In the modern world, everyone is extremely connected all around the globe. Thanks to the internet, you can have a best friend from Australia, or even talk to people from a country at war with your own. There’s practically no delay in communications, either. This, along with more advanced transportation methods, and a heightened focus on connectivity overall, has led to international businesses thriving, a major uptick in travel to places Americans wouldn’t have dreamt of going to decades ago, and more.
However, that also creates some major issues.
As you likely know, every country has its own laws, and they are often very different from one another. For example, plenty of things that are perfectly legal in the US are illegal in Japan or Germany. There are also situations where two places might have the same views on certain things, but their way of handling an issue regarding those things is different.
So, with all of this connectivity around the globe, legal cases involving members of two different countries break out fairly frequently, and it’s a lot harder to come to a proper conclusion when two dramatically different sets of laws are being used to determine what the outcome should be.
Today, we want to help you understand how these types of international cases are handled, the challenges involved in them, and some other key points.
Let’s get started.
Why is International Litigation Necessary?
At first glance, international litigation seems like it should be extremely easy to deal with. Wherever the crime occurs, that country’s government handles it. Right? Wrong. That does happen quite frequently. Such as in cases where a traveler commits a crime in another country. The country where the crime was committed tends to use its laws to punish the individual, and then the US either tries to negotiate an alternative or simply accepts what happened. It largely depends on the situation.
However, it’s not always as clear-cut as that.
What happens if a United States brand partners with a Chinese manufacturer, and there’s a contract issue? What about cyber crimes where the country being affected isn’t able to directly arrest the person who committed the crime? In those situations, and many more, action has to be taken. It’s simply impossible to do it without international interaction.
There are different ways these things are handled, and we’re going to talk about them throughout this guide, but it is 100% necessary for international litigation to be well-developed, and for legal teams to understand how to navigate its unique ins and outs.
The Challenges of International Litigation
There are a lot of challenges involved in international litigation regardless of the case being dealt with. Here, we’ll highlight the most serious challenges that attorneys have to face when protecting clients in international settings; a task that is growing in necessity at an alarming rate.
1: The Discovery Phase
This is easily the most difficult part of international litigation, and it tends to have the most serious unintended consequences, too.
Evidence is necessary for every case. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple conflict between businesses or something far more serious such as an alleged homicide. Without evidence, you can’t make an argument and back it up.
However, not every country is like the US.
Take China for example. The only people who are allowed to discover evidence are judges. Lawyers are not allowed to gather evidence on their own, and arguments are built around strengthening or devaluing the evidence the court provides.
That makes creating a solid case difficult, but there’s another problem. You can actually be arrested for breaking that rule. So, in an effort to help your client, you might end up needing a lawyer yourself just over a simple mistake.
Similar problems are present in many countries, and it’s nearly impossible to avoid international litigation with countries with such varying rules.
Luckily, the consequences of this challenge aren’t as bad as a lawyer getting arrested for doing what most people would consider perfectly normal in the United States. However, it can still impact a case dramatically.
You have to communicate during the litigation process no matter where you are, and communication is a key part of legislation. If you are incapable of communicating in a way that accurately presents your argument, you can end up losing a case even if it should technically be a cakewalk.
Again, this is going to be a major challenge in practically every international case. Unless you’re fluent in the language of the country you’re dealing with, you’ll be stuck relying on technology or translators, and both of those can potentially cause major issues.
3: Understanding Localized Laws
There’s also the challenge of actually understanding the laws you’re working with. Every country has its own laws, and while the basics are likely the same such as “don’t steal, murder, or harm people”, the details of those laws and the finer laws are likely very different. You cannot properly defend a client or seek justice if you can’t interpret the relevant laws properly, and that greatly hampers lawyers dealing with international cases.
4: The Costs of Representing Clients Internationally
Of course, there is also the challenge of financially supporting the case over such a long distance. You will need to attend certain aspects of the court process in person in most instances, and that can mean traveling around the globe, getting room and board in a foreign country, and handling other expenses that come with traveling. When you take into account that many cases can last months or years, the costs of taking on cases across international lines can be too much for even a lawyer to take on efficiently.
Necessities to Overcome the Key Challenges of International Litigation
So, there are some major issues that will inherently be a problem with any international case regardless of where it’s being dealt with and what the specific case is, but luckily, all challenges can be overcome. They don’t have to block your client into a lose-lose situation. If you have a few key skills and resources, you can overcome those challenges and still come out on top regardless of how complicated the case is.
