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As politicians turn up the heat on offshoring, lawyers are getting ready to do damage control for corporate clients who have engaged in the controversial business strategy. “This is a real issue,” says Sturgis Sobin, head of the international department at Miller & Chevalier in Washington, D.C. Sobin adds that he’s telling clients, “You need to be a part of the debate.” Offshoring � the practice of transferring American jobs to lower-paid workers in other countries � has become a favorite target for John Kerry. The expected Democratic presidential nominee has referred to companies that send jobs overseas as “Benedict Arnolds.” And in March, Kerry unveiled a corporate tax plan designed to encourage U.S. companies from exporting work abroad. The practice has also drawn the attention of Congress and state legislatures, which are considering several bills that would limit companies’ abilities to obtain federal and state contracts if they continue offshoring to such locations as India and China. Still, Sobin isn’t pushing the panic button for his clients yet. “We’re still at a point where it’s relatively early in the game,” he says. But some business groups, such as the Electronic Industry Alliance, are already working on a defense. According to Miller & Chevalier partner Greg Mastel, EIA (which represents companies in the telecom and electronics industries) is planning conferences to draft alternatives to a ban on offshoring. Mastel adds that the group is looking for ways to expand benefits and training for displaced American workers, particularly those in the technology sector. James Alberg at Shaw Pittman acknowledges that “clients recognize [offshoring] is a political issue right now.” Few law firms have touted their ability to help clients transfer jobs more than Washington, D.C.-based Shaw Pittman. Its outsourcing practice group has advised on roughly 450 transactions over the past 16 years, worth an estimated $350 billion, says Alberg. Despite the current tempest, Alberg says his firm isn’t worried. That’s because most of Shaw Pittman’s outsourcing work takes place within the United States, and only about 10 percent involves offshoring to other countries. Plus, Alberg explains that most of the firm’s offshoring clients � such as financial institutions � are unlikely to be affected by the proposed legislation because they rarely, if ever, seek government contracts.

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