Archive for June, 2007

Adjusting Your Accent Before Employer and Client Interviews

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

People feel comfortable with others who are like them.  So, when you are being interviewed by potential clients or employers, you should try to fit in as much as possible–not only by using appropriate acronyms, jargon and technical lingo, but also by matching the other person’s pace and inflection.  

If you are not a native speaker of the language in which you are being interviewed, polish your language skills ahead of time.  Listening to sophisticated television broadcasters during news shows is a good way to get a feel for the parlance.  The vocabulary will also be more professional and the news topics more familiar than with non-news shows. 

In an effort to sound more American and fit in, some expatriates in the US are going so far as to get professional “accent reduction” according to last week’s International Herald Tribune.  Believe it or not, those with particularly heavy accents are even flying to Michigan to attend the Accent Reduction Institute.  This blogger can think of some native Americans who would benefit from some of that training!


What Goldman Sachs Can Teach International Lawyers

Monday, June 11th, 2007

I’ve spent several days over the past week training some wealth management advisors at Goldman Sachs on Rainmaking in a Global Economy.  Like top performing lawyers, these advisors are bright, motivated and hardworking.  And, like top performing lawyers, these advisors also benefit from defining their ideal clients very carefully.

Because GS clients must have a certain net worth to become a client, up front the GS advisors need to (1) define and pursue appropriate clients, and (2) graciously refer others to a different wealth management advisor if the fit isn’t right. 

Lawyers can learn a lot from this approach.  The diligent GS folks do lots of preliminary research about their potential clients to find the ideal ones.  Too many lawyers hang out their shingle and take whatever walks in the door.  Others rely on their law firms to do the requisite screening, and end up with clients that would be better served by another attorney. 

The more clearly a lawyer can define his or her ideal client, the more successful that lawyer will be in finding them. Defining clients by industry, size, type of legal matter, experience, geographic scope and other criteria all help to paint a clear picture of an attorney’s ideal client.  Charting this data will also enable the lawyer to see common characteristics among his or her best clients, and then focus future rainmaking on potential clients with those traits.  It’s also a good idea to identify which kind of clients he or she actually enjoys working with most.

Lawyers also need a list of names of other competent counsel to refer business to–within and without their firm.  That way, when a potential client isn’t ideal, or a conflict arises, the lawyer can graciously refer the client on but keep good relations. (In other words, the lawyer is acting as a helpful “connector”, as Malcolm Gladwell discusses in The Tipping Point.)

Keeping a list of qualified international attorneys capable of handling cross-border issues is especially important for lawyers working globally.  Potential clients can probably find another local lawyer to represent them in a domestic matter, but will have more difficulty finding another experienced attorney with true cross-border knowledge.  Make yourself a valuable information source, whether you are performing the legal work yourself or referring it to someone who can.

Transnational Law Blog

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

Last fall students at UC Hastings College of the Law launched the Transnational Law Blog, a blog discussing “all law regulating actions or events transcending national frontiers.”  The Blog covers lots of territory with posts in categories like Business & Economics, US Diplomacy and National Security, Latin America and even Space Law.  Recent posts have addressed everything from the Cooling Down of the Chinese Stock Market to a discussion of the Shift Happens Slideshow about globalization.

As the home page notes, TLB is “only constrained by its pursuit to cover all law transcending national frontiers.”  A big calling indeed. International lawyers should check out this interesting and valuable resource.

Make Rain or Perish

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Tom Kane’s post yesterday in his Legal Marketing Blog was a timely reminder of the importance of rainmaking.  To quote:  “Partners (or associates for that matter) DO NOT get fired or demoted for developing business.” 

Conversely, those attorneys that do not bring in business are at serious risk, as shown by yesterday’s associate buyout offers by Bingham McCutchen  and last month’s 10% partner layoffs by Mayer Brown. 

I still remember working at Baker Botts in the early 1990’s when two non-performing partners departed–with quiet but strong encouragement. Such departures were rare indeed.  Those days are long gone as firms focus more than ever on profitability. 

The good news for lawyers with international expertise? Your skills are needed now more than ever thanks to the globalization wave.  So, keep cultivating your international expertise and, to reiterate Tom Kane’s point, make rain lest you be hung out to dry.

The Aussies Beat Us to It

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

Is US legislation woefully behind the curve?  This week the Aussies launched the first IPO of a law firm. For a look at the prospectus and other information for investors, check out the Investors’ page on the Slater & Gordon website.  The British are next in line with pending legislation to permit outside  law firm ownership; however, as noted in my previous post on this topic, Magic Circle firms in the UK have united against this legislation. Check out a June 1 post for a detailed update on this trend.