Archive for the ‘US Lawyers Abroad’ Category

Tackle the US Downturn: Expand Abroad

Friday, June 13th, 2008

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.

Lawyers Wanting to Work Abroad

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

The following article just appeared in The Complete Lawyer.

So You Want to Work Abroad?

There are many opportunities to work overseas;
the more you plan, the more success you’ll meet

By Janet H. Moore

As international lawyer coach, I get many email inquiries from lawyers who are interested in working abroad.  Some want to gain a particular legal expertise by practicing abroad. Other lawyers are being or want to be transferred abroad by their employers.  Still others simply seek the thrill and adventure of practicing law in a foreign country.  Whatever the reason, lawyers face many challenges as well as exciting possibilities when contemplating an international move.
Plan Well

Attorneys wishing to relocate abroad should examine their real motivation and formulate clear strategies for doing so.  According to Nicholas Rumin, founder and principal of New York-based Rumin Search Consulting, an integral part of this process is being clear about why you are moving, what exactly you want to achieve, and whether your plans are realistic.  He notes that lawyers with a clear vision of their goals move forward more quickly.

Rumin, who practiced law internationally for many years before becoming a legal recruiter, recommends significant market research to understand the opportunities, trends and challenges in a given market.  After analyzing the foreign market, lawyers need to strategize carefully before taking the plunge.  Those who are well positioned (such as those with stellar international credentials, or those poised to move with an existing employer) need to weigh the professional and personal realities of starting over in a new land.

Lawyers who are not well positioned for such a move, such as those without top-notch credentials or “in demand” expertise, face an additional hurdle:  how to make themselves marketable to foreign employers.  These lawyers must figure out which talents or expertise they currently have or can obtain to make them employable abroad.

Rumin also suggests that lawyers honestly assess their strengths and weaknesses, and how those will impact their success abroad.  The analysis could be straightforward, such as whether a lawyer has the requisite language skills to build a strong network of local business relationships. Or, he says, the analysis might be complex, such as: How can I market my technical expertise and existing business relationships in structured finance so that I can be immediately relevant to the current practice needs of a law firm in Beijing, and also be perceived as a practice leader in my area of expertise within the capital markets bar?

Michael Ellenhorn, who heads the international division of London-based Longbridge Search & Selection, helps many law firms launch offices abroad or expand existing foreign offices by acquiring practice groups.  In this capacity, he works with many lawyers who want to work abroad.  He recommends that such a lawyer start by talking to prospective employers close to home about their ability and willingness to post you overseas. Moreover, lawyers must make sure that they communicate their desire to work abroad to the right decision-makers.  Ellenhorn, a dual-qualified US lawyer/English solicitor living and working in Europe as a search consultant, also suggests that candidates become qualified to practice in a foreign jurisdiction.  Foreign languages, if written and spoken at a business level, are also helpful.

A lawyer’s level of seniority further impacts the analysis.  Ellenhorn advises younger attorneys to focus on developing their key legal competencies. “For partners’ focus on the clients.  Culture and personal fit are, of course, important, but start your thought process by analyzing your clients, the work you do for them, the price point for that work, and your core skills sets.  Examining the possible synergies (of a different platform) with an experienced international consultant can take you a great distance in both testing the viability of your practice in the market and finding the right fit.”

Network At Home And Abroad

When I coach attorneys wanting to move within or into the international field, we formulate and implement a networking plan almost immediately. Organizations such as the international law sections of the American Bar Association or an attorney’s local bar association are good places to connect with international practitioners. The London-based International Bar Association, foreign chambers of commerce and a host of other international bar groups (conveniently listed by Hieros Gamos at, also facilitate connections.

Networking with members of these organizations, as well as former clients and employers, can be fruitful. According to Rumin, In my experience, the best business and in-house opportunities arise as a direct result of a positive existing client or business relationship.

Once living abroad, lawyers must establish relationships within the local business and legal community.  Building contacts abroad is critical because most lawyers relocate to a new market without any significant existing contacts.

Once again, speaking the local language becomes critical to creating a successful practice.  The foreign languages most in demand at the moment are, according to Ellenhorn, Mandarin, Arabic, and various dialects of Hindi. Rumin concurs: “With the tremendous economic growth in China, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and potentially the Indian subcontinent, the prospects of these attorneys, particularly where they have local language skills,will continue to grow brighter every year.”

However, for any given lawyer, the most important foreign language to learn is certainly the local language. The sole exception to this, notes Rumin, is the lawyer with a particular technical expertise and/or English language drafting skills where the expertise or the language skills are needed in the new office over and above every other criteria.

Opportunities  Exist, Even  For Lawyers Without Top Tier Credentials Or Experience

Because hiring attorneys to work abroad is very expensive, employers generally do insist on hiring those with top credentials and experience.  Rumin advises lawyers who lack these to “think more creatively about entrepreneurial options to use your specific skill set with your chosen market or else choose a less popular market where some legal employers might be more flexible as to their hiring criteria.”

