on corporate governance that was attended by roughly 150 people. The firm also plans to continue contributions to educational projects through its pro bono foundation, assist government in building its legal structures and offer consultation hours to small businesses. There will also be an effort to offer more people opportunities in the legal field by partnering with the University of St. Martin. Kunneman helped set up a law program in the past here, but that has lost steam over time and he’s hoping to work with the University of St. Martin to revitalize the program.

The Van Eps Kunneman Van Doorne office in St. Maarten has five staffers that are part of an organization that has a total of 75 colleagues on four islands of the Dutch Caribbean. Some 35 of those are specialist attorneys. There is also a Dutch Caribbean desk in Amsterdam at the offices of Van Doorne which gives the alliance access to another 150 lawyers. The office opening here comes ahead of next year’s 75th anniversary of the firm’s presence in the Dutch Caribbean and precludes the start of construction of the firm’s own office building in Harbor View. Work on that building is expected to start in 2012.


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