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BOG Approves Interim Report, Recommendations of Global Legal Practice Task Force

By Sarah Kellogg

June 25, 2016

The D.C. Bar Board of Governors has approved a series of recommendations of the Global Legal Practice Task Force to better address the needs of its members who live and practice abroad, as well as those who live in the U.S. and have international practices. The recommendations were released in May as part of the Task Force's interim report, which outlined a series of short-term and long-term proposals that seek to expand networking opportunities for members here and abroad, and increase professional development offerings around the practice of international law. The Board also approved a recommendation to conduct ongoing study of developments in alternative business structures and multidisciplinary practice.

"Globalization is not going away because we are more interconnected today than ever before, and there are a growing number of cross-border legal issues," says Darrell G. Mottley, the Task Force chair and a principal shareholder at Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. "Lawyers work with clients, and clients are increasingly dealing with issues in other countries. We're not creating the globalization. Our clients are the ones who are going global, and we are following them."

D.C. Bar members practice in 83 countries, and nearly 1,500 of the Bar's 101,500 members live and work abroad. Fifty-four percent of the Bar's domestic members were very or somewhat interested in expanding their international practices within the next five years, according to a Bar survey, with 57 percent of that number indicating that they expect to expand their practices during that time.

"There was a very strong sense from the survey[s] and the feedback we received that the members are craving and seeking connections among their fellow Bar members practicing internationally," says Esther H. Lim, who oversaw the Task Force's work on "outbound" Bar members and is a partner with Finnegan Henderson Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP.

"We have a significant percentage of our membership who have international backgrounds or practices and multijurisdictional licenses. The D.C. Bar is properly situated to take advantage of that opportunity and provide new services to our increasingly global membership," adds Lim.

The Task Force, established in September 2014, conducted research, distributed surveys, and held a focus group to assess the needs of members around international and cross-border practice issues. The Task Force also considered how its recommendations would dovetail with D.C. Bar 2020, the Bar's five-year strategic plan.

To best achieve its charge, the Task Force divided its study into three areas: examining how best to serve domestic Bar members with international practices and clients, and Bar members who live and work overseas (outbound); studying the rules by which lawyers from foreign countries can be admitted and licensed to practice in the District (inbound); and studying developments in alternative business models being employed by law firms domestically and in other countries. The interim report reflects the recommendations of the outbound subgroup and a recommendation to conduct ongoing study of alternative business structures and multi-disciplinary practice. The Task Force's work continues on issues about the regulation, admission, and practice of foreign-educated lawyers in the District of Columbia.

The Task Force's proposals for outbound members fell into three broad categories: connections or networking, resources, and education and professional development.

Highlights of the proposals for short-term implementation recommend that the Bar should:

  • Develop networking opportunities with substantive content for smaller groups of domestic Bar members with international legal practices.
  • Improve the exchange of information about resources, education, and networking for all members engaged in the practice of cross-border and international law.
  • Create varying "expertise" levels of educational programming in international law topics for all members and develop marketing for this programming.
  • Develop educational programming about issues in international practice that all members often encounter: multi-country litigation; record keeping; e-discovery training and tools; conflicting legal ethics rules; attorney-client privilege abroad; and data security and privacy.

Highlights of the proposals for long-term implementation recommend that the Bar should:

  • Facilitate informal gatherings of its members residing in specific regions of the world where these members commonly live and practice, such as Canada, China, France, and the United Kingdom.
  • Facilitate networking between members who reside and practice outside the United States and local business groups.
  • Partner with international groups and organizations based in Washington, D.C., for hosting networking events with domestic members with international practices.
  • Develop and maintain a list of volunteer "resource attorneys" by international law subject matters or by conducting business in specific regions of the world.

Bar members should be able to turn to the D.C. Bar as their primary trusted resource for information and education to assist them in their international law practices, provide venues to develop professional opportunities, and connect with their counterparts who practice in similar legal areas and in similar regions of the world," notes the Task Force.

Read the interim report.