According to Ellenhorn, several things can help to counteract unimpressive credentials, including becoming qualified in a foreign jurisdiction, earning a foreign LLM certification, and publishing articles and papers on international law topics.  Both recruiters strongly recommend getting practical legal experience.  Says Ellenhorn, “Experience counts; get involved in cross-border deals and develop a meaningful track record.

Some lawyers may have success finding international positions with the government or various NGOs through websites like <>  or <> . Checking job websites like <> can also be fruitful.

Lawyers Face Real Challenges Working Abroad

When I was a young international lawyer, I was seconded to a large Mexico City-based firm. Although delighted by the experience, I had to adjust to a very different legal practice.  Not only was I working in a civil law jurisdiction, but I also faced different cultural norms and expectations about work differences in punctuality, client responsiveness, research techniques, support staff and the like.  Grappling with these differences far from home, and without my trusty paralegals and assistant, made some days difficult.

Recognizing that lawyers who relocate abroad face such challenges, Rumin discourages them from moving overseas unless they have at least 2-3 years of significant legal experience.  After all, most lawyers will be expected to “hit the ground running without additional formal training.”  He notes, “The smaller size of offices in many overseas jurisdictions and the often unfamiliar levels of support services (as compared to a what one is used to in Manhattan or London) make it essential that the lawyer have a level of maturity sufficient to deal fairly independently with the uncertainties and changes that go with practicing law in developing markets.”
Lawyers face still other challenges after they return home. Some are well positioned, having developed a unique expertise that they can leverage with their old employer or a new one (such as an existing client.) In my own case, having worked in Mexico City as a visiting attorney proved invaluable years later when I moved to the legal department of a Fortune 100 company to focus on Latin American business transactions.  Similarly, many of my coaching clients find that their expertise gained during stints abroad gives them added credibility and overcomes shortcomings in their academic transcripts and the like.

Other attorney clients of mine have had to retool when they return home.  Not only do they face the culture shock that hits any expat upon reentry, but also they find that their work environment has changed.  Perhaps office politics have shifted, or their old niche has now been filled by others. Perhaps they feel unappreciated or out of synch with co-workers.  As Rumin describes it, “You can’t go home, and any lawyers who think that after two years working abroad they can return to their old firms and simply take up where they left off will very likely be sorely disappointed.”

However, these lawyers return home with fresh skills and heightened experience.  After the initial shock of reentry, most such lawyers learn to use these skills effectively in a thriving career with the same employer or another.

Excitement, challenges and rewards await lawyers who thoughtfully strategize before relocating abroad. Says Ellenhorn,  “International opportunities can arise from any direction. You just need to be attuned to identifying and going after these opportunities as they present themselves.  And for adventurous attorneys willing to work in developing countries, tremendous opportunities exist.” “The great thing about developing markets is that virtually no idea is out of the question,” Rumin concludes, “as long as you have a practical plan to make that idea a reality.”

Become a Versatile, Nimble, Flexible–and Exceptional– International Lawyer

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

For tips on how to Become a Versatile, Flexible, Nimble–and Exceptional–International Lawyer, read my latest article for the international column of The Complete Lawyer online magazine.

Become A Versatile, Flexible, Nimble And Exceptional International Lawyer
Adjust your international practice to meet market demands.

Become A Versatile, Flexible, Nimble and Exceptional International Lawyer

International lawyers need to spot issues that arise both across jurisdictions and outside their expertise

By Janet H. Moore

Click these links for a specific section or read the entire article below:

  • Be Versatile, Flexible and Nimble To Succeed In International Law
  • Gain Exposure to Different Legal Systems and Jurisdictions
  • Spot Critical Issues
  • Adjust Your International Practice To Meet Market Demands

Exceptional international practitioners realize that remaining versatile, flexible and nimble benefits their practice. This versatility helps them resolve client inquiries even though clear-cut answers across legal systems are often impossible to find.  Good international lawyers know how to handle this uncertainty by drawing on their wealth of experience when advising their clients. They are able to notice and analyze important issues in complex international matters, and track down the requisite answers from foreign counsel, original legal sources and other resources.

Law firms are beginning to acknowledge the benefit of such versatility. According to David Morley, Worldwide Managing Partner of the London-based Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy, “we need to develop versatile lawyers capable of working in more than one discipline. So when a partner has career discussions with an associate who wants to experience other practice areas, we must encourage that where we can.

Gain Exposure To Different Legal Systems and Jurisdictions

How can international practitioners enhance their versatility?  Gaining exposure to legal issues in different geographic areas, under different legal systems (such as Sharia and civil law, as well as common law), and in a variety of legal disciplines, will broaden a lawyer’s experience.
As Gerard Meijer, a partner with the Benelux firm NautaDutilh who specializes in international commercial litigation and arbitration notes,  “As a litigator, I have become versatile as I have acted in a wide variety of disputes. In fact, Gerard’s international practice has exposed him to clients and issues across the world.  “We represent a Dutch insurance company in an investment arbitration against the Republic of Poland regarding the Republic of Poland’s refusal to comply with its commitments to transfer shares in a Polish insurance company to our client. We also act for a UK defense company regarding the setting aside of an arbitral award between our client and the Iranian Ministry of Defense.  At the moment, I also sit as arbitrator (inter alia in a matter regarding the distribution of professional skates in Korea).”

