Archive for June, 2007

Working Abroad is Reminding Me to Be Patient

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

It’s one thing to go abroad on a business trip for a week or so, and quite another to work abroad for over a month. A prolonged but temporary stint abroad requires significant office capability–enough to get a lot accomplished, but not enough to merit a full scale office move.  So, what’s the answer?  Make your office as portable as you can, bringing along as much as possible with access to the rest, and then, be flexible.  Expect hiccups.

This summer I am spending a good deal of time working from Ireland and Holland. Thanks to the internet, Skype and laptops, most of my office capabilities are available–most, but not all.  Technological glitches have arisen, and my chosen tech support has not been quite as tech-savvy as promised. Any European (or other non-US) lawyer practicing in the US temporarily could easily encounter the same challenges; as a visitor, connecting with the requisite business resources takes time.  

Whenever I have spent time working abroad–whether in Rome or Rio–I have encountered office glitches.  Cultural and communication differences always compounded the problem. Whether the glitch proved major or minor, I always found a solution (albeit not always a timely one). However, the calmer I became, the easier it was to resolve the problem.     

And so, working abroad this summer reminds me of the traditional adage: patience is a virtue.  It is indeed.

The World May Not Be Totally Flat Yet but…

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Okay, Thomas Friedman concedes, the world may not be completely flat yet, but it is well on its way.  As most of you know, his thought provoking book titled The World is Flat discusses how technology is “flattening” the world, making us increasingly connected.  Harvard Business School professor Pankaj Ghemawat rebutted this argument last spring in Why the World Isn’t Flat, published by Foreign Policy.  Friedman replied, “Obviously, the world is not yet flat. But my larger point is that the “flattening” technologies and processes of globalization now under way are the most important developments not just in economics but also in government, politics, war, finance, journalism, innovation, and society in general.”  Should we add “law” to Friedman’s list?

 Turn to the current issue of Foreign Policy for the full story (subscription required).

Make Your National Heritage an Asset in International Rainmaking

Monday, June 25th, 2007

International lawyers of various nationalities email me for rainmaking tips.  Often they are working in countries other than their homelands, such as Indian attorneys practicing in the United States, German lawyers working in Argentina, or American attorneys practicing in Hong Kong.

Regardless of your national heritage, your background can be a real client development asset in that it gives you a unique perspective–and perhaps an advantage over–equally qualified attorneys with a different heritage. Your background must be a compliment to (but not subsitute for) stellar legal skills, and so showing a prospective client that you have the requisite legal acumen is key.

Last week Donald Prophete of Ogletree Deakins explored this topic with Michael Cummings through  The Law Marketing Portal, As an African-American partner in his law firm, he routinely thinks about this topic.  Prophete notes that after he establishes his value with a potential client, “my heritage may be an asset because it can be an advantage for me over other attorneys they may be considering for the work. So, my diverse background complements the business value I provide.”

Similarly, international lawyers may find that they share the same national heritage as certain prospective clients, or that their heritage gives them particular insights into the project at hand–or even the clients on the other side.

Regardless, use your national heritage to your advantage.  If you are located abroad, be sure and network wit other nationals of your heritage who may become good referral sources. Expats often enjoy connecting with expats from the same country. And as Prophete suggests, look for other professionals of your heritage to  mentor you as you grow your practice, even if they work in different fields.  This holds true for lawyers both in and outside private practice.

What Would Your Clients Say About You?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

How do your clients speak about you?  For example, if someone asked them to describe you, which two or three adjectives would come to their minds?  If you don’t know, then you should ask.

One of my clients found out–to her horror— that her clients considered her as “tardy”. She had fallen into the habit of over promising the speed at which she could deliver her work product.  She knew that her clients didn’t need their work that fast, but she wanted to impress them. Needless to say she failed to meet those deadlines–often.

The problem was that by promising them a quick turn around, her clients counted on it.  Failing to meet her artificially early deadlines actually eroded her brand. However, thanks to her clients’ input, she changed her behavior and salvaged her reputation.

If you do not know what your clients think about you, ask them.  Solicit input via email from 10-20 colleagues and clients and ask them to respond with 5-10 words or phrases that describe you.  Specifically ask them for both both positive and negative feedback. (If necessary, explain that it’s a branding exercise required by your coach, management or other partners). The feedback will be enlightening, and will allow you to correct some unhelpful traits–ones you may not realize bothered your clients.

Tips for Lawyers on Working with the Press

Friday, June 15th, 2007

In the current issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Today, Sun Communications Group founder and owner Paramjit Mahli shares tips for cooperating with the press.  In Why Attorneys Should Be Working with the Press, Instead of Against Them,  she explores ways that lawyers can become valuable resources by alerting journalists to breaking legal news or developing legal trends. 

Former CNN journalist Paramjit understands very personally how a journalist appreciates such proactivity by a news source–as long as the story pitched falls into the journalist’s beat and is appropriate to the publication. When I freelanced for the Asian Wall Street Journal and other newspapers and magazines, I was amazed by the number of people who pitched totally inappropriate stories –ones that were complete mismatches for the publication.  Doing so can backfire by irritating and alienating a reporter.

Also make sure that the story you pitch hasn’t already been reported.  “Not only is it embarrassing, but it also demonstrates to the reporter that you or your public relations team has not done the homework. It is a sure way of lessening your credibility with that reporter,” Paramjit explains in her article. 

From my observation, international lawyers are uniquely positioned to get press attention, if they seek it correctly. Because legal developments emerge across the globe,  international lawyers have more material and story angles to pitch to reporters than their domestic counterparts do.   

For more tips on developing a public relations strategy that deals well with the press, access Paramjit’s article here.