About 18 months ago I wrote about the need for law firms to have an International focus and believe this has become even more crucial in the last year.
We all receive almost daily updates from legal sector media outlets proclaiming that one firm or another has opened an office/has a formal tie up in/joined an international affiliation network in various territories around the world.
These decisions are not taken lightly or simply due to the fact that it’s a nice place to go on holiday or hold a Conference! This is due to the firm identifying that particular country or region as a gap in their own service capability and offering to their clients.
From an Accountant’s perspective, clients of all sizes often ask us for international tax and structuring advice. Let me be clear that it is not about reducing their tax exposure by having a name plate here or holding IP over there, as seems to be in the news a lot at the moment!
They ask us sound commercial questions such as “we are looking to trade in this country”, “open an office in that continent” or “expand into that particular territory”.
Our international tax partner, Nick Farmer, regularly attends conferences in all parts of the world and through our membership of our international network, HLB, has built strong relationships with advisers in many overseas jurisdictions. The investment in sending Nick around the globe pays for itself many times over, as it allows us to deliver real value and practical advice for any client considering expanding into new territory. Expanding overseas is both expensive and risky, and access to reliable local contacts helps our clients from wasting time and money running down blind alleys.
It is now a part of our commercial toolkit that we just simply could not do without.
We do not advise on tax in other territories, although Nick has an impressive knowledge. That is best done by the local advisers we bring in on assignments. My question, therefore, to legal firms, who are yet to have appropriate international coverage, is who advises your clients on legal matters in other countries?
If the answer is “we do not know who or how they come across the advice”, then you are not managing the international relationship. How do you know that your top, growing, expanding, most profitable clients are not making contacts in overseas law firms that then refer them back to an alternative UK law firm in their “network”. Can you risk losing any good clients, let alone your best ones that are expanding and growing?
I guess it all comes back to each firm’s strategy and focus. If you do not perceive this as a risk then fine, do nothing. But if your most active clients are talking about legal advice in other jurisdictions and you are not already active members of an international group, formal or informal, then you need to take action. Perhaps even get on a plane and plug your international gap.
Comments written by Peter Noyce – Partner and Head of Professional Services Team at Menzies LLP.
For more information about Menzies LLP or to talk to us about global gap in more depth, contact your Menzies Relationship Partner or contact Menzies directly.