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Most often when practitioners refer to a general international law practice they are referring to “private” international law, involving commercial ventures or transactions that affect foreign jurisdictions or include foreign parties. International law in this sense is not a legal specialty in itself, but suggests the prospect of travel to foreign venues to negotiate deals or resolve commercial disputes, and sometimes the opportunity to live in a foreign country.

The underlying legal issues that U.S. lawyers address are typically grounded in general business law. International business lawyers are often corporate generalists who can handle a variety of deal structures, though they may have developed some expertise in a particular practice area, like corporate finance, technology licensing or joint ventures.

Litigators who may be called "international lawyers" tend to litigate in U.S. [...]

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Most often when practitioners refer to a general international law practice they are referring to “private” international law, involving commercial ventures or transactions that affect foreign jurisdictions or include foreign parties. International law in this sense is not a legal specialty in itself, but suggests the prospect of travel to foreign venues to negotiate deals or resolve commercial disputes, and sometimes the opportunity to live in a foreign country.

The underlying legal issues that U.S. lawyers address are typically grounded in general business law. International business lawyers are often corporate generalists who can handle a variety of deal structures, though they may have developed some expertise in a particular practice area, like corporate finance, technology licensing or joint ventures.

Litigators who may be called "international lawyers" tend to litigate in U.S. courts, but they may represent foreign parties or handle cases that involve some aspect of foreign law. These lawyers tend to be well-versed in alternative dispute resolution methods, as many cross-border contracts have clauses mandating arbitration or mediation to settle disputes.

As we’ve become an increasingly global society, the breadth of private international law has grown, touching many legal practice areas. U.S. companies have customers and suppliers in foreign jurisdictions, and they sometimes license their technology to local business partners or seek to limit use of their intellectual property rights in these jurisdictions. Businesses and investment banks often rely on international capital markets for their financial needs, most recently including sovereign investment funds. Foreign companies also seek to offer securities to U.S. investors. International mergers and acquisitions have become more and more common, and the client of a U.S. lawyer may as likely be a foreign buyer as a domestic one.

International project finance has evolved into a practice discipline in its own right. This practice area involves large infrastructure projects in foreign countries, requiring not only an expertise in business and commercial law, but increasingly an understanding of energy law and climate change issues. (See ENVIRONMENTAL LAW.) U.S. attorneys working with international project finance often represent multiple foreign parties among the investors and developers, including quasi-commercial agencies of foreign governments. U.S. lawyers rely on their expertise in U.S. law and they rely on local lawyers admitted to practice in the local jurisdiction for advice on non-U.S. law.

Firms with significant international law practices tend to be located in international financial hubs, like New York, London, Tokyo, Beijing or Buenos Aires, or to a lesser extent, cities like Miami, Los Angeles or San Francisco, which focus on particular regions (i.e., Latin America and Asia). Some of these firms have departments that specialize in international trade, cross-border transactions, or international finance. Others specialize in international arbitration or regulatory/policy work.

International business lawyers also can be found in corporations with foreign subsidiaries or joint ventures, or in financial institutions, accounting or consulting firms with departments focusing on international business.

 
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