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Selection of counsel in foreign countries

At a recent conference, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis discussed how best to select local counsel. She made a number of good points but I thought I would emphasize three of them.

First, the lawyer you select needs to have sufficient proficiency in English for them to be able to understand your instructions and to communicate clear and useful guidance. The only way to test the level of English command is to speak at length by phone or in-person.

She also noted that you may not want a senior partner. In many foreign law firms, if a major US company calls, the opportunity automatically falls to the senior partner with the most clout. Quite possibly, however, the lawyer who is most likely to speak English well and handle your matters competently is younger, so you may need to search for someone other than the name partner.

Her third point was that local counsel can often be extremely conservative in the legal positions they take. There simply isn’t the understanding that business needs to proceed and not all answers can be “no.” In that regard, she mentioned that non-US law firms often lack the sense of business urgency that US firms are accustomed to. Speed of responsiveness is a major problem.