Law Firms Go Global to Meet Multinational Corporate Demands

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By Michael Greene

June 23 — As more and more companies go global, they are demanding that their law firms provide multi-jurisdictional expertise.

A recent study by Deloitte Legal found that in-house counsel view global regulatory compliance as one of the biggest challenges they face.

“The availability of multi-jurisdictional firms can be of critical strategic importance,” said Suzanne Rich Folsom, general counsel and senior vice president for government affairs at U.S. Steel Corp., a multinational steel producer with major production operations in North America and Central Europe.

“Having a firm that understands our operating environment, both internally and externally, is imperative,” Folsom told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail.

Law firms must be able to deliver services that allow their clients to operate in global markets, Folsom said. This includes offering effective legal counsel on issues and risks presented by the locale and industry sector, on the amount of government regulation and oversight, and on exposure to potential legal action.

To compete for business, more and more firms are embarking on initiatives for their multinational corporate clients. Among other examples:

• Hogan Lovells this month unveiled an app that allows companies doing business in Indonesia to access legal guidance.

• Also this month, Jones Day launched a blog dedicated to multi-jurisdictional issues arising out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among 12 countries, including the U.S., Australia, Japan and Mexico.

• Late last year, four law firms—Arizpe, Valdes & Marcos (Mexico), Estudio Malis & Asoc. (Argentina), Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone PLC (U.S.), and Rothman Sperling Padovan Duarte (Brazil)—announced a legal services network for clients in North and South America. The “Legal Alliance of the Americas” has now grown to seven firms.

 

Companies are competing in an increasingly complex global economy, and they expect their law firms to deliver cutting-edge services on their behalf, said Glen Nager, client affairs partner at Jones Day's Washington office. Because of that, “we approach client service with special emphasis on delivering solutions across practices and jurisdictions,” Nager told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail.

More Complex

Multinational companies want support on mergers and acquisitions, labor and employment, tax, import and export requirements, and intellectual property, among other matters.

“Global compliance is a top priority for every company that is functioning in multiple countries,” John Gilmore, managing partner at legal services consultant BarkerGilmore, told Bloomberg BNA. In-house legal departments are looking for attorneys in the countries in which they operate, he said.

To that end, many law firms are rapidly expanding their operations. For example, DLA Piper operates in more than 30 countries, the latest of which is an office in Johannesburg, South Africa, that opened in January.

Baker & McKenzie LLP has 77 offices around the world, including one in Brisbane, Australia.

Meanwhile, Dentons late last year sealed a merger deal with China-based Dacheng to form the largest law firm in the world in terms of attorney headcount—more than 6,500.

With local expertise, a law firm can understand how the market in a certain jurisdiction works, said Michael F. DeFranco, a Chicago-based partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP who chairs the firm's global mergers and acquisitions practice group.

By having people on the ground who are part of the local, legal and business community, “we are able to provide clients with more practical legal advice about what is the most efficient way to get something done rather than a purely legal answer of, `This is what the statute says,'” DeFranco told Bloomberg BNA.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Greene in Washington at mgreene@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Yin Wilczek at ywilczek@bna.com

For More Information

The Deloitte Legal report, “Future Trends for Legal Services,” is available at http://src.bna.com/gf8.