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President's Page

Has Your Practice Gone Global?

Let the International Law Section be your guide through the new global economy

By Michelle Rodenborn, Alan M. Kindred, and Martin Perlberger

Michelle Rodenborn is a sole practitioner; Alan M. Kindred is of counsel with Christie, Parker & Hale LLP; and Martin Perlberger is a principal with the Perlberger Law Offices. Kindred is chair of the Association's International Law Section, and all three are members of the section's executive committee.

This President's Page was originally published in the May 2001 issue of 
Los Angeles Lawyer.

The new world economy and the explosion of the Internet have joined to make this a small world after all. One result of the confluence of these two megatrends is that many lawyers today are confronted with international law issues in their everyday practices; they are practicing in the international arena, wittingly or not.

Even such once purely domestic practice areas as family law have been touched, as evidenced by the recent controversies in U.S. and British courts over the simultaneous adoption via the Internet of the same set of twins. U.S. courts now regularly deal with issues of international child abduction. The Internet, e-commerce, the Uruguay Round of GATT, the NAFTA treaty, the U.S. ratification of the Vienna Convention on the International Sale of Goods, double taxation treaties, and the phenomenal growth of trade have all had an impact on the law practices of many lawyers who may never have viewed themselves as involved in the international arena. And Los Angeles lawyers, in particular—practicing in a city that hosts the largest port complex in the country and one of the busiest airports, and that can boast of being a major player in transnational business ventures—find themselves at a major hub of international activity.

Unfortunately, many Los Angeles practitioners face a gap, both in knowledge and experience, as they strive to keep up with the pace. While the dynamic, global environment has created great opportunities, it also severely challenges the legal community. Lawyers may quickly find the limits of their expertise and practices stretched too thin to accommodate these new issues and concerns.

Although many law schools have more greatly emphasized their courses on international law in recent years, the typical Los Angeles lawyer has little or no formal training in international concerns. And even those who have had the advantage of some law school instruction will find it to be an insufficient aid for practicing law today. New developments in our dynamic, globalized society require a continual effort to keep abreast of important changes in the law and in business practices.

The International Law Section

It is the mission of the International Law Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association to help bridge this gap. The history of the ILS—from committee status in the 1950s, to its incorporation of the former Pacific Rim Committee, to its present status as a prominent, technologically aware section of the Association—mirrors the growth of international trade and investment in the postwar years and the emergence of Los Angeles as a world trade center. The ILS is dedicated to assisting its members in meeting the challenges of globalization not only by providing useful programs on relevant topics but also by offering links to resources and referrals that otherwise simply would not be available to individual practitioners.

The most useful innovation of the ILS is its recently launched interactive electronic help, bulletin, and message board, through which members of the ILS are linked to one another via e-mail for general communications on international practice and related matters. The electronic bulletin board acts as an instant electronic networking device. Need a referral to a patent lawyer in Chile? Looking for an offshore shelf company? Need to associate litigation counsel in Australia? Need helpful insights with service of process in a foreign nation? Put a message on the ILS electronic help/message/bulletin board, and you get instant access to practitioners with the experience and referrals you need.

This one feature alone more than justifies the cost of joining the section. To secure the kind of referrals and assistance available through the section's electronic bulletin service would have taken a thousand chicken dinners and business card exchanges not so long ago.

The electronic help/message/bulletin board can also be used to share such information as details about an interesting case, news or developments in international law, a good article in a publication, or a useful Web site. The ILS also uses the electronic bulletin board to remind members of the live programs it offers and to provide ILS members with information about educational programs that are held all over the world, including international women lawyers conferences. These programs have considered such topics as cyberlaw, international tax and estate planning, international litigation, and international dimensions of insolvency, franchising, and project finance.

The ILS also maintains its own pages on the Association Web site. These pages contain links to some of the best international legal research materials available on the Web as well as notices and information on upcoming ILS programs.

Programs Offered

The ILS is committed to providing educational, diplomatic, and outreach activities for the benefit of its members. For example, the section has long engaged in professional and educational exchanges on relevant legal topics with bar associations and prominent lawyers, judges, and legislators from Europe, Africa, Latin America, Australia, and Asia. An agreement with the Seoul Bar Association resulted in a series of visits between Los Angeles and Korean lawyers in the late 1990s. The first tripartite conference of our Association, the Seoul Bar Association, and the Beijing Lawyers Association was held in Seoul in 1997. This conference included a full-day seminar and a VIP visit to the DMZ. It was capped by a sumptuous banquet, with top South Korean government and judicial officials in attendance, commemorating the Seoul Bar Association's 90th anniversary.

The ILS is now preparing to negotiate agreements with bar associations in Israel, China, and elsewhere on behalf of the Association. The section expects to present these plans to the Board of Trustees later this year for consideration and implementation. Exchanges with lawyers from those countries are already taking place, such as a visit by tax professionals from Inner Mongolia, China, who are currently developing a tax structure and system for their province. ILS members are given the opportunity to meet members of these visiting delegations in a convivial, social atmosphere.

The ILS also holds an annual meeting with members of the Los Angeles consular corps, which currently comprises consuls general (the local representative of a foreign country) from 89 nations. This gala event, along with its formal program, provides an unparalleled networking opportunity for section members to acquaint themselves with the consuls general. The section also hosts receptions for individual consuls general, providing them with an opportunity to offer a more in-depth look at the commercial environment in their particular countries.

In January 2001 the ILS cosponsored a two-day international law seminar at Pepperdine University Law School that drew attendees from many parts of North America and abroad. The ambitious program included individual sessions on China trade, international peacekeeping, international intellectual property, NAFTA, international sports law, international disabilities law, international criminal law, ethnic cleansing, the World Trade Organization, and more. Looking to the future, the ILS is currently considering a program that will discuss whether U.S. antitrust laws should be applied to the international OPEC cartel and the effect that applying these laws would have on U.S. interstate and foreign commerce.

If you find that your practice or your interests have indeed taken a turn toward the international arena, a membership in the Association's International Law Section can provide the road map you will need to get there. And, perhaps best of all, along the way it will introduce you to a lot of interesting people from all over the world.


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