Business transactions like these require legal counsel – from attorneys who are familiar with the laws of those countries.
This summer, Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, with offices in Ronkonkoma and Bridgehampton, rolled out CMM International, a newly branded service that features a network of more than 100 law firms and solo practitioners, as well as accounting firms and other professional service providers, in about a dozen countries and around the U.S.
The law firm, which is continuing to grow the network, vets the attorneys and other professional service providers, which includes checking client references, and can act as the point person for all of a client’s international (and domestic) legal services.
“We act as the client’s outside general counsel and we can quarterback all their legal needs through our international and national network of service providers,” said Joseph Campolo, managing partner of CMM.
The firm offers a suite of services that can include handling all of the billing from the international firms; negotiating rates and billing practices; and auditing the invoices to make sure the foreign firms are not charging for too many hours to complete a task, said Gregg Schor, of counsel to CMM and an advisor to CMM International.
Accounting firms like BDO and McGladrey have well-established alliances consisting of accounting firms around the globe, in which a member accounting firm in Long Island can collaborate with a member firm in, say, London to assist a client who is looking to establish operations in the U.K. But there is no equivalent in the legal profession, according to Campolo.
CMM acquired the relationships in its international legal network from Protegrity Advisors in Ronkonkoma, of which Schor is CEO. Formerly known as General Counsel Solutions, the firm previously provided fractional general counsel services for companies that did not require a full-time in-house attorney and did not want to pay the high hourly rates of full-service law firms.
“Back in 2007, 2008 and 2009, when the world was falling apart, the idea of fractional general counsel and managed legal services really took off, and Gregg built up a tremendous network of either solo practitioners or small boutique law firms around the U.S. and a deep international network,” Campolo said. However, “as the economy improved and companies recovered, they went back to their old spending habits on legal services,” he said. Protegrity Advisors began to focus on mergers-and-acquisitions services, which had begun to heat up, instead of managed legal services.
CMM, which was one of the firms in Protegrity Advisors’ network, did not want to see the network fall apart.
“It was still a huge network of international and domestic attorneys,” said Campolo, who has been referring clients to attorneys in the network for years in addition to receiving referrals from law firms in the network whose clients were looking to do business in the United States.
“I relied on the network,” said Campolo, whose firm acquired the relationships in the network earlier this year.
Now that it has formally launched CMM International, CMM can position itself as better equipped to serve clients as they expand beyond the U.S. borders.
“Our clients can continue to use our firm as one-stop shopping for their international legal needs,” Campolo said.
Large international law firms with offices in New York City can connect Long Island businesses to their law offices around the globe, but they charge as much as $1,000 per hour, according to Campolo.
Further, as Schor noted, “The large law firms’ core business is serving Fortune 500 companies. Small to midsized businesses are not as important to those law firms, so they’ll assign someone junior to the account.”
By working with smaller firms, CMM is able to provide the same services at half the price of the large international law firms, Campolo said.
Besides intellectual property issues, companies need foreign law firms to assist them with drafting and negotiating contracts in a wide range of matters, from hiring talent to establishing a relationship with a distributor to leasing warehouse space.
“There are a lot of mistakes you can make when doing business internationally if you don’t have the right counsel,” Schor said, noting the penalties can be severe. “But a lot of times people don’t have the right counsel, because it’s so cost-prohibitive. They’re more afraid of their legal bill than the risk of not engaging with local lawyers in that country.”