Document Type


Publication Title

International and Comparative Law Quarterly



Publication Date



Transborder, trans-border, cultural gap, transborder legal practice, International Bar Association


In the post-World War II international economy, with its enormous growth in transnational trade and investment, multinational legal practice has become a functional reality. Within the last two decades, the volume of trans-border legal practice has grown enormously in fields such as trade law, international banking and finance, international arbitration and litigation, international contractual and joint venture arrangements, transborder acquisitions and mergers, international antitrust, inter- national tax planning, and foreign investment counselling. Domestic law firms within the leading commercial nations have not only grown substantially in size, often by merger, they have also increasingly created networks of foreign branch offices, or entered into international asso ation or joint venture relationships with firms in other countries. A decade ago in a longer article, "Professional Qualification and Educational Requirements for Law Practice in a Foreign Country: Bridging the Cultural Gap", I surveyed this growth in transborder legal practice and outlined the legal regimes regulating it in the United States, the European Community and other leading commercial jurisdictions. That article maintained that transnational legal practice not only responded to domestic clients' needs for effective service by lawyers familiar with their methods of doing business and their specific business requirements, but, more importantly, helped to bridge the "cultural gap" of barriers to international business and trade that are created by differing cultural, social, political and economic systems. My personal viewpoint is therefore apparent. Although I recognise the legitimate concern for consumer protection that may require a nation to regulate carefully transborder legal practice, such regulation should be both narrowly limited and objectively justified and should not represent disguised economic protection of domestic lawyers. In the main, transborder legal practice substantially benefits interstate and international trade and investment and significantly advances legitimate client interests. A rapid and important evolution in legal practice rules promoting transborder law practice has occurred within the last decade. The pre-eminent example is in the European Union, whose recent legislation and case law have dramatically augmented the recognition of the right of transborder practice, both for individual lawyers and for law firms. Within the United States and elsewhere there has been a heightened appreciation of the merits of the foreign legal consultant regime as one well suited to the needs of transborder transactional practice. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) promotes the use of legal consultant rules within Canada, Mexico and the United States. The International Bar Association has been engaged for several years in efforts to develop and promote generally accepted standards for such legal consultant rules on a worldwide basis. This short article's purpose is to survey the current rules regulating legal practice rights for domestic and foreign lawyers within the United States. Part I sets out the basic regime governing law practice within the American federal system, which largely permits the states to set the regulatory standards. This section then describes the state rules reg- ulating inter-state practice within the United States context for the rules governing foreign lawyers. Part II reviews the extent to which persons educated in foreign legal systems (usually, but not always, foreign lawyers) may qualify as lawyers in US States. Part III then describes the status of foreign legal consultants in New York and a growing number of US States.