Tackle the US Downturn: Expand Abroad

Want to weather the US economic downturn?  Then, expand abroad…or so say the mega firms quoted in Wise in the Ways of the World, an article in the June issue of the ABA Journal. Business is booming abroad–and getting paid in foreign currency (rather than weak US dollars) sure helps.

Whenever I’ve spoken about the global expansion of law firms, including last year at New York’s Harvard Club, the audience is amazed by the vastness of the subject. In other words, deciding whether, when and how to go global raises a myriad of complex issues.

Above all, there’s the multi-million dollar cost of opening, staffing and maintaining offices abroad. For this reason, only US mega-firms like White & Case, DLA Piper and Baker & McKenzie–three of the firms mentioned in the ABA article–can afford numerous foreign offices. As the article discusses, firms with multiple offices across the globe redeploy attorneys to other international markets when the need arises.

Some mid-sized firms also opt to open select offices abroad–like Gardere which maintains a Mexico City presence. And, regardless of their size, many US firms  bolster their international presence by joining an international law firm network (as discussed in last October 19th’s post).

If your firm is considering expanding abroad, advance research is key. Managing the Modern Law Firm, ed. Laura Empson (Oxford Press 2007) is a good starting place. It explains why some US firms have gone global successfully–while others have failed.

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