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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Field Agents

I'd like to make a few remarks about this subject. I have been living abroad from my country nonstop since 2003, and this has resulted in an extraordinary range of professional experiences, most very satisfying and some extremely unusual. It has made me an extraordinary person, and my life and career may be very different from the experiences you have had. So please read on.

The PALADINS Organization might be regarded as a group of international specialists prepared to work all over the world. The first skills this gives you are extraordinary adaptability and resilience, because every situation is different and you have to be ready for anything. Consider three cities all of which I know; Caracas, Belgrade and Kyiv. All these cities are totally different from one another. In different ways, they are all rather dangerous. But the way you keep yourself safe in each of them is completely different.

Any lawyer working abroad with his client based back at home needs an extremely strong relationship of trust between lawyer and client, irrespective of who the client is or what the work involves. Usually a client will want a lawyer to travel abroad because he has a certain understanding of a situation, but something seems to be going wrong or there is some sort of crisis. The client may want the lawyer to try to obtain an independent point of view about what is going on. Because while a client has all their own sources of information, a person on the ground may acquire a very different perspective and may conclude that the information the client is receiving at home is misleading or confusing. So the first thing the client wants is a fresh perspective. They can then check that perspective for themselves and guide their lawyer in various possible directions.

However the relationship of trust must be very strong. The client must trust both the lawyer's impartiality (i.e. he is likely to tell the truth without being improperly influenced) and also his capacity for judgment decisions and collecting information. Because often the lawyer will find himself in situations where really he is on his own. He must make a decision immediately, and there is no time or even method of communicating with one's client. In some environments, much more taxing than Serbia, there may be no way of communicating with one's client at all until one is out of theatre. So you are literally living on your wits.

The flip side of this relationship of trust is that the lawyer trusts his client to help and support him in any way possible (or even impossible) if the lawyer cries out for help. And that is what it is like. The lawyer does not sit within the client's bureaucracy, answering to this person and not that person who take time to make decisions. When the lawyer, who stands outside the bureaucracy, calls out for help then the entire client bureaucracy comes together immediately to assist the lawyer who may be in distress or who may strongly recommend that something urgent occur.

The lawyer often has broad discretion to take his enquiries in whatever direction he may consider appropriate, because he is the trusted eyes and ears on the ground. It is no good asking 'is this a corporate lawyer'? He is anything his clients want him to be, given their particular concerns and priorities. Lawyer and client will engage in dialogue to reach common understandings of what the client wants the lawyer to do further. And then at some point, all of a sudden, the client may decide to whisk the lawyer away to work on a related or even quite different case.

The lawyer may leave behind a desk to continue watching as further events unfold, even though his formal legal mandate on this specific matter has come to an end. And in this way, the client retains a source of local knowledge even once the lawyer is formally employed elsewhere, so that should some new crisis emerge, there can be a redeployment of legal resources to the crisis spot without undue delay.

That is why lawyers often open offices with assistants and junior lawyers, and other talented people, all over the world. And this is what we call an international law firm.

We hope you now understand more about how international lawyers work. Lawyers do not spend their entire careers inside a bureaucracy. They are periodic firefighters, sometimes left fallow pending the next fire, sometimes urgently rushed from one fire to the next. Because they've seen so many fires, they tend not to be surprised by anything. An experienced lawyer has always seen it all before.

Law is a complicated profession that involves its own sort of training and experience. We are very grateful for the respect and understanding all our colleagues have for the international lawyer's distinctive way of working.


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