Washington Lawyer - August 2017 - 21

For decades, the legal practice has been trying to
keep up with the needs of clients doing business in
the global economy. Big Law, midsize, and even
boutique firms have cultivated international trade
practices to help companies become more efficient
and competitive in a worldwide marketplace. After
eight years of a relatively predictable trade philosophy under the Obama administration, multinational
businesses - both foreign and U.S.-based - and
the attorneys who advise them are readjusting
business plans in an unpredictable era of change.

The international trade law community agrees on
one main point: uncertainty has been good for
their legal practices. "The current chaos is good for
an international trade practice," Georgi says. "We've
seen some lean years for international trade lawyers,
but right now the demand for our work is higher
than I've seen for quite a while."

A big area of concern is the fate of NAFTA and other
trade treaties. "The Trump trade policy seems to still
be emerging and that is creating a lot of questions
for our clients," says Lynn Fischer Fox, who practices
international trade law at Arnold & Porter Kaye
Scholer LLP. "Clients - global businesses - want
to know how policy shifts will impact their businesses and their supply chains. The possibility of
a major shift in trade policy is a concern to them
and our job is to help them prepare for the various
possibilities."

And Fischer Fox says that the Arnold & Porter team
specializing in international trade advice is remarkably busy. "Our team's work had already been
increasing under the Obama administration. No
matter how the election had turned out, everyone
thought that there would continue to be an
increase in international trade work," Fischer Fox
says. "But now we are picking up additional work,
some of which can be attributed to client concern
over potential shifts in trade policy. We are helping
our clients figure out how to position themselves to
minimize harm, and we are also helping them think
about ways to take advantage of shifts in trade
policy."

"One day, Trump is withdrawing from NAFTA, and
the next day, he's back," Georgi observes. "That
makes companies nervous. Companies, in general,
prefer stability, and here they are going to have to
look, with help from their lawyers, at what might
happen with NAFTA and what they need to do to
protect themselves."

Smock, the law firm consultant, says that midsize
firms can take advantage of this uncertainty by
keeping abreast of political and economic changes.
"Make sure that management knows about these
issues and that they are talking about these issues,"
he advises.

At present, lawyers who practice in the international market - no matter the size of their firm
- voice a common theme: uncertainty and
change can be debilitating and destructive, but
for those nimble enough to recognize it, chaos
also can create fresh opportunity.
Steven B. Chameides, a partner specializing in international business at Foley & Lardner LLP, says his
clients are enthusiastic about the changing
business environment.
"I'm seeing a boomtown attitude, an attitude of
'let's get going and not miss the boat on what's
coming,'" Chameides says. "Since December, there's
been a change. There seems to be a new optimism
and energy. My clients are trying to get themselves
in position for what they see as a coming boom,
a relaxing of both regulatory and tax burdens."
He adds that his European clients "are all thinking,
'How can we take advantage of this potential
boom in the U.S. market?'"
No matter the politics of the moment, it is certain
that globalization will continue to accelerate and
that law firms of all sizes can be at the forefront of
the action, as long as they are willing to seize the
opportunities that arise.
Erika Winston and Anna Stolley Persky are regular
contributors to Washington Lawyer.


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