General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine

From the Editor / jennifer j. rose

Foreign Relations

Quaint peoples whose lifetimes took them no farther than 20 miles from their birthplace, whose contact with the world beyond came from the pages of the National Geographic and the International House of Pancakes, made practicing law a lot simpler. Sadly, most of those clients are now dead and gone.

The world’s become a much smaller place to live, one of blurred borders and transmigration, where the sun never sets upon McDonald’s Golden Arches and a long-distance call to France no longer requires operator assistance. Ten percent of America’s people are foreign-born, and no one knows exactly how many Americans live abroad. Dissolving traditional notions of boundaries even more, the invention of cyberspace has fueled opportunities and conundrums far beyond Magellan’s wildest dreams, making Alexander the Great and Marco Polo resemble rank amateurs. Toto....I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. Dorothy Gale has yielded to Luke Skywalker.

Lawyers in small town and general practices are just as likely to face issues involving transborder issues as those practicing in big cities, large firms, and highly specialized practices. A divorce client’s spouse may live in Germany. The local tool and die company may need to hire foreign workers. Debtors may pack up and move to Timbuktu. The lawyer who remains marooned among leather-bound volumes, limiting the practice to the confines of the county line, is destined for the same fate as the rotary phone and the cigar-store Indian.

When I moved to Mexico from Iowa two years ago, my well-meaning but misinformed legal brethren warned me that moving abroad could jeopardize my American citizenship and envied avoidance of federal income tax. (Of course, they were wrong on both counts.) Nary a day passes that I don’t have increased contact with America—from Burger King, Wal-Mart, and Office Depot to unraveling a client’s dispute with a Texas bank.

This issue of GP Solo & Small Firm Lawyer brings together lawyer-authors hailing from far-flung venues of Idaho, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Virginia, Delaware, Illinois, Alabama, North Carolina, Alberta, London, and Mexico City. More than 500 e-mail messages passed through the ether in the making of this issue, yet not one face was seen or a word spoken.

International child custody cases are not as rare as many might think, and John Crouch gives us a Michelin Guide to the Hague Convention, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, and its updated replacement, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Adopting children from abroad is on the increase, but the details can be mind-boggling. Harlan Tenenbaum demystifies a complicated process in "International Adoption," almost making the task seem like child’s play.

It’s one thing to find a process server in South Dakota, but what’s to be done when the defendant lives in Switzerland? Edward Burton tackles that question and takes on the rules in "Service of Process Abroad." Natasha Ell and Dean Moroz outline the Canadian perspective, and Carlos Garcia-Lopez explains the task in Mexico.

There’s more to working effectively with foreigners than just speaking their language. Endearing gaffes of former presidents and tourists can make a practicing lawyer look just plain stupid. Concepts American lawyers take for granted take on a new flavor and meaning among aliens and upon distant shores, and there’s a delicate art to it all, as Raquel Rodriguez writes in "A Lawyer’s Guide to Working with Foreign Clients and Counsel."

Immigration law has taken on a new stature as American businesses have come to rely more and more upon a steady influx of foreign workers, and Boyd Campbell steers us deftly through the Kafka-esque maze of rules, routines, and regulations in "Nonimmigrant U.S. Visas: Counseling Your Small Business Clients."

What about that client whose income is drawn from abroad? In "The Long Arm of the IRS: U.S. Tax Treatment of Foreign-Source Income," Michael Zeller and Eric Gazin explore and interpret international income taxation in plain and understandable terms.

Military law and what military lawyers actually do can be a world of its own to the uninitiated. Carlos Santiago and Jennifer Santiago, JAG officers stationed at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, define the roles and work of lawyers in uniform in "What is Military Staff Legal Assistance?"

Less than a decade ago, office walls measured a lawyer’s personal workspace. The Internet has made that limitation as arcane as the placement of county courthouses within a single day’s horseback ride, changing the practice of law in the most profound way since the invention of language. Jeff Aresty in "Practicing Law in Cyberspace" explores the implications of practicing law in the digital frontier.

jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of The Complete Lawyer , is a lawyer and writer living in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico. She can be reached at jenniferrose@abanet.org.

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