By GREGORY ZELLER // By popular demand, business law firm SilvermanAcampora has launched a new practice group to help clients navigate the choppy waters of government compliance.
The Jericho firm’s new Government Contracts & Compliance Group will help businesses – particularly those in the aerospace and defense markets – realize the lucrative potential of supplying goods and services to local, federal, state and even foreign governments, while meeting their often-tricky requirements.
The new group is managed by veteran attorney James Black II, recently named of counsel to SilvermanAcampora. Black “certainly has the credentials,” according to partner-in-charge Anthony Acampora, including eight years of corporate compliance and international-trade representation for Grumman and another eight doing the same for Computer Associates.
Black will keep his current position as house counsel at Overseas Military Sales Corp., a Woodbury firm that sells automobiles to U.S. military personnel stationed around the globe. This week, he was also named a corporate compliance professor at Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Dean School of Law.
“Jim has lobbied in front of Congress,” Acampora said. “He’s dealt with the Department of Justice on violations and gotten fines reduced. He’s done just about everything you can do in this area. It’s difficult to get somebody with his experience.”
One of the things his experience has taught him, Black noted, is that the touchier areas of international law are not niches to be taken lightly. All U.S. exports are regulated by either the Department of Commerce or a combination of the departments of State and Defense, and knowing which departments to deal with – and how to satisfy their demands – is critical.
For instance, anything that can be considered a “munition” is governed by International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which are overseen by State and Defense, and determining what qualifies as a “munition” isn’t as easy as you might think, according to Black.
Take a company selling hoses for in-flight aircraft refueling. Most people would consider a hose a benign piece of equipment, he noted, but the State Department would label it a “dual-use product” with both commercial and military applications, and would therefore need to license it.
“The rules and regulations are complex,” Black said. “The last thing you want to do is export something that’s governed by ITAR without the proper permission.”
It was actually SilvermanAcampora’s clients who convinced the firm to form the new practice group, Acampora noted, particularly “a number of aerospace and defense clients.”
“They kept asking the same questions,” he said. “‘Do you guys do import-export representation? Do you do ITAR compliance?’ And we had to keep saying ‘no,’ because that’s very specialized stuff.”
That forced many SilvermanAcampora clients to seek the services of other attorneys, particularly lawyers at Washington-area firms with particular knowledge of ITAR and other import-export protocols. But the clients kept telling the Jericho firm “it would be great if you guys would do this,” Acampora added.
“We have experience helping these clients with real estate, infrastructure, corporate compliance and personnel,” he said. “Now we can give them industry-specific representation as well.”
While it’s difficult to predict which of the specific focuses will prove busiest for the new group, the smart money is on government contracting, including services related to contract bidding, government-award qualifications and other intricate issues and associated risks.
“More manufacturers on Long Island and elsewhere are looking to the government as a customer,” Acampora noted. “I would think the government-contracts piece might by the busiest, though more and more companies are looking to go to overseas markets, so I think we’ll see an uptick there also.”
For his part, Black sees busier days ahead in the import/export realm, citing a “time of flux” in which the State and Commerce departments are redrafting regulations and moving certain classifications from one purview to the other, “depending on the exact technology and potential uses.”
“Now that one’s on this list, and you can’t sell this one here, and you have to go to Commerce for that or get new approvals from State,” Black said.
The changing regulations are certain to keep international trade-compliance experts busy, he added, another reason why SilvermanAcampora was wise to establish its practice group now.
“You want to have the right piece of paper if you ship a certain type of equipment or software to a certain place,” Black noted. “You don’t want to guess. It’s well worth the time and effort to get the right answer.”
As for marketing the new practice group, Acampora stressed that “we’ve never been the ‘Dial 1-888’ law firm,” bringing instead “a very personal approach” to promoting SilvermanAcampora’s legal chops. That will prove especially true with the group, since clients in need of international-trade expertise aren’t usually swayed by catchy TV jingles.
“They’re not looking to find their ITAR or government-contract experts on the Internet,” he said. “Because of the complexity of this stuff, they want somebody who’s been referred by someone else. It’s really going to be word-of-mouth about the great job we’re doing.”
That’s not to say, however, that Black is above calling up a few old friends.
“There a lot of companies out there related to Grumman or dating back to when were all at Grumman together,” the group leader noted. “We’ll definitely be reaching out to some of the folks I used to work with, just to let them know we have this new presence.”
And while manufacturing – including “additive manufacturing,” Acampora noted, an increasingly prominent form of 3D printing – is alive and well on Long Island, the Jericho firm’s new practice group won’t limit its potential client base to Nassau and Suffolk.
“You don’t have to be admitted in a particular state to represent a client there in front of State or Commerce,” Black said. “This is a federal practice. We’ll find clients both on Long Island and from elsewhere, but there’s definitely a need for a local lawyer to do this kind of stuff.”