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Why Small Businesses Should Consider Export Legal Counseling
December 01, 2016 Tatiana Bertolo, Office of Small Business
Tagged: Exporting Tips
Consulting subject matter experts when planning a business activity usually results in the transaction being more successful, efficient, executed properly, and ultimately, more profitable because problems are avoided before they blind-side a small business. These businesses often don’t realize that receiving export legal counseling early on in the business cycle for an international transaction is an overall cost-saver. The Export Legal Assistance  Network (ELAN) was created to help small businesses prepare ahead of time. The ELAN program is a cooperative program among the Federal Bar Association, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U. S. Department of Commerce.

ELAN has presence in over 70 cities across the U.S. and more than 250 attorneys from private law firms who volunteer their time to help small companies avoid any legal situations before they export. The initial legal consultation is free of charge for small companies. Typically, consultations run about an hour long and there is no obligation to continue working with an ELAN lawyer after the initial meeting. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the ELAN program.

To get more specific information about the ELAN program, EXIM interviewed Akana K.J. Ma, Partner and Chair of the Global Trade Group at ATER WYNEE LLP in Portland, Oregon. Akana is an ELAN Representative for Oregon and SW Washington. Here’s what Akana had to say:

  1. What are some common legal problems that exporters face today?

“Small business exporters have many questions, that often vary depending upon their type of business or products and services, but some issues tend to be common for all, such as:

  • what type of corporate entity should their business take
  • what legal and business terms are essential for contracts with sales agents and distributors
  • how important is it to protect trademarks and other IP in international markets
  • how should the product(s) or performance warranties be articulated
  • what payment terms are best for my business to assure the exporter gets paid?

As an international business attorney who speaks on trade compliance at local conferences, I also receive many specific requests for help with import classification and export controls compliance for products and services.”

  1. What kind of information should exporters bring to the initial consultation?

“Most importantly, exporters need to determine what their ultimate goal for the proposed transaction with a foreign party will be. That goal will vary depending upon the parties involved, the type of business, the goods or services in question, and other external factors and conditions.  However, for any international business attorney to provide appropriate advice, he or she needs to know what the client wants to achieve, what resources does it have to achieve them, and what leverage does the client have in the negotiation with the other party.  Besides the client’s goal, the attorney needs to know the client’s short-term and long-term budget, prior business discussions between the parties, and a copy of all correspondence between them. They also need to have sufficient information about the client’s business operations, products and services that are involved in the international transaction.”

  1. What are the biggest benefits you see small businesses experience when they use ELAN?

“The ELAN program allows small businesses an opportunity to consult an international business attorney for free and without obligation.  Often small businesses don’t yet understand the full range of international transactional and regulatory issues that may impact their business, and this is access to a resource they might not otherwise seek. ”

Learn How EXIM Bank Can Support Your International Transactions

EXIM can help your small business reduce the risk of nonpayment from a foreign buyer with its export credit insurance. It will help mitigate risk and possibly avoid a large loss for a business that relies on cash flow coming in. To learn more about what EXIM offers, request a consultation here to speak to your local EXIM Bank rep. 

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