Clark Opdahl’s early career was in advertising. With a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota, he spent his early years after graduation working with his dad in an advertising business whose clients included National Car Rental and 3M.

But the lure of law drove Opdahl, 57, to William Mitchell College of Law where he studied at night while working for D.A. Opdahl & ­Associates during the day.

Today, Opdahl is managing director of the Minneapolis law firm Henson & Efron, where he oversees a law office of 55, including 34 ­attorneys.

Henson & Efron recently hosted a conference of 60 U.S. and international attorneys representing the Legal Netlink Alliance, an international cooperative of law firms in more than 40 countries that share legal services and clients.

Opdahl sat down last week with the Star ­Tribune and talked about the work of the ­organization.

 

Q: How did Henson & Efron get involved with the Legal Netlink Alliance?

A: In 1995, we were invited to join based upon a recommendation of a client who was a ­Netherlands-based attorney. We looked the organization over and I went to Chicago for a meeting of the group, and we joined and have been a member ever since. The organization was started by six or seven law firms in the Midwest who found it was a challenge to sometimes find good qualified attorneys in other jurisdictions. It started in the U.S. and a companion group started in Europe and the two merged about 10 years ago.

 

Q: What is the appeal of such an alliance?

A: The primary appeal is that we can ­identify firms in other jurisdictions that will take care of matters and treat our clients well. We also get some referral work but the driving force is having good quality firms that can help out clients. Our reputation is judged by the people we bring in to work on matters for our clients.

 

Q: How often do you refer cases out?

A: Maybe two to five times a year, and we also can call on other firms just for their expertise on a subject. We recently contacted an Iowa firm on a foreclosure issue in that state when we were trying to negotiate a workout ­procedure.

 

Q: Can you talk about the kinds of cases you’ve referred to other firms?

A: In the past year we had a client who wanted to hire a sales rep out of the United Kingdom with a contract covered by U.K. law. We reached out to a U.K. firm and got good advice on how to deal with a noncompete clause and other provisions. In another case, we contacted an Australian firm on behalf of a client to understand the cost of setting up an employee in Australia. We also referred a ­product liability matter to a firm in Montreal for a commercial dispute in Canada on behalf of a client.

 

Q: What is the reaction of clients to using this network?

A: This allows them to work with us to solve their legal needs as opposed to them contacting friends for leads or going on the Internet in search of firms to help them. It gives clients comfort to know they can contact us.

 

Q: How does this affect the bottom line of ­Henson & Efron?

A: It allows us to retain good clients and retain revenue because we can work with outside counsel. It also goes to the bottom line to the extent we get referrals from firms in other ­jurisdictions.

 

Q: How often do you get cases referred to you?

A: I’d say up to five times a year. We get cases where the fees range from a few hundred ­dollars to several hundreds of thousands of dollars. We were contacted to do litigation for a Michigan client and did a bankruptcy matter for a Nebraska client. We got a call a week ago from a lawyer from Los Angeles with a client who grew up in St. Paul who wanted to help her parents buy their home. Our estate planner was available to answer questions as she met with local bankers.

 

Q: Does the Legal Netlink Alliance give you a broader depth of knowledge on matters?

A: All the Netlink firms are very cooperative and willing to share information even without being engaged to provide legal services. It reflects well on us to be able to get good ­information in a timely manner.

 

Q: How do you ensure that the other Netlink firms can provide the same level of service that yours does?

A: There is a vetting process as we bring firms in. We closely review the qualifications of attorneys involved. We talk to people in the organization. We try to do appropriate due diligence. If there is any unhappiness with a firm, we will conduct an investigation and take appropriate action — either resolution of the matter or removal of the firm. It’s important that these relationships get cultivated correctly with a high degree of integrity and a high degree of quality of work.