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What is International Corporate Law?

By Maggie Worth
Updated May 16, 2024
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International corporate law is a field of legal practice that involves business transactions occurring in more than one country. This may involve advising companies about regulations and laws in countries to whom they export or in which they have satellite offices. It may also involve negotiating between a client company and foreign partners, customers or governments.

Often, this type of legal practice applies to multi-national companies. Labor, environmental and other laws can vary widely from one nation to the next. An attorney or firm that practices international corporate law is responsible for ensuring that his client company is aware of and abides by the laws of each individual country or nation in which it operates.

In such circumstances, the attorney may advise his customer about functional matters, such as size and location of manufacturing plants and hiring of employees, but also on matters such as advertising. Types of images that are allowed in the corporation’s home country might be banned in other nations, for example. An international corporate attorney is responsible for making his client aware that his advertising campaign must be altered to meet local laws and ordinances.

International corporate law can also apply to a company that is headquartered in one country and doing business in another. For example, a Canadian company is only required to follow Canadian laws of manufacture. If it sells to customers in the United States or Spain, however, it also must follow the import and distribution laws of the receiving country. A material or production method that the company’s home country permits may be banned in another country, making sales of the item in that country illegal.

An attorney who practices international corporate law may have many functions. One common task is writing, reviewing and negotiating contracts. Standard operating procedures, industry standards and terminology are often different in different parts of the world. An attorney may be called upon to ensure that his client’s contractual interests are protected during contract negotiations and to ensure that all clauses are legal in the country designated as the contractual jurisdiction.

A practice specializing in international corporate law may also represent a defendant in a civil or criminal suit occurring in a foreign country. For example, if an American company violates import laws in England, an attorney who understands the laws of both countries may be best prepared to mount an effective defense. Another example would be French company being sued for breach of contract by an export customer in Japan.

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