The most frequent sort of question to hit my inbox of late has been from lawyers all over the country, looking for a referral to foreign counsel.  Foreign in the “you need a passport to go there” sense, rather than in the “across State Line Road” sense.

  • Hey, Aaron, do you have anybody who can help me review a contract with a choice* of Greek law?
  • My client needs to enforce a Minnesota judgment in Korea.  Know anybody who can help?
  • How feasible is it to sue somebody in Australia instead of the U.S.?

In many cases, the right colleague comes to mind quickly– especially in places like Italy or England or Germany.  But if I don’t have anybody to refer to, it isn’t necessary to fret.  A great resource is available through various U.S. Embassies around the world, and I’ve had particularly good luck in using it: each embassy’s U.S. Citizen Services office maintains a list of local attorneys who have identified themselves as (1) English-speaking and (2) seeking/welcoming American clients.**

How to get there?  Exceedingly simple:  just Google “U.S. Embassy (foreign capital)” and click on the “US Citizen Services” link.  Scroll to the Local Resources section and click “Legal Assistance.”  To be sure, the Paris list is going to be significantly longer than, say, Bangkok, but that’s relative to a combination of population and commercial & economic ties.

The extent of available information varies widely as well, with the best lists even delving into discrete practice areas.  Need a commercial lawyer?  No problem.  Family law?  Okay.  Criminal defense?  You bet– and in fact, the Embassy itself will be a U.S. citizen’s best starting point for that (see the State Department’s guidance here).

In many cases, it’s a simple as that.  (And for the really complicated ones, I’m always happy to chat.)

* Choice clauses are a big deal, critically important in contracts with overseas parties.  Three important ones come to mind, and they should be specific and coordinated: choice of law, choice of operative language, and choice of venue/forum/court.  It’s a bit daft to choose Greek law, but English language and Missouri venue.  It’s even more daft to leave the issues unaddressed!

**As I understand it, both the United Kingdom and Canada provide similar resources via their diplomatic legations.