Grayson Belvin - VP/Director - EMEA Representative
Starting A Business Overseas? - A Good Foreign Lawyer Can Keep You Off The Legal Merry-Go-Round
The keyword here is, “good.” If you are starting a foreign branch of your business in another country, finding a GOOD lawyer in that country can save you a lot of time, cash, and (possibly) trouble...It can keep you off the legal Merry-Go-Round.
Lawyer jokes aside, our company has benefited from legal guidance overseas, and I’d like to outline a few reasons why you might consider finding a good foreign lawyer before starting a foreign branch.
A - Z Process Guidance
As you probably already know, a single piece of paper or a missing stamp or a missed timeline-deadline can derail your foreign start-up. If you consider the language barrier that also may exist and then add the unfamiliar cultural norms to the stew, then the international startup process can quickly become a putrid concoction. Remember, your goal is to establish operations (and, for corporations, revenue) through the foreign branch...not to simply accomplish the task of start-up.
“...the international startup process can quickly become a putrid concoction.”
A good lawyer knows:
The A-Z process of foreign business / organization start-up.
The current status of the laws regarding the issues.
The right people… let’s talk about that next.
Connections Within Governing Institutions
Especially in developing countries, relational networks are important. In scenarios were the criteria are gray for determining approval or disapproval of your company, knowing the right people can matter. I’m not saying to engage in illegal activity to get the branch registered. I’m saying to engage with the right people.
“...after sitting through an awkward (but actually very pleasant) cigarette-smoke-filled chat with the police in our office-location, the process moved on.”
For a good foreign lawyer, “this ain’t there first rodeo.” When we were working through our startup in E. Europe, our lawyer knew the agent at our local police station (despite the fact that our lawyer was in another town). When the police came to visit our office-location for an inspection, it was our lawyer who got the call after I missed the call. My lawyer called me, gave me some instructions, and, after sitting through an awkward (but actually very pleasant) cigarette-smoke-filled chat with the police in our office-location, the process moved on.
Our lawyer knew the right people, and those people showed us kindness.
Protection From Malicious Actors and Political Movements
Especially in developing economies, there can be a rhythm to politics and local hostilities. As a foreigner, you may not be good at picking up on the “beat.” Because local lawyers are often in touch with the sociopolitical happenings, you can have counsel that brings you in the loop.
“We are located in a very peaceful region that has a very volatile history.”
A good lawyer can advocate for you against push-back from political or business interests. By nature, business can be competitive, and you may need some help warding off those to whom your operation poses a territorial or political threat.
A good lawyer can warn you of valid threats. In some scenarios, your local Rep or Reps may simply not be in touch with what is happening politically.
We are located in a very peaceful region that has a very volatile history. We rely on the locals to get a read on what’s brewing. A good lawyer can help.
Finding a Good Foreign Lawyer In-Country
Perhaps this is the greatest challenge regarding the legal aspects of your branch start-up or international effort: finding the right lawyer. Where do you start?
Word of Mouth
You might be able to gather information from other firms or organizations who have mobilized legal help in the destination country. You may also find solid information in forums or online. For our operations, we relied to two personal recommendations, and they were right!
Our company offers new location scouting services which include the research, on-site scouting necessary to build the right legal relationships in advance of your foreign effort.
Let us know if you think we might be able to add value to your efforts.