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Close-Up: Jeff Baglio

Global attorneys always on the go

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It's the day after Christmas, and Jeff Baglio is parked outside a local Starbucks for approximately three hours.

It's not that he can't decide between a café latte and a mocha Frappuccino. His thoughts, in fact, couldn't be further away.

Jeff Baglio, a partner in the San Diego office of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary

The San Diego partner for DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary is participating in a conference call from Norway as he helps broker his latest corporate acquisition.

"I turned my whole car into a home office," he said, noting it's equipped with files and a laptop. "That was a high, nine-figure deal that involved the acquisition of a Norwegian company, and I never left San Diego to do the deal.

"Luckily I have a great team and (the firm has) a significant office in Oslo. It resulted in me not having to travel to Norway."

Attorneys who practice internationally have to be ready at all times -- and in all locations -- because it's always business hours somewhere in the world.

Baglio, who focuses on mergers and acquisitions, admits that he commonly receives calls while he's in his car. He also has conference calls at all hours of the day, including 4 a.m.

The logistics of getting all interested parties on the phone together -- much less in the same room -- is one of the biggest challenges of practicing overseas.

"To get discussions going among parties in different time zones is always more of a challenge than if you're across the street," Baglio said. "The Internet certainly helps in pushing paper around, but when it comes time to get people on the telephone, which is always appropriate at some point in time, logistics is a challenge."

The timing of the conference calls and meetings are usually determined by who's affected the least. If a majority of the participants are located in Europe, then the U.S. partners can expect to set their alarm clock.

Communication, in any instance, is key.

"You need to have a really good line of communication with the client and with the folks locally that are assisting you," Baglio said.

Having colleagues stationed overseas, ones who are well versed in the laws and customs of other countries, is extremely helpful for a U.S. attorney with a global practice.

Baglio, who began his legal career with the San Diego firm Gray Cary in 1994, didn't always have the resources he now enjoys.

Gray Cary, without an international office, would work with correspondent firms when handling international cases or transactions. It was helpful, but not ideal. Then, in January 2005, DLA Piper Rudnick merged with Gray Cary, bringing all of its international offices with it.

"There is a difference when the person on the other end of the phone is a partner with the same firm," Baglio said. "They have the same guidelines, same expectations and a lot of time there's a higher level of motivation and service than when you're using a correspondent firm.

"As businesses go global earlier in their life cycle than they did five, 10 years ago, it's more important and a better service to our clients to have that kind of a worldwide reach."

Overseas partners can bridge the cultural gap for U.S. attorneys, who may not comprehend the business customs of other countries. This helps ensure a smooth transaction.

"The key is understanding where the other side is coming from, both from the business and cultural points of view," Baglio said. "Understanding where they're coming from helps both sides come to a common ground at an earlier time.

"Having a global firm with offices all around the world ... it's been phenomenal. We've now got people on the ground in most jurisdictions."

Baglio typically confers with a DLA Piper partner stationed overseas to review the particular issues that might be important to a foreign client. Sometimes, Baglio said, there are fewer differences than one might imagine.

Knowledge of another language can also be helpful for attorneys practicing across borders. It's another area where an overseas colleague, fluent in that country's language, can come in handy.

Even when a foreign client knows English, he or she may not be completely fluent, Baglio said. This could result in a slight, albeit key, misunderstanding, so Baglio makes sure he has a colleague speak in his client's native language.

Another obstacle for U.S. attorneys practicing abroad is the large amount of international laws, which can be quite different from the United State's.

According to Baglio, when dealing with the legal intricacies of another country, it's important to tap the resources of a local practitioner.

"That's where you need to have that local person who knows exactly about the legal framework," he said. "You'll find issues that you missed or that you did not think were appropriate."

Baglio said the biggest differences between U.S. and international law include employee benefits and unions, which are much more pervasive overseas.

With the improvements in technology during the last decade, Baglio hasn't had to travel much lately. Fortunately for the family man, he's only had to take one overseas trip a year for business.

"Communications are more readily available," Baglio said. "It's easier to communicate and work across time zones. And the quality of overseas communications compared to a couple of years ago (has improved)."

Baglio works with U.S. companies either being acquired by foreign corporations or buying foreign corporations. He works with life sciences and biotech companies, along with telecommunications companies.

One of Baglio's main clients for international transactions is Carlsbad-based Invitrogen Corp. (Nasdaq: IVGN). He also does work for Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM). Baglio estimates he's completed five cross-border deals in the past 12 to 18 months.

When he's not dialing long distance, Baglio focuses on corporate securities offerings and finance, mostly venture capital work. He conducts general corporate counseling, which can include corporate governance, as well.

Fortunately, he can use his office for those jobs.

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