‘Big stick’ ideology may give the needed leverage in overseas business relationships

As Maine companies seek to move business beyond their own shore, local law practices are guiding the way, vetting potential partners, assuring local and international laws and treaties are met, protecting intellectual property and handling disputes.

Fewer than a dozen Maine attorneys have international law as their primary practice, but dozens more are involved — ever more frequently — in real estate, commercial sales, trademark protection, taxes, contracts and other aspects of doing business overseas. While there may not be enough business yet for law firms to expand their ranks of full-time international lawyers, global market expertise is making its way into more law specialties and giving lawyers with that experience a leg up.

“International trade is a vital part of Maine’s history from colonial times,” says John Gulliver, senior partner at Pierce Atwood in Portland and head of the firm’s international group. “We were founded on the backbone of international trade.” He points to timber and textiles as early exports to Europe.

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