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Contact Chris

3400 U.S. Bancorp Tower
111 S.W. Fifth Avenue
Portland, OR 97204
T: 503.205.2464
M: 971.409.4766

Chris Helmer


Chris Helmer does primarily international and maritime work, both litigation/arbitration and transactional. Her 30+ years of litigation and arbitration experience puts her in a unique position to assist clients in contract drafting and assessing contractual risks. And that dispute resolution experience includes regular handling of the issues particular to cross-border and admiralty disputes that not every practitioner is accustomed to dealing with—service abroad, obtaining evidence abroad, jurisdiction over foreign parties for claims arising in faraway countries, vessel arrests and attachments, Customs, FCPA and export sanctions issues, and enforcement of international arbitration awards and foreign judgments. If a business plan or problem has a foreign component, Chris has likely dealt with it.

Industries Chris works with include natural resources, agriculture, food and beverage, technology, shipping, marine terminals, and manufacturing. She has done hundreds of simple to complex contracts dealing with licensing and product sales, agency and distribution, vessel construction, charter parties, foreign joint ventures, letters of credit, and cross-border financing. Her litigation/arbitration experience includes not only U.S.-based disputes but management of foreign litigation and handling arbitrations before the recognized international arbitral institutions—ICC, SIAC, ICDR (AAA), LCA, and others.

Chris’s service as temporary in-house counsel to an international financing subsidiary of Daimler Benz and her work with myriad business people give her a good understanding of what clients really need and want. She keeps up with a network of experienced foreign counsel through her work as an officer of the International Bar Association’s Litigation Committee and teaches international law classes and admiralty law as an adjunct professor for Lewis & Clark Law School. Chris is regularly listed in Oregon Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America in the categories of international, business litigation, and admiralty. She was recognized as the "Lawyer of the Year - USA" in Admiralty and Maritime by Lawyer Monthly Legal Awards 2018.

Representative Experience

After five years before the state of Washington federal district court and two trips to the 9th Circuit, successfully obtained an order of civil contempt after trial, a $2,550,000 (public) contempt settlement, and a Permanent Injunction for Japanese clients based on several international maritime treaties in order to ensure safety at sea as a result of defendants' annual "direct action" campaigns in the Antarctic Southern Ocean against Japanese fleet. 9th Circuit decisions reported at 774 F.3d 935, 588 Fed.Appx. 701, 702 F.3d 573, 725 F.3d 940, and 708 F.3d 1099. Institute of Cetacean Research and Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd. vs. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Paul Watson, United States District Court, Western District of Washington at Seattle, Case No. C11-2043JLR, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, No. 12-35266.
Successful defense of federal court action to recognize and enforce arbitral award rendered by a provincial Chinese arbitration institution. Foreign arbitration awards are enforceable in the United States under the New York Convention and their enforceability is difficult to challenge. Defended on the basis of lack of due process because all communications from the arbitral proceeding were in Mandarin, a language that the client did not know. This was a very significant decision nationally and internationally.
Current international arbitration before the Singapore International Arbitration Centre involving significant claims arising out of failed manufacturing joint venture in India.
Drafted hundreds of international sales contracts, standard form international terms and conditions, product distribution or "channel" agreements, custom foreign manufacturing agreements, foreign country agency agreements, "ex-pat" employee agreements, and foreign-invested joint venture agreements for variety of industries including technology, wood products, heavy equipment, solar energy, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, food products and pet food, alcoholic beverages, and agricultural products.
Investigated and prepared for privately-held agricultural industry leader eleven simultaneous Prior Disclosures to Commissioner of Customs covering approximately 27,000 import entries at 33 ports valued at over $800 million.