Lawyer 1: “But when I specifically asked last week… you said no?”

Lawyer 2: “Yes… but we actually need the client to attend in person to sign this document in front of a notary, that’s right.”

Lawyer 1: “But completion is TODAY! And the client is in NEW YORK!”

As Lawyer 1, my heart sank. Even lawyers – especially lawyers – know how frustrating bad lawyers can be. And bad is not just ‘bad quality’, it is failing to be proactive or responsive or not understanding the business needs of the client.

In the first part of the Origin Story (revisit it here), I left you with my frustration and a bowl of guacamole. This is Part 2, wherein lawyers struggle to find professionals in other jurisdictions, and I finally decided to do something about it.

In our home jurisdiction, lawyers know what we’re looking for.

In most other jurisdictions, we’re floundering around like anyone else, dependent on our own referral network and those of our colleagues.

A not untypical round robin e-mail:

“Does anyone happen to know a corporate lawyer in Dubai with an IP background with the right price point for freelance clients? Urgent!”

If you’re lucky, a partner in the firm will be able to make a referral. If not, it’s up to you to find one (a Google search will likely reveal the biggest – and most expensive – players in the local market) or admit to your client that you can’t help.

Neither is ideal for a partner building a practice and for whom reputation is everything.

The need for cross-border advice from lawyers.

Apart from a stint at international Canadian law firm, McCarthy Tétrault, I’ve never worked at what would be thought of as an international practice. And yet, at various times my clients needed lawyers or tax advisers in pretty much every EU country, Dubai, Australia, Delaware, Florida, China, as well as off shore jurisdictions such as Guernsey, Jersey and the BVI.

Even supposedly “local” or “regional” practices have a lot of cross border elements. But while big firms are used to dealing with large international corporate clients, professionals in smaller firms who service smaller businesses do not have the same reach. There is a gap.

And that is because even the smallest commercial clients have some international links, offices, employees, supply or distribution arrangements, data, intellectual property, but they don’t have the same cash to spend as larger businesses.

So even while technology is helping all of us cast our gaze to the horizon, our laws and our advisers are local.

Even our private lives struggle to fit within a single jurisdiction. In my extended family of East Midlands farmers (a notoriously cosmopolitan bunch), there is a French boyfriend, an Italian wife and a Scottish husband (which since it is a separate legal jurisdiction from England and Wales, counts as international for the purposes of this article).

With the rise of remote working, crypto currencies and 3D printing, we are increasingly unmoored from needing to live and work in one place or be paid in a local currency. So even while technology is helping all of us cast our gaze to the horizon, our laws and our advisers are local. And it’s becoming a bit jarring.

Modern families and businesses do not stop at the water’s edge, their lawyers and accountants shouldn’t either.

And so, in the midst of a global pandemic, recession and vaccine wars, I thought it would be a great idea to found Adviserly.


Robert Flint

Robert Flint is the founder of Adviserly and former corporate parter at a UK law firm.

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