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From Indy, Ogletree Deakins goes global

Dave Stafford
December 5, 2012
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Kim Ebert can see about as far as anyone in Indiana from his perch on the 46th floor of the Chase Tower in Indianapolis, but the Ogletree Deakins P.C. managing shareholder’s vision is on far more distant horizons.

Ogletree this month joined the short but influential list of firms doing business in Indianapolis that also have branded international offices. A Berlin office opened Dec. 1 with a staff of seven attorneys, and the London office of four barristers should open by year’s end, pending regulatory approval.
 

ebert-kim-15col.jpg Kim Ebert (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

The firm represents companies from Fortune 50 giants to small, privately held companies. In announcing its international strategy, Ogletree said it will be the only U.S.-based boutique labor and employment firm with offices in Europe.

“We have come to the conclusion in discussions with our clients generally that there was some dissatisfaction with the offerings out there,” Ebert said in a recent interview. “We think the time is right to present an alternative.”

“A lot of our clients were telling us they feel like they’re paying a lot of money to international lawyers and they’re not providing the level of service they expect,” he said.

“We have all types of systems in place to make sure quality is consistent throughout.”

As managing shareholder, Ebert directed the development of overseas operations for Atlanta-based Ogletree, which opened its Indianapolis office in 2000. “The role I played first of all was to support the strategy of the international expansion, and then to help with the recruitment of the right lawyers to support the strategy,” he said.
 

castille Castille

“In labor and employment law, you find that when you have economic turmoil, there’s a lot of work for lawyers,” Ebert said.

The first offices opening across the Atlantic signal the beginning of a broader expansion that will continue next year. Ebert said Ogletree Deakins’ international growth is proceeding at a disciplined pace, and the firm knows the local attorneys it is hiring.

“We’ve had an opportunity to see how they handled work we’ve partnered up on them with,” he said.

As an example of the caliber of representation the firm hopes to extend, Ebert named Michael Webster, who will lead the London office. The founder and former joint managing partner of Webster Dixon LLP serves clients that include the second-largest bank in Nigeria, Ebert said.

An attorney in the Berlin office, for instance, represents Deutsche Bahn, the national railroad of Germany. The Berlin attorneys come from the firm of Salans LLP.

After the Berlin and London offices open, the firm anticipates establishing a branch in China. Ebert said that if approvals come as expected, that office could open within six months. Other offices likely will be opened in France and in Eastern Europe. The expansion strategy looks for possible locations in nations with stable economies, Ebert said, noting that Ogletree handled matters in more than 100 countries last year.

“There is no question that today we all operate in a global marketplace,” he said. “Our strategy is to provide international representation that is focused on value and first-class client service.”

From Indiana to Beijing

Among the handful of firms that have Indiana offices and branded offices in other nations is Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, which has the distinction of being the lone homegrown firm to have accomplished the feat. Predecessor Baker & Daniels opened its Beijing office shortly after China opened its market to foreign investment in the 1990s.

Angella Castille is partner and co-chair of Faegre Baker Daniels’ international practice group in the U.S.

“Most of our clients have long been global and had to be global,” she said. Representative clients include Bridgestone/Firestone, Jasper-based furniture and electronics manufacturer Kimball International, and Indianapolis-based software and machining developer Hurco Companies Inc. Faegre has helped with matters such as international material sourcing, production and distribution issues, and more.

Representing clients with international interests, Castille said, “It’s hard for me to understand how you could practice law without doing business in international work.”

When Faegre Baker Daniels formed, the firm could offer clients access to attorneys in Beijing, Shanghai and London.

“Our original reason for being in international locations could very well have to do with having a client who needed a source for parts and components,” Castille said. “As they become more familiar with doing business overseas, they start to see their own products may do very well overseas. … It evolves.”

Attorneys say London offices provide common language and access to European markets, because most U.K. attorneys have an understanding of common European Union law as well as the codes of other nations within the European community.

In China, the legal terrain is far different. Firm representatives said that American and international lawyers may open offices in Beijing or Shanghai, but in order to practice in court, an attorney must work for a Chinese-based firm.

Even when a firm doesn’t have a branded office overseas, its connections with international attorneys can open doors. Linda Dawson is an Anderson-based economic development consultant who’s working with Barnes & Thornburg LLP as director of Asian projects for Grant County.

“It is crucial to deal with firms that have overseas offices or relationships plus experience in related areas,” Dawson said. “This is especially true in China, where there is great apprehension of our legal system and regulations. The ability to communicate in their native language and understand the unique business culture that exists in Asia will help alleviate their unreasonable concerns.”

Benesch is another law firm with Indianapolis offices that has a presence in China.

“We had clients in the U.S. interested in doing business in China, and while we could have probably found Chinese lawyers to assist them … nobody was in a better position to serve them than us,” said Jeff Abrams, partner in charge of the Indianapolis office of Benesch.

“If we have enough clients that have an interest to be somewhere, we feel like we can service them with our attorneys,” he said.

From the Indianapolis office, for instance, attorneys from Cleveland-based Benesch are helping to facilitate potential Chinese economic development in Indiana.

“We have made connections with the city of Marion,” Abrams noted as an example. “They’re looking to bring Chinese investment to the area.”

Those connections could be significant, he said, because international clients looking to locate in the Midwest, and particularly Indiana, might be instinctively inclined to choose Indianapolis.

California-based Littler Mendelson P.C., the nation’s largest labor and employment firm exclusively representing management, is the other firm with offices in Indianapolis and overseas. After establishing offices in Indianapolis in 2006, Littler expanded to offices in Mexico and Venezuela.•

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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