Lawyers and legal departments are increasingly looking to expand their practices internationally. For many American lawyers, the U.S. is no longer their sole source of legal issues and opportunities. Attorneys wanting to explore different markets have rapidly been setting their sights across the nation’s borders.
There are challenges, however, when it comes to expanding internationally, so prepare yourself with these tips for building an international career:
Know Your Market
Do your research on the legal landscapes of different countries so you know where your services would be most in demand. For example, if you’re a corporate lawyer, investigate markets experiencing economic growth or those that have recently implemented new regulations.
When you know your target market, you can start identifying the types of clients you want to work with and the kinds of cases you want to take on.
Get Involved In Global Organizations
There are many organizations, within and outside of the legal profession, that offer opportunities to get involved in international work. For example, the American Bar Association has several committees and programs focused on global legal issues.
Joining these organizations can help you network with other lawyers who are interested in working internationally and give you a better understanding of the global legal landscape.
Learn Or Perfect Another Language
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to remember that not everyone speaks English. If you want to work in a country where English is not the primary language, you’ll need to learn at least some basics of the local language.
Not only will this facilitate communication with clients and colleagues, it will also show that you’re invested in doing business in the country and understanding its culture.
Consider An LLM Or Other Advanced Degree In Another Jurisdiction
If you’re serious about working internationally, you may want to consider pursuing an advanced degree in law, such as an LLM. Many of these programs offer coursework focused on international law and global legal issues.
Earning an LLM can also be helpful in make connections with other lawyers and professionals who work internationally.
Be Prepared To Adapt
When you’re working in a foreign country, you may need to adjust the way you practice law to comply with local regulations. For example, if you’re used to handling cases electronically, you may need to switch to paper files if a country requires all legal documents to be filed in person.
You may also need to be flexible in your billing arrangements, as countries have varying rules about how lawyers can charge for their services.
Be Aware Of Cultural Differences
When you’re working in a foreign country, it’s important to be aware of cultural differences and company policies that may impact your work. For example, in some countries, it’s common for lawyers to give gifts to clients or government officials to show appreciation or build relationships. In other countries, however, this could be seen as a form of bribery and could get you into trouble.
Of course, you should also be aware of differences in business etiquette, such as how to dress for meetings or the appropriate way to address clients and colleagues.
Expanding a legal practice internationally can be a daunting task, but, with the right preparation, it can also be an immensely rewarding experience. Knowing your target market, getting involved in global organizations, and learning another language can all put you well on your way to establishing yourself as a successful international lawyer.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to build an international legal career, check Crafting an International In-house Counsel Career with Nikhil Patel on the Notes to My (Legal) Self podcast.
Olga V. Mack is the CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has pioneered online negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before by embracing technology. Olga is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. She founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to participate on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. She authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat and Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security. You can follow Olga on Twitter @olgavmack.