Archive for July, 2007

Your Client’s Cultural Identity May Not Be What You Assume.

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

One thing that I most loved about studying at the London School of Economics (and, for that matter, at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service) was the multi-cultural student body and faculty.  The LSE’s curriculum was also brimming full of rich topics dealing with issues of culture, ethnicity and the like. 

It’s no surprise that the current issue of the LSE Magazine includes an interesting article by Alan Manning and Sanchari Roy titled Culture Clash or Culture Club? The article–which is particularly timely in light of the recent UK terrorist intrigue–examines the religion and ethnic background of various immigrant populations and their level of “British identity” after residing in Great Britain. 

The authors’ research study found one factor most contributes to whether an immigrant reports to having a “British identity”: how long the immigrant has been in the UK.  The authors also report that “immigrants from poorer and less democratic countries assimilate faster into British identity”, in part because these ethnic groups tend to take on British citizenship.  (In contrast, the ethnic group least likely to assimilate is the Italians; these immigrants continue to identify with Italy–no doubt due to its better cuisine!)

In other words, the report contradicts the prevailing view in Britain that, for example, Pakistani Muslim immigrants, remain primarily loyal to their home country.

What does this mean to you as an international lawyer?  It means that when dealing with another party (clients or opposing counsel), and their country of origin differs from their country of residence, don’t assume that you know their cultural identity. 

Instead, stay curious. Ask yourself, has this person assimilated into the new culture and adopted its values? If so, how much?  Or, does this person still identify with and live by the values of his/her native land, and only begrudgingly accommodate the values of their new country of residence? 

These values show up throughout communication–such as the high value that many Latin Americans place on relationships, wanting to cultivate them before doing business with someone.  Or, for example, Germans are known to value, respect and defer to authority figures.  Any international lawyer lucky enough to give a presentation to a group of Germans will find them better behaved and more punctual than their American counterparts.  

 Paying attention to these cultural values–and tailoring your interaction with clients and opposing counsel to reflect and respond to these values–will improve your interaction immeasurably.  

This post was adapted from the author’s 7-24-07 post on her blog at

Learn High-Stakes Negotiation from a Real Statesman

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Former Middle East mediator Ambassador Dennis Ross leads tomorrow’s ABA CLE Telecast on high-stakes international negotiation strategies. The class will share many of the lessons memorialized in the Ambassador’s recently published book, Statecraft: And How to Restore America’s Standing in the World.  Click here to learn more.

Professional Development while at Sea

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Fellow lawyer, fellow coach, friend, and expert sailor (with World Cup experience) Peter Branning has become affiliated with Captains Courageous, which provides Caribbean sailing adventures in professional and personal development. Participants work with founder Martha Boston and other trained coaches like Peter to improve their leadership, teamwork and other skills–all while enjoying tropical scenery. Having recently led a trip to the Grenadines, coaching/sailing trips to the Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines are in the works.

Although I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Martha, I have met and worked with Peter. He has also coached me. Peter is a wise, warm, caring and insightful coach–and an expert (and I mean EXPERT) sailor to boot. Set sail with him on one of these adventures, and return with a New and Improved You.

Grow Your International Law Practice with a Motivating Budget

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

As I wrote in my article  Seven Steps for Maintaining Motivation, many lawyers struggle to stay motivated.  However, finding motivating tools or props can help to propel a lawyer forward.

In his new blog Thoughtful Legal Management, David Bilinsky, discusses how preparing a law practice budget can also be motivating. A budget not only gives a lawyer a clear idea of his/her income and expenses, but also helps a lawyer to visualize the future.

As David explains in his July 17 post, “the process of drafting your business plan and putting numbers into your budget spreadsheet takes you into a visioning mindset – where you contemplate your future and your place in it. You take charge of the future that you wish to have.”  Several of my clients have used the budgeting process and accompanying visualization to spur them on; for example, one client was motivated to revitalize his firm’s website, and another to launch a global client development strategy.

Lawyers trying to grow international practices particularly benefit from budgeting. Whether you are a big firm lawyer or a solo, a government lawyer or an in-house attorney, international business travel and related expenses really impact your practice’s bottom line. Budget for the sum that you expect to incur, and be prepared to defend the necessity of this expenditure to your boss–even if you are a solo and the boss is You.  Then envision yourself growing your international practice to–and perhaps beyond–what you have already envisioned.

Check David’s new blog regularly for more ideas.  I had the pleasure of meeting him last fall in Vancouver (my birthplace) at an ABA Law Practice Management conference, and subsequently writing a few articles for the ABA’s Law Practice magazine, which he edits.

The Pro Bono Plus: How Pro Bono Work Can Enhance Your For-Profit Career

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

For a different look at the advantages of pro bono work, read my latest article titled The Pro Bono Plus:  How Pro Bono Work Can Enhance Your For-Profit Career, which was recently published by The Houston Lawyer Magazine.  As mentioned in the article, handling pro bono work can boost a lawyer’s contacts.  This is even true for international lawyers; serving on the board of a large international charity may introduce you to prominent businesspersons who are similarly involved in the international arena.