Like Gerard, many international practitioners handle matters involving a wide variety of jurisdictions.  Looking for opportunities to become familiar with the laws of various jurisdictions, and to get some real world experience in those venues, will increase an international lawyer’s effectiveness and prepare him or her for whatever arises.

Salli Swartz, a partner in the Paris-based firm Phillips Geraud Naud & Swartz, often works on complex border transactions involving multiple jurisdictions. As an American trained attorney who now lives and practices in France, Salli specializes in assisting foreign companies investing or otherwise doing business in France. During one transaction she found herself “drafting and negotiating in the English language when I was the only native English speaker present: the others were from 6 different countries with 6 different languages and at least 3 different legal systems and all of them thought that their English was better than mine!! For one simple sentence there were 6 different interpretations of the meaning.”  Having an understanding of the laws of these different jurisdictions helped Salli handle this situation with aplomb.

Spot Critical Issues

Becoming versatile as an international lawyer does not mean becoming an expert in multiple fields.  No practitioner can master and keep up with the countless legal specialties that exist. However, an international practitioner should try to amass enough knowledge to be able to identify critical issues on a client’s behalf.
Sebastien Savage, who practices in the Montreal office of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, may face hundreds of different issues in any given month, which makes his work challenging and exciting. Sure, it is stressful, he says, “but I firmly believe that staying flexible and versatile as an attorney has enhanced my practice, both in terms of the number of clients and in terms of the quality of services delivered. Sebastien also stays informed about his clients’ businesses: “I find that the more I know and the better I understand the businesses of my clients, the better equipped I am to face the requirements of evolving in a global economy.” Lawyers living and working in foreign offices particularly need to be able to spot issues.  Rather than remain isolated from the wealth of knowledge in their home offices, these foreign-based attorneys must sharpen their issue-spotting skills so that they can raise red flags when needed.

Once an international attorney spots an important issue outside of her expertise, she must then know how to resolve it.  Sometimes this requires bringing in foreign counsel, and perhaps most important, knowing the right questions to ask in order to get a clear response. For example, asking a civil law lawyer questions while using purely common law concepts and lingo will confuse the situations and may result in an inaccurate or unclear answer. Salli Swartz notes the particular challenge of “trying to explain to American/Anglo Saxon legal systems clients the differences between consequential damages under U.S. law and direct damages under French law.”

Many successful international lawyers improve their understanding by digging into the original legal sources”even those written in foreign languages rather than relying on secondary translations. Using a dictionary, and comparing an original legal text with multiple English translations of it, can give a lawyer critical insights about what a foreign law really says and means.

Adjust Your International Practice To Meet Market Demands

Sometimes a lawyer plans to develop a particular international specialty, but client and market demands cause the lawyer’s practice to evolve in a different way. A versatile international lawyer is well positioned to respond to these changes. As Ed Lebow, who practices in Haynes & Boone’s Washington, D.C. office, explains, “My college concentration was in Japanese language, history and culture, and that set me up to handle antidumping cases for Japanese clients into the middle 1990’s.  However, with the changes in the Japanese economy and the decreasing number of new US antidumping cases brought each year, particularly against the Japanese, I needed some flexibility.  For me, that has meant a subtle shift in both my subject matter and geographic emphasis. While I still do handle antidumping and countervailing duty reviews, much of my newer work is in the much more active area of ITC Section 337 investigations that address imports that allegedly infringe US patents. And my clients are now more likely to be located in India (dumping and countervailing duties) and Taiwan (Section 337) than in Japan.”

Having the flexibility and versatility to respond to market changes, as Ed does, helps an international practice thrive even when the market shifts.

In other words, versatility makes a lawyer more attractive to clients. As Gerard Meijer explains, I really get the impression that clients appreciate that I have been involved in a variety of disputes, which gives the client the confidence that I can make myself familiar with their case.

After all, that’s what all lawyers strive for: a client’s confidence and satisfaction.


1. “We Listened to Associates.”  Now Partners have to Do Their Bit”,, 23 October 2006.

Janet Launches The Complete Lawyer’s International Department

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Yesterday I was proud to launch the International Department of The Complete Lawyer (an online magazine for lawyers) with my article on how to Avoid Cross Cultural Communication Snafus. Stay tuned for my article in the next edition about how international lawyers must remain professionally versatile and flexible.

Tips on Business Negotiations with Japanese

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Fellow international attorney Ed Lebow and I met last year at an international law conference.  Ed has spent a lot of time both negotiating for Japanese clients and against Japanese counterparts.  As a former Assistant General Counsel of the U.S. International Trade Commission, and now a member of Haynes & Boone’s International Trade and Customs Practice Group in Washington, D.C., Ed has had over 20 years’ experience in major Antidumping, Countervailing Duty and Section 337 cases.

Ed, a Japanese speaker and Japanophile, shares some tips with non-Japanese lawyers and businesspersons about how to negotiate with the Japanese.  Click here to read his Cross-Cultural Reflections on Negotiating with Japanese Businessmen.pdf.

Thank you for sharing your insights, Ed!