TerraLex Offers Alternative to Global Firms

Local counsel stand to benefit from international network

When a company in London needed help on a global transaction, it turned to its local counsel rather than a global law firm. Despite not operating in other countries outside the U.K., that firm was able to coordinate a team of attorneys in 22 countries and at 22 different law firms to execute a global acquisition that spanned four continents and was valued just under $2 billion. 

While many companies might look to international law firms to make something like that happen, John Husband, a Colorado-based attorney at Holland & Hart, said there’s another option. Husband is the executive vice chair and regional co-chair for North America of international law firm network TerraLex. 

Husband is the highest-ranking member in the U.S. and holds the organization’s second-highest position with the network in the world. As a member of the executive committee, Husband assists in developing strategies to meet clients’ legal needs and business interests across the world. 

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TerraLex itself is nothing new. The network has been around for 25 years. The idea behind it is to give clients a way to do work on a global scale with their local counsel. Member firms are committed to “give A+ service” with the understanding that the referrals that happen through the network travel in all directions. One example of the network’s global reach, was in Holland & Hart working with Sierra Nevada in its successful acquisition of a UK- and Germany-based aircraft company, 328 Support Services GmbH, and its affiliated entities.

“It’s a way to have global expertise with significant local connections in a seamless way,” Husband said. 

A client might call a local firm saying they have troubles in Malawi. The lawyer would make the introduction with the member firm in Malawi that could take it from there. 

“The lawyer approaches them and says they aren’t forced to hire a global lawyer. The alternative solution is TerraLex,” Husband said. 

The firm local to the client could either “quarterback” the work and serve as the primary point of contact to the client, or if the client prefers, they could work directly with the foreign firm. The main idea is to make the connection, give clients an alternative to using an international firm and allow local firms to keep clients that have work outside their footprint. 

Husband said there is a cost-benefit analysis for working with global firms. Multinational firms tend to have higher costs, and according to Husband, a firm might have an outpost with a few attorneys in a foreign country. TerraLex uses local law firms that are established in their areas. Clients can work with firms that know that market and have made their names there. Often, that international outpost would still carry the same costs of the global firm, according to TerraLex chief business development officer Tim Shannon. He said clients report “feeling like the savings are somewhere around 20 percent.”

Despite the wide reach of TerraLex, there are some blind spots. Husband said the network is working to improve its coverage in Africa and the Middle East. 

“The market [in Africa] is different from anywhere around the world, he said. It’s really difficult to find a good attorney in some places. But we’ve found it’s a region where those members know who to go to.”

In addition to the benefit firms see from referrals through the network, the attorneys and law firm leaders involved in the network get direct benefits as well. Husband has run the managing partner roundtables for the organization as a member of the executive committee. 

He said it’s common for managing partners at firms around the world to feel there are not a lot of people they can talk to about the issues they face in their jobs. Those roundtables bring people in similar markets with different views together so they can share their thoughts on policies and practices. Husband said the last meeting, which was in Boston, brought the head of Harvard’s MBA program for lawyers to talk to the group.

Shannon said the attorneys in each of the network’s practice groups get the opportunity to work together and share ideas as well. The organization holds two global meetings each year where members meet for three days and not only discuss their practice areas but also what’s going on in the practice of law.

“It’s a great opportunity to build relationships and look in the eye of the person you’ll send a client to,” he said. That helps quality control as well so the attorneys know who they’re have some idea of who they’re working with when they refer work across the globe.

— Tony Flesor

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