Here’s a great guestpost by Toni, a seasoned contract attorney conducting document reviews for over 6 years. Toni worked on a number of review projects abroad and is currently assigned to a matter in the USA. We hope you enjoy his insightful story an the helpful checklist he put together for you.
Eight hours with no internet connection and only a few good in-flight movies so, a great opportunity to write about a phenomenon, which has become more common recently, i.e. the likelihood of landing a document review gig abroad -or- being asked by your current employer to work on parts of your project outside your home jurisdiction.
Well here’s my story – I am writing this blog post sitting comfortably in my extra legroom economy seat on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to Washington, D.C. on my way to the American offices of my current employer in order to assist in some production work.
Why me, a European educated and trained lawyer admitted in two jurisdictions in the EU? Good question – it is because of my language skills. The client of the firm is a big European blue chip company and there are foreign language documents which need to be reviewed and translated for production to the US regulators.
I have been working on my current matter for 14 months, and I seem to have proven myself to be a useful asset in terms of dealing with foreign language focused tasks as a member of the production team in London.
This experience not being a novel one for me, I’m mindful that being sent aboard for a longer duration requires a significant amount of preparation and planning; therefore, and perhaps in order even to help one or two others out there, I’ve attempted to put together a checklist consisting of what I’ve come to understand the 10 main points to consider and issues to discuss prior agreeing to work on a project in a foreign country.
CHECKLIST – Working Abroad as a Contract Attorney:
1. Working Permit &Visa
This is probably the most important point to cover considering the potential consequences of non-compliance. Make sure that your agency/employer obtains a valid working permit and a visa in the country they want to send you to. Depending on the country, this might take some time, and may present a challenge in urgent matters. However, do not compromise on this point as the risks will primarily be yours to carry. I’ve personally heard about a contract attorney who was held in immigration custody overnight when arriving to the US for immediate deportation the following day. He was (instructed to) pretend that he was on vacation but he also carried hard-drives and files containing case documents with him, which gave the game away – so to say!?
2. Will Accommodation Be Provided?
Ensure that your agency or firm provides you with suitable accommodation for the duration of your assignment in the foreign country. Sounds obvious that they would but surprisingly it’s not really. Only a few weeks ago, I was contacted by an agency for a 4-week project abroad requiring that I organize, and pay for my own accommodation in spite of the fact that cost of living in the particular jurisdiction was even higher than London, which would effectively eat into nearly my entire earnings whilst out there – not to forget, of course, that I would have had also to maintain my apartment in my home jurisdiction. Naturally, I politely declined and pointed out that they will have a hard time finding contract attorneys willing to join under such circumstances. Whilst a nice hotel with all its amenities might be tempting at the beginning, when spending more than a week or so abroad consider asking for a corporate apartment instead. You will not only get much more space but also a more comfortable (home-like) existence
3. Costs Of Living & Expenses?
This point should not be underestimated. Imagine you are working on a sweet gig, long hours, food and taxis paid for. Now you are asked to go abroad to work in a city, potentially with even higher costs of living than NYC or London with no expenses paid (agency/firm would argue that they provide you with accommodation already, regardless of the fact that you probably still have to pay rent in your home country – more about that later). This will also eat most of your earnings. If possible, ask for the expenses either to be paid in form of a daily allowance, or to be incorporated in your hourly rate. This way you would not have to deal with rather lengthy expense submissions and approvals.
4. Are Regular Home Flights Provided?
Say, for example, that you’re asked to relocate to China for six months and the thought of leaving your friends, family, dog or guinea-pig ‘Trevor’ behind sounds like a deal breaker to you? That’s understandable. It’s common practice, in the ‘real’ world, for law firms to provide associates with regular flights home. Ask for reasonable and regular flights back home for a weekend or – depending on your location for a week to work and catch up on things. If you are asked to work pretty close to your home country, you could ask for return flights every weekend (if not required to work of course), and argue that this would potentially save your agency/firm the costs of accommodation for the weekend.
To be continued…
Watch out for PART TWO of Help, My Employer Wants To Send Me Abroad where Toni will share points 5-10 of the most important tips and points to consider for contract attorneys when being asked to work abroad.