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About 70 leaders of some of the world’s most influential law firms gathered in Charlotte last week for a three-day meeting hosted by the Robinson Bradshaw law firm.

Interlaw promotes relations between member law firms from across the world, including 14 in the U.S., according to the group’s website. The association’s chairman, Michael Siebold, cited his Frankfurt, Germany-based firm’s ties with Robinson Bradshaw, helping him better service his clients with investments in the U.S. Both Arnecke Sibeth and the Charlotte firm have about 130 lawyers.

“We couldn’t function without a network of trusted friends,” says Siebold, whose work is about 90% international-oriented, including an emphasis on stadium and sports law. He had visited Charlotte on business twice before, working with German-owned companies in the region and building a friendship with Robinson Bradshaw partner Tom Gates.

While Donald Trump’s condemnation of trade agreements is raising international concern, Siebold emphasized the benefits of pacts that promote more interactions between nations. “This region has understood the importance of embracing immigrants and integrating them quickly by teaching them the language and how to become part of society,” he said.

The Charlotte meeting included comments on the city’s rebound from the 2007-09 recession by Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, Mecklenburg County Commission Chair Trevor Fuller, County Manager Dena Diorio and Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan. Each noted that the city had rebounded more quickly than expected, given the problems facing dominant employers Bank of America Corp. and now-defunct Wachovia Corp. in 2008. While panelists credited Wells Fargo for buying Wachovia and expanding local employment from 20,000 to 23,000, none mentioned the taxpayer-backed bailout instituted during the banking industry’s darkest days. The U.S. Treasury bought $45 billion in Bank of America preferred shares, and $25 billion in Wells Fargo; both banks have since repurchased the shares.

While Charlotte’s unemployment rate has declined to about 5% from a recession-era peak of about 11%, public assistance rolls have increased from 150,000 to 200,000 residents over the past several years, Fuller noted.

“I was pleasantly surprised at how well Charlotte mastered the crisis, without painting an unrealistic picture,” Siebold said.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.
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