Foreign Relations

With the emergence of the global economy, foreign corporations increasingly have been either acquiring U.S. companies or establishing U.S. subsidiaries. As a result, many in-house counsel are now working for subsidiaries of a foreign-controlled corporation, and they face unique challenges. By taking some basic steps to confront these challenges, the experience of working for a U.S. subsidiary can become a rewarding one for both the client and the in-house attorney. Here are three ways to start building a productive relationship:

Emphasize the benefits of attorney-client privilege.

Instruct expatriate executives on the U.S. legal system.

Most business people struggle to understand the U.S. legal system and its impact on their business. This is especially so for the foreign expatriate in charge of the U.S. operations. You should devote sufficient time to educating your expatriate executives about how U.S. laws and regulations affect the conduct of their particular business. You should also instruct them on the U.S. litigation process and the open discovery rules. This will help your clients to anticipate issues and seek out your advice prior to making business decisions.

Keep in mind that this is a continuous process--not just one that you engage in when an expatriate executive first joins your company. The education process should be casual in nature; this will encourage dialogue with the executive. Once again, this will permit in-house counsel to focus on preventative counseling, rather than dealing with legal issues after they become contentious.

Thomas Lalla

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