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Arbitraging lawyer compensation in different countries

Companies doing business around the world often have lawyers located in various international locations. Some of those lawyers, fully competent and handling significant legal work, receive pay at local levels – often levels far below those of equivalent lawyers in the U.S. or U.K. Such a compensation differential allows a law department to arbitrage work internally to those lower cost lawyers.

I know a pharmaceutical company that kept a contingent of patent lawyers in Sweden, in part because they cost a fraction of what their U.S. patent counterparts were paid. To pull off this cost-of-living legerdemain, the law department must focus on total costs, not on total headcount.