Perplexities that surround the term “foreign law firm” and some data

From a recent survey of 191 in-house legal managers based in the U.S., we learn that “nearly three-fourths (73.1 percent) supervise one or more foreign firms.” This factoid from Met. Corp. Counsel, Vol. 17, June 2009 at 11 (by Marcus Linden) rests on the definition of a “foreign law firm.”

If the legal department of a US corporation retains the Berlin office of White & Case, does that not count as supervising a foreign firm? If the same department retains Clifford Chance’s New York office for a trans-Atlantic deal, is that a foreign firm (Clifford Chance writes on its website, “Our New York office traces its origins back to 1871 and ranks among the 15 largest in the city, according to Crain’s New York Business.”)?

My thoughts about a definition are that a legal department should count a “foreign law firm” if it (1) has the largest portion of its lawyers in a country other than the United States, (2) had its partner in charge of the matter in a non-US office, and (3) the matter substantially involves non-US legal issues and facts.

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