Archive for January, 2007

Helpful List of Non-US Law Blogs

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

One of the best client-focused blogs around is Dan Hull’s What About the Clients?  In keeping with his blog’s motto (True service–are we lawyers delivering?), Dan blogs about improving service to clients, among other topics.

Dan is an active litigator and lobbyist who represents large corporate clients throughout the US, Europe and Latin America. He also stays active in a number of international law organizations including the International Bar Association and the  Center for International Legal Studies.

Check out a recent post highlighting some of his favorite non-US law blogs.

Ask Janet: Choosing Between US and European Firm

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Question from Joshua: I wanted to inquire as to whether you could answer some concerns I may have in taking an international legal position. I am currently in my final year of law school. I have received an offer to practice law at a major international law firm in the US, as well as at the German arm of a major international law firm in Munich. In Germany, I would be on a German track, i.e. German pay scale. I was told that foreigners have difficulty making partner in Germany, and that the firm, should I want to be a partner, would expect me to move back after 4-5 years to be on a US partnership track. I do not necessarily know at this stage whether I want to be a partner or not.

My concerns are twofold – First, if there is any slowdown in work, is an American lawyer more likely to be fired and second, will I have difficulty either in returning to the US as a mid-level associate or in the event of a downturn that results in the position no longer being open.

Any thoughts you may have would be helpful. I think that the safe route would be to take the US opportunity and then go abroad after a few years; but I also think the Germany option presents a great opportunity to start a career in Europe.  


Response from Janet:  Nowadays, very few lawyers stay in any one job for a long time. Even those who make partner often transition to other law firms.  Thus, you might view your next career choice as a good stepping stone for the future; perhaps you will remain at this same firm for the rest of your career after making partner, but more likely not.

You might weigh the two opportunities to determine which will provide you the best training and experience early in your career.  You can’t go wrong with a major international law firm, whether it is located in the US or abroad.  You are lucky to have both choices. 

You might create a chart to help you evaluate the pros and cons of each.  Do you have a sense for the kind of work and the amount of responsibility you would have at each place?  Do you know how associates are treated and valued?  Do you know any of the partners with whom you would be working, and if so, do you like and respect them?  What is the culture like at each firm?  What kind of training and professional development programs do they offer associates?  What are the billable hour requirements? If you don’t have a sense for the answers to these questions, see whether you can chat with some current associates off the record, or search the Internet for entries on some of the law firm associate internet chat forums.

 I would be less concerned about potentially being laid off as a US lawyer in a European firm.  It’s impossible to predict that outcome, and I wouldn’t base my career decision on that, if I were you.  Further, in case of layoffs, being an American might actually work to your advantage; because you would offer unique expertise as a US trained lawyer, you might be the last to be laid off!

Rather, I would make sure that you choose a firm in which you will be happy working, at least initially, because you are bound to be working long hours at either.  Second, I’d focus on the training that you will get, making sure that you will be working from the beginning in the kind of practice area you desire.  You don’t want to find yourself stuck in an unappealing or uninteresting practice group.  Once a lawyer has practiced for several years in one area, it’s sometimes challenging to switch. Good luck!

Book Review: Trade Remedies for Global Companies

Friday, January 26th, 2007

I asked Tim Brightbill, an international trade law expert and one of the authors of Trade Remedies for Global Companies, who should read this book and why.  As Tim explained,  “In an age of global competition, expanding trade, and global sourcing of goods and services, companies need a better understanding of the trade remedy laws.  For U.S. companies that are being injured or threatened by unfairly traded imports from China and elsewhere, the trade remedy laws are one of the only tools available.”

How true. This book should be an invaluable resource to corporate counsel and other lawyers who need to grasp trade law fundamentals.

The book starts with an overview of trade remedy law, giving guidance on when a trade remedy action would be advisable or appropriate. A chapter on antidumping and counterveiling duties not only explains those concepts, but also includes sample petitions; these forms give readers an idea of the information required to start the claims process, and the format that a petition needs to take. Subsequently, the book discusses the flip side:  how companies can defend against foreign antidumping and counterveiling duty cases, specifically those in Brazil, Canada, China, the EC, India and Mexico.

The book also delves into WTO panels (and includes a helpful WTO settlement timeline), among other topics. Because the International Law Section of the ABA just released this book, its information is timely and current.

In an increasingly flat world, every sophisticated lawyer who helps global companies needs to understand world trade fundamentals–and, in particular, what to do if things go wrong. This user-friendly book provides great guidance.

Why International Lawyers Should Never Eat Alone

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Master networker and connector Keith Ferrazzi has written an idea-laden book called Never Eat Alone:  And Other Secrets of Success, One Relationship at a Time.  To paraphrase Ferrazzi’s definition, networking is really just connecting: sharing knowledge and resources, time and energy, friends and associates, and empathy and compassion in a continual effort to provide value to others [emphasis added], while coincidentally increasing value to self.

Ferrazzi makes all of this relationship building sound very simple–albeit a bit overwhelming unless you have boundless energy.  (Even a big extravert like me was a tad daunted.) However, the book shares many good ideas about making meaningful connections with people in a short amount of time, and staying in touch thereafter.

Which gets me to the title of this post:  why international lawyers should never eat alone.  As Ferrazzi explains time and time again, meaningful connections can be made in short amounts of time, but these connections must be maintained, not forgotten. Further, every opportunity for in person contact is invaluable and should be used fully.  Because international lawyers are often geographically distant from their clients (and potential clients), the international lawyer should make every second in the presence of a client count. 

So, when abroad, never eat alone.  (According to Ferrazzi, never exercise alone, either.)  This may be a lawyer’s rare opportunity for powerful face to face contact with a usually distant client.  It will be easier for an international attorney to stay connected to a client across the miles once close bonds have been forged in person. And, as we know, many other cultures make a close relationships a prerequisites to doing business together.

US Public Service Academy Would Teach Leadership, Service and Global Understanding

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Colin Powell said, “Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved.  Only by attracting the best people will you  accomplish great deeds.” 

Now two young professionals and former Teach for America teachers, Shawn Raymond and Chris Myers Asch,  have launched a new project:  creating a national public service academy for civilians known as the US Public Service Academy.  As conceived, the USPSA would give its undergraduate students four years of liberal arts college education tuition free.  The students would repay this with five years of public service thereafter working for local, state or national public institutions.  Because so many baby boomers are set to retire, America desperately needs more skilled and trained leaders who are dedicated to and knowledgeable about public service. 

Just as with the military academies, two students would be selected annually from each State. These students would pursue traditional liberal arts BS or BA degrees, but also receive training in public service and leadership.

As international lawyers know, a global perspective is increasingly imperative for success in life. To bolster students’ broader understanding of our world, the school would require one semester of study abroad and  proficiency in a foreign language, and bring foreign students to the campus to study.  Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital (slated for closure) has been suggested as an ideal Washington-based campus. There is currently a bill (with bi-partisan support) pending before Congress, sponsored by Arlan Specter (R-PA) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY), among others, and the USPSA has launched a letter writing campaign to attract more congressional support.  Why not join the movement?