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What conditions suggest the need for local counsel?

Just because your business is in one location does not mean that all legal disputes you confront will take place in that jurisdiction. We live in a global economy and the potential of legal action can come from anywhere in the world. If a dispute reaches the stage of a suit, the venue might not be your backyard, putting you at a disadvantage. When that happens, it's important to consider hiring local counsel.

This might be particularly necessary where intellectual property issues are involved. This area of law is highly detailed and technical by its nature and, these days, so are many of the issues that become the focus of litigation. Effective assertion and defense of IP rights depends not only on having skilled in-house IP counsel, but also enlisting IP attorneys who know the nuances of the system where a court action occurs.

The value of local counsel

Some may believe that hiring local counsel is just a ploy on the part of local jurisdictions to protect turf, but there is more to the value proposition than that. For example, a foreign entity facing a lawsuit over alleged IP infringement in a Northern California federal court faces several potential hurdles.

  • In-house counsel might not speak English.
  • The legal system in the U.S. might be unfamiliar to that practiced in the foreign entity's home country.
  • There is no familiarity with the individual players in a given jurisdiction.
  • The in-house counsel likely isn't licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction or know the rules of procedure, written and unwritten.

These issues aren't restricted to the foreign companies needing representation in the U.S. They can also apply to firms from domestic companies from other states. Indeed, in some cases in the U.S., if you lack licensure in the state of jurisdiction, rules require engaging local counsel to proceed with a case.

Engaging local counsel might seem to be unwanted added time and expense. But when you consider the importance of IP protection to the success of any business and that the law doesn't require actions to be taken to your home field, seeking local IP counsel you can be confident in becomes a matter of common sense. There is also the argument that such rules enhance the chances of delivering justice smoothly.

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