1: Know The Court Processes and Requirements of the Country You’re Dealing With
First and foremost, you need to have a deep understanding of how the country you’re in deals with the court process. From discovery to the presentation of information, it’s just as important to understand how the process is handled in the country handling the situation as it is your own, or conflicts can occur. As we detailed earlier, there can even be serious consequences for things that would typically be standard protocol in the United States.
These differences will vary from country to country, and while it’s impossible to learn the protocols and standards of every courtroom around the world to the extent that you understand the US judicial system, learning the absolute basics is pivotal for any country you deal with litigation in.
2: Vet Communication Resources and Consider Viable Partners for International Litigation
A firm will likely use multiple methods to handle its needs with international litigation. Each of those methods needs to be vetted extensively to ensure efficiency.
For example, if you’re hiring translators, you’d want to know that the individual performing the service is not only capable of communicating your message but also doing it in a professional way as you would. You wouldn’t want to create a miscommunication catastrophe by letting someone casually translate information that is highly dependent on its delivery and tone.
The technology used for this reason should also be vetted to ensure its quality, efficiency, and accuracy.
Having team members on board who can fluently handle international cases and the communications involved is also a great consideration. By having onboard staff that can properly handle communications, you can trust that there aren’t any errors that can potentially cost you the case. Proper team members in this role are also more likely to understand localized mannerisms and conduct expectations to prevent minor conflicts that are common with other methods of communication.
3: Local Law
Next, learning the basics of the law is also pivotal. Again, it’s not practical to expect you to know the ins and outs of every foreign court system out there. However, when you’re working internationally, you should be able to quickly and effectively learn a basic understanding of how relevant laws work. This will help you develop more effective arguments, represent your client more efficiently, and generally make you more effective on an international scale.
For example, if you’re helping a client fight a breach of contract accusation with a company in another country, you should understand how that country’s contract laws work to determine how or if the contract was breached, your client’s options, and ways that you can get an optimal result for your client. It’s not necessary to understand their entire legal system, but the basics and the details regarding the area of law you’re dealing with are absolutely essential.
4: Mitigating Costs
A key point to understand regarding these cases is that you need to mitigate costs. As we said earlier, the costs can add up and be substantial even for a top legal professional. Luckily, modern technology is on your side.
While you’ll still likely need to travel to some extent, the internet and video chat technology makes it possible for you to handle depositions, client communications, pre-trial processes, and more without having to get on a plane and travel somewhere far from home. You can save your money for that when it’s actually required.
Doing this will substantially lower the cost of the trial and make it much more plausible.
Is it Really Worth the Hassle?
With all these major challenges on the way, you might think it’s not even worth the hassle of taking on international cases. You have a point, but there are some considerations you need to make.
First and foremost, you need to consider that international cases aren’t just on the rise. They’re skyrocketing.
While many firms are hesitant to deal with international law, the fact is, any firm that wants to thrive is going to have to deal with international cases to some extent within the near future. Each year, the business world becomes a lot more connected globally, travel becomes easier, and generally, even many cases here in the United States have international aspects that produce a lot of the same challenges we’ve talked about, today.
To completely avoid international cases could be extremely detrimental to your firm in the long run.
Then, there’s the opportunity involved in it all. When something is challenging and its demand skyrockets, those who are able to handle it well will reap the rewards. We’re seeing that with several firms that practically only handle international cases. Whether they’re helping companies take legal action against partners or supply lines overseas, or they’re helping get Americans back home after they commit some sort of trumped-up crime, they’re finding plenty of high-paying opportunities and getting ahead of the curve.
Finally, there’s the fact that, as this trend continues, you’re practically guaranteed to end up with even basic cases including some sort of international discovery or similar aspects. Knowing the basics of how to handle that can mean the difference between it being business as usual or a massive disappointment.
It’s not only worth the hassle, but it’s quickly becoming a necessity.
Getting Help with International Litigation
International litigation is one area where even the best firms are going to need help from time to time. There are simply too many possibilities to consider, different laws for every country, and a never-ending list of things to learn. Luckily, you don’t have to do it on your own.
Whether you’re wanting help learning the international court laws for a specific case, general guidance on preparing your firm for international cases, or any other guidance, contact Litigation Legal Insight, today.