How former partner Neil Gerrard and other Dechert attorneys have addressed companies’ global legal needs
Of all the most complex legal situations that businesses find themselves, surely the most challenging are allegations of white-collar crime. According to Neil Gerrard in an interview with Lawdragon, now commonly “span continents … and involve dozens, if not hundreds of parallel and competing strands.”
When white-collar matters encompass multiple jurisdictions, they can pose particular challenges.
Regulations differ from country to country, for instance; the laws of one country may potentially contradict another. Confusion can arise over which jurisdiction’s laws apply and where disputes will be resolved. Data use–related regulations can affect how information is processed in the e-discovery phase of legal proceedings.
As a result, attorneys working on multijurisdiction cases need to have an intricate understanding of the laws in each country that’s involved in the case and be able to effectively work with a number of regulatory bodies and other stakeholders.
In matters that extend across more than one jurisdiction, the related investigations and other aspects of the case can include multiple parties — setting the scene for competing interests and further complexity.
Regulators and authorities from various countries might not be perfectly aligned in regard to the charges, how information is shared, or other procedural steps. With each group focused on its individual interests, communication can become disjointed.
Establishing a system to facilitate collaboration is key — an approach that Dechert’s white-collar practice group, headed at the time by former partner Neil Gerrard, took when working on a four-year case involving European aerospace leader Airbus SE, the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), France’s Parquet National Financier (PNF), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Department of State (DOS).
Dechert coordinated work activities among a number of parties during the case, including attorneys from three other law firms, external export control practitioners, e-discovery consultants, and forensic accountants.
In addition to Neil Gerrard, other firm members in London and the U.S. led Dechert’s team, including U.S.-based partner Ben Barnett, who helped institute a global disclosure strategy that included a unified, technology-assisted review model, which, while factoring in elements such as national security laws, different languages, and data protection procedures, accelerated the submission of documents to the authorities.
A $4 million settlement was reached in the case in 2020; later that year, Dechert and the other participants were given Global Investigations Review’s Most Important Development of the Year award for their work on the unprecedented, multijurisdictional investigation. In a statement about winning the award, Neil Gerrard specifically mentioned the collective teamwork involved in the case.
“It has been an honour and privilege to work with such an impressive group of lawyers and other professionals from Airbus and their external advisory firms,” Neil Gerrard said. “Dechert is proud to have assisted Airbus to reach a conclusion to this matter.”
In recent years, numerous cases have featured a wider scope due to globalization — a trend that has been escalating in the business world for decades. International trade growth, which had essentially been flat for roughly 150 years, started to tick upward in the 1950s and then, between 1980 and 2010, increased by almost 35 times as much during a period of exponential growth, according to a European Centre for International Political Economy analysis.
As more businesses began operating with an expanded focus, not surprisingly, many found their legal needs had changed, which sometimes resulted in a mounting amount of work for in-house legal departments.
Staffing constraints are still an issue; 78% of in-house legal departments in companies located in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas say managing a higher workload with the same number of employees is one of their central challenges, according to KPMG’s 2021 Global Legal Department Benchmarking Survey.
Even if a legal department has enough employees on hand, being able to provide specialist expertise for all necessary practice areas internally can be difficult — it’s the reason why 29% of legal departments told KPMG they’d farmed work out in the past year to external law firms.
Outsourcing legal services isn’t an uncommon practice. Many of the in-house legal departments that participated in the survey reported working with multiple law firms during the past year. One in three (33%) utilized between 11 and 30 firms. Another 10% of legal departments hired between 31 and 60 law firms for work outside the company’s primary jurisdiction in 2021; 10% worked with up to 100 external firms, and an additional 8% utilized more than 100.
Certain types of work are outsourced more than others. Litigation, in particular, is a popular choice; a 2020 survey conducted by research provider Gartner found it comprises the largest percentage of in-house legal department external spending (39%).
While in-house legal departments tend to handle their organization’s general contract and corporate law work, just 6.2% take care of the company’s compliance law-related work, and 5.1% handle litigation and arbitration. Only 0.7% of in-house legal departments said they employ criminal law attorneys.
In-house departments, however, can’t just hire any law firm to help with their litigation or other legal work. Not all firms are alike; some attorneys may not have relevant experience in one of the fields that are needed, for instance, or could lack an adequate geographic scale, which is why it’s important to work with a law firm that employs a large number of attorneys internationally and has built strong relationships with qualified attorneys in areas where the firm doesn’t have an office.
Dechert, for instance, has a clearly defined system that its partners, including former partner Neil Gerrard, and other attorneys have utilized for years to ensure matters are properly staffed. At the start of an engagement, the lead partner selects the ideal team to best support the client, drawing from a pool of experienced professionals who work for the firm in New York, Washington, D.C., London, Paris, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
In his interview with Lawdragon, Neil Gerrard noted how important it is for global companies to ensure they understand local practices by conducting thorough risk reviews in foreign markets they operate in and bringing their legal team into the process.
“Businesses need to be on the front foot with compliance, obtaining preemptive legal advice as early as possible from lawyers who are real specialists,” Neil Gerrard said. “Your lawyers need to be specialists in the U.S. and your home country, plus have the international reach to assist you elsewhere in the world when necessary.”
Dechert’s structure is centered around that principle. With geopolitical uncertainty, a constantly changing regulatory environment, and other factors affecting how companies conduct business today, the firm’s global platform includes 22 locations that help corporations, financial institutions, sovereign states, and high-net-worth individuals, and its other clients address legal concerns around the world.
Employing some of the leading attorneys in the domestic and cross-border matter fields, the firm, which is frequently retained to work on challenging transactions and disputes, was ranked as a National Tier 1 white-collar criminal defense firm in the latest U.S. News & World Report list of Best Law Firms. Dechert also earned a spot on three of the publication’s other lists, where it was named one of the best law firms for commercial litigation, antitrust, and corporate law.
In recent months, Dechert has continued to add to its international resources. At the end of 2021, the firm named 31 new partners, who are located in Munich, New York, and other cities — an indication, according to Dechert Policy Committee Chair Andy Levander, of the firm’s ever-increasing global scope, which is a necessity in the modern legal landscape.
“Over the years, Dechert has grown in size, and the needs of our clients have grown in complexity,” Levander said. “From data privacy and cryptocurrency to cutting-edge cross-border transactions to complex financial instruments and game-changing litigation, our clients are facing an unprecedented range of new issues. It takes a diverse, deeply talented, and highly specialized global team to help our clients navigate these and other unique challenges.”