A few months ago I met with a law firm in Shanghai to discuss some trademark challenges we were facing in China. Our outside counsel in the U.S. had recommended the firm. It was clear from the outset that the firm had no idea how to confront these challenges. I asked them how they could help our company protect a certain trademark that we had successfully registered throughout most of the world, but that trademark examiners in China had rejected. My questions failed to elicit any alternative approaches or related risk assessments. I left the meeting with little confidence in the firm's abilities. But this comes with the territory when working with attorneys overseas.
While U.S. attorneys are trained to take a problem-solving approach to a matter, attorneys overseas often take a more distanced academic approach. They may be inclined to answer a question that is precisely put to them without contemplating all of the practical implications of that response. As a result, you have to spend a lot more time working with the attorneys to ensure they have exhausted all possible legal solutions.
One thing to remember when you are shopping for overseas counsel is that it's a buyer's market. There are many qualified firms in a particular city or country. Market forces are making firms more competitive. If a law firm isn't responsive to your requests or needs, generally there are other quality law firms that will be. And interviewing several law firms in person can be well worth the time and money if you are seeking a long-term relationship.