What Is International Law

A surprising number of foreigners find themselves involved in international legal matters these days. You may not consider the risk of international litigation when you marry that gorgeous Italian, dream of opening a business abroad, or make an international investment. But you become paralyzed by fear when your relationship falters or your investment requires a special tax filing. You don’t know your rights in a foreign country. Worse, you likely don’t know the language that well. And most importantly, you have no idea the trauma (small t) the foreign bureaucracy and legal system will bring upon you.

Most people often feel alone, helpless, and terrified when facing litigation. These fears are compounded when you realize you need a foreign attorney to navigate a foreign legal system. Moreover, one cannot overstate the frustration experienced when your ‘English speaking’ foreign attorney does not seem to understand you. You will see dire consequences from your attorney’s inability to understand you, and you understand him/her. Attorneys are sometimes limited from protecting the goals of their clients, especially when the lawyer comes from a different culture than their own. Personally, I never accept an Italian client without an Italian attorney on the legal team though I speak and understand Italian perfectly. I am an American and international attorney.

Americans and Europeans come from drastically different cultures. While many acts are the norms in one culture, they may offend foreigners from the other culture. I’ve seen attorneys spend hours criticizing an American mother in a private meeting because she was the breadwinner in the family. These attorneys refused to negotiate the terms of the custody agreement that the clients had proposed. Both mother and father were disappointed that their agreement was not possible.

Why chose AVRA Legal

The custody agreement this couple sought was both possible and healthy for the family. The father was in retirement and could not afford to pay child support to his ex-wife. While the mother did not want to reduce her work schedule when he chose to stay home with the children. The clients’ needs were not met by their attorneys.

Being an American attorney, I could not understand how hours of billable work passed by while discussing the morals of this family’s decisions. I raised my objections to these attorneys forcing their priorities upon this couple. When facing international litigation, one cannot overemphasize the need for a truly international team. Foreign attorneys may live in your country for many years and even receive an advanced degree from an institute in your country. But some retain their deep-rooted cultural priorities. An attorney from your culture will better understand the facts, evidence, and obstacles presented in your particular situation.

Why You Need a True International Legal Team

Any lawyer can claim to be an international lawyer. Many can set up a fake office in a foreign country. But far too often, these lawyers do not actually understand international law and what opportunities are available to their clients.

For example, the U.S. Embassy is the only valid notary for the U.S. legal system outside of the U.S. territory. Countless foreign attorneys will assure you that you can notarize your American document with a foreign notary or an American notary outside of the Embassy (such as myself). This is wrong! I may not notarize your documents if a US notary is required on said documents. Other attorneys will recommend you apostille a document in lieu of a notary. This process is more time-consuming and costly. By not using a truly international attorney you risk your notary not being valid. If you notarize a will this might negate the will! Contracts are just as dangerous. The lesson to learn here is to use the U.S. Embassy notary and to make sure you have the right attorney.

Now, we do not want to say that you should not have a foreign attorney on your team. Nor are we saying that foreign attorneys are inherently inadequate. You should use a foreign attorney if you must appear before a foreign court. Additionally, a local attorney may navigate the particular sensitivities of the local judicial system and bring a wealth of experience to the local legal system.

The ideal combination is to have a local attorney (foreign attorney if you must litigate internationally), while also having an attorney from your culture that resonates with your litigation strategy. It is imperative that your attorney is fighting for your interests as opposed to what the attorney feels is right.