Our international client base is continuing to expand with some ten per cent of our business now generated by overseas work. We’ve recently renewed links with firms in Italy and the Netherlands, as well as acting for clients in Portugal.
Working with or on behalf of clients overseas means getting to grips with different systems and processes, both legal and financial.
In Holland, for example, the timescales for collecting money owed in that country compared with the UK tend to be longer than in the UK.
The same is true in Italy where the process can be very drawn out – businesses still close for lunch in some places, which is enviable in one way but can shorten office hours considerably.
The amount and type of credit information available also varies from country to country.
Whatever the country and legislative framework we’re working to, we always strive to avoid court action, as we do for our UK clients. It’s costly and time-consuming and, pragmatically, we may have more success in retrieving payments owed by continuing to talk to all parties.
Recently, we had a case in which our client was owed tens of thousands of Euros by a client in Italy with whom he was still doing business.
Forcing the Italian company into bankruptcy would have tied up both parties in court for some time so we negotiated a practical solution in which the company pays our client a regular sum every month to reduce the debt and pays for any new business on a pro forma basis.
Mediation is generally the best way to go, if it’s viable.
As Brexit looms, we’re expecting more of our business to come from clients who trade overseas and need help finding their way through a complex, slow-moving set of rules and regulations which, after the UK leaves the European Union, are likely to become more layered, at least temporarily.
As with everything in business law and finance, specific sector expertise is crucial and if we don’t have the knowledge at our fingertips, we have a growing network of specialists who do.