GP MENTOR: The Internationally Minded Lawyer
By Giuseppe Lorenzo Rosa, Esq.*
* within the American Bar Association Giuseppe is Chair of the GPSolo Division’s International Law Committee , ViceChair of the Admiralty & Maritime Law Committee of TIPS, as well as Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.
In my 36 years of practice as member of the Milano, Italy, Bar Association, with active involvement in domestic and international business law, I’ve sometimes wondered what my colleagues overseas may have been missing by limiting themselves to domestic practice only.
There are countries—such as those around the Mediterranean Basin—where the very location, geography, heritage, and culture produce a more internationally minded citizenry. On the other hand, there are countries—such as the United States, Russia, and China—where the size of territories involved and the use of a national language have led to a more domestic focus. Certainly, the United States, as the world’s leading economy, is internationally minded, but international legal practice is substantially confined to the East Coast and to such lighthouse centers out West as Los Angeles and San Francisco. Elsewhere, there are very few domestic attorneys doing international work.
Perhaps now is the time for you to buck that trend.
Reaching out to overseas contacts has never been so easy. For less than $1,000, a solo can be effectively and constantly connected to the world via a broadband Internet connection and basic computer hardware and software.
Of course, just because you can connect via technology to colleagues overseas doesn’t mean you are actually attuned to the demands of international legal business. As in all human endeavors, what you really need is knowledge.
You must get to know other legal systems—not through a cram course, but step-by-step, so that your knowledge is both a pragmatic tool and at the same time a goal. Many local bar association, such as the New York City Bar, run programs in which approaching other legal systems and tools is a pragmatic and certainly not academic effort. In the ABA there are numerous programs and committees that educate members about virtually any issue of public, private, or business law from a global perspective. Our own GPSolo Division has an International Law Committee, which I Chair.
Top universities also have begun catering to professionals who cannot afford to spend time and money on master’s degree programs. During the past few years they have launched two- to four-week-long courses where a foreign legal system and language skills are reviewed and made available to the internationally minded.
Once you have the knowledge you need, how might you put it into practice and start generating international billable work in your solo or small firm? Here are a few scenarios to get you thinking:
a)Overseas evidence is needed in a domestic litigation. Must voluntary foreign deponents travel to the United States? Would U.S.-style depositions be acceptable in a civil law country with an inquisitorial system for acquiring evidence? Must you follow the formal approach under the Hague Convention on Taking Evidence Abroad?
b)A domestic company is thinking of expanding overseas. Will the increase in revenue be offset by the need to comply with foreign health and environmental regulations?
c)A foreign entity is considering expanding here. Can U.S. franchising, agency, and distributorship contract provisions, regulatory implications, and practices be matched to existing intellectual property/trade secrets that the investor has long established in Europe or Asia?
d)A foreign institutional investor wants advice about a class-action case in the wake of Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd., 130 S. Ct. 2869, 2886 (2010). Should the investor run U.S. pretrial discovery and then move to an overseas court where evidence so acquired would be allowed?

In all these examples, it is the knowledge of the legal practitioner—notwithstanding the firm’s location, size, or wealth—that makes the difference. Such clients seek an internationally minded attorney, a professional who can command the matter as effectively as possible, delivering quality service at reasonable fees. Maybe that professional is you.

Copyright 2013 – 2017 Giuseppe Lorenzo Rosa, Esq.