Archive for March, 2007

Ask Janet: UK Law Grad Aspiring to Work in US

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

Inquiry from Ajay:

Hi Janet. I am a US citizen who have just completed my legal studies in the UK namely with LLB and the BVC and I am thinking of doing the New york bar. In terms of gaining admission to do the NY bar exam Ii think that won’t be problem, however, I’d like to know the employment prospects after completing the bar exam. Whether it would be easier for me to come to New york and pursue my career there or contact US law firms already in the UK and remain here and later get transferred.I look forward to hearing from you. Ajay

Response from Janet H. Moore: Ajay:Nice to hear from you. I am glad to hear that you are considering taking the NY Bar because being licensed to practice in the US will certainly enhance your employment prospects here.  Networking will be your key to success. I would encourage you to take a multi-faceted approach to finding a job in the US. This will increase the chance that you will find a position here, and perhaps be lucky enough to choose among several good options. You should consider networking with contacts in:1. The UK, looking for positions with firms that have US branches or home offices, as you alluded to.2. The US, using all connections possible–alumni contacts and other professional resources–to gain an entree, and paying your own way to NY for a few weeks and networking on site (with lots of advance interviews set up, if possible).3. In addition, to the extent that you have close personal and professional connections in another country, also ask them whether they in turn, have connections within US law firms.You inquired about working in the UK for a US firm and then transferring to the latter. As you can imagine, one disadvantage of this approach is that there is no guaranty that you would be the lawyer chosen to relocate to the US. Moving lawyers to other offices abroad is an expensive proposition.From my observation, only the cream of the crop with a given firm is invited to move abroad; further, any lawyer so chosen must have a special skill, client contact or other quality to make him or her one selected for a stint abroad. Internal firm politics also influence who is chosen to move.If you join such a US-based firm’s UK office, you very well may be the one that your firm selects to move back to the US. However, that’s a bit hard to predict in advance. So, if your heart is set on working in the US, I would encourage you to put a lot of effort into getting a position there to start with rather than counting on being transferred later from the UK. It will take a lot of persistence, but the stronger your networking, the better chance you have.

If you join such a US-based firm’s UK office, you very well may be the one that your firm selects to move back to the US. However, that’s a bit hard to predict in advance. So, if your heart is set on working in the US, I would encourage you to put a lot of effort into getting a position there to start with rather than counting on being transferred later from the UK. It will take a lot of persistence, but the stronger your networking, the better chance you have.If you do end up working for a firm in the UK, do try to work on as many client matters as possible that involve US business. The more experience you can gain with US legal matters, and the more US legal contacts you can make, the better.

Best of luck!

Janet

American Society of International Law Annual Meeting March 28-31

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Over one thousand international law practitioners are planning to gather next week for the American Society of International Law’s 101st annual meeting in Washington, DC from March 28-31.  Tiitled “The Future of International Law”, the conference offers programming in many areas including private international law, international legal theory, international humanitarian law and the like. 

Freshfields Associates Request More Training and Client Development Information

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

As reported in today’s TheLawyer.com, the London-based associates at Freshfields have published a wish list of topics they want to learn more about during an upcoming associate conference:  “work-life balance, reward packages, appraisals, career path, training, knowledge management and business development.” 

And the partners are listening. Partner High Crisp was quoted as saying that the firm wants “a happy, motivated group of lawyers”. According to Crisp,the firm is mindful  about reducing attrition (which is supposedly already quite low at Freshfields), but recognizes that good partner-associate communication is “also about how the place feels.

As the associates’ wish list shows, lawyers of all levels are hungering for the same things including: more training on business development and other “soft skills”–and work-life balance.  It’s not just true in the US, but also across the Pond.

Client Communication in a Global World–Tips for US Lawyers Communicating with Foreign Clients

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

For tips on communicating with clients from different cultures, you may enjoy reading my latest article:  Client Communication in a Global World. It was just published in the Spring 2007 publication of the College of the State Bar of Texas.

Laughing Lawyers Lubricate Touchy Client Communication

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

There’s nothing worse than strained chit chat with a stone-faced potential client. So, what’s a good way to break the ice? Laughter.

Today’s New York Times sheds some light on this ill understood social phenomenon in What’s So Funny?  Well, Maybe Nothing.  As the article notes, laughter is “an instinctual survival tool for social animals, not an intellectual response to wit. It’s not about getting the joke. It’s about getting along.”

So, lawyers (especially the most serious ones) should certainly attempt to laugh (or at least smile) at their clients’ jokes–no matter how poor. Lawyers can also try to break tense client communication with some laughter because, as the article notes, “mainly it’s a subtle social lubricant.”

Lawyers working on cross-cultural matters should pay close attention to cultural differences in humor.  What’s funny in one country doesn’t always translate abroad.

If you don’t know what constitutes humor in a particular foreign culture, try to gather some data in advance.  Read books like those in the Culture Shock series or Roger Axtell’s Do’s and Taboos of Humor Around the World:  Stories and Tips from Business and Life and Gestures. Speak to  consular representatives from that country, or US State Department personnel assigned to the relevant country desk, and ask about culturally appropriate humor. Foreign language professors and businessmen with experience in the relevant country can also shed light on the topic.

 If you find yourself in the middle of a client conversation without time for advance research, pay attention to any humor introduced by the client.  Gauge what constitutes acceptable humor and, more important, what does no. And if you make a cultural gaffe as I did (see Oops–You Forgot to Say Buenos Dias), apologize, if necessary, make a self-depricating joke about your cultural slight, and above all, learn from your mistake.

For more on this topic, refer to my prior post Address Touchy Subjects with Humor–but Carefully.