During the past 15 months Aitken Partners has been assisting one of our Melbourne-based clients in a dispute which has arisen out of an agreement governed by the laws of Washington State. With arbitration proceedings having been initiated in Seattle, Washington, we were searching for a local law firm that could assist our clients with their needs.
The MSI Global Alliance was an invaluable resource in this search, both for Aitken Partners and our clients. Through the MSI Global Alliance network, we were referred to Tom Peterson, Adam Asher and Eleanor Walstad of MSI’s Seattle law firm member, Socius Law Group. Selecting such competent attorneys who we could encourage our clients to rely on without knowledge of the local market would have been a huge challenge without the MSI network.
Many clients can be apprehensive about the litigation process because it seems so unfamiliar to them, and for practitioners it is just as daunting operating in a different jurisdiction which at times can feel so alien from our own. Our American cousins have done a wonderful job of both reassuring our clients about developments in the situation on the ground, while patiently educating us on the finer points of both Washington State and US Federal law and legal procedure.
For us as lawyers, it has meant learning about completely different processes such as depositions and motions for summary judgment while also discovering the nuances in otherwise familiar processes such as discovery. More than once, we have been asked whether we ‘wear wigs to Court in Australia’ while more than once we have found ourselves asking whether depositions are ‘truly like you see on television’. Having such capable attorneys as Adam and Eleanor to guide us through both the similarities and differences of our approaches has been a huge advantage.
While the time difference between Melbourne and Seattle has occasionally been gruelling, Adam and Eleanor have graciously made their after-hours contact details available to us so that we are able to contact them during the Australian working day with any questions our clients might have. This close collaboration between our firms has offered real and tangible benefits to both our clients and their case.
Members of our firm have now accompanied our clients on two trips to Seattle and at least one further trip is likely before this matter is resolved. Socius Law Group has shown incredibly generous hospitality both to us and our clients and have allowed us to treat their offices as home for the duration of our stays. This is a wonderful resource which would not normally be available to us or our clients. We have formed great friendships with our American co-counsel and as this case shows, consider the relationships established by the MSI network to be an example of some of its very best benefits for professionals and their clients alike.
And, in the spirit of collaboration, Adam and Eleanor’s contribution to this article follows:
“It has been a pleasure working with Andrew and Madeleine. They are excellent attorneys—providing top-quality work product and perceptive ideas on case development and strategy. They quickly picked up the differences between the Australian and U.S. legal systems and actively contributed to procedures, such as depositions, that do not exist in Australia. Even with the time difference between Melbourne and Seattle, they are consistently available by email and telephone and able to meet Pacific Coast Time deadlines. As the primary point of contact with the Australian clients, they have effectively managed the flow of information and communication. We highly recommend them.”