Archive for June, 2008

Turn Travel Snafus into Success

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Tonight I returned from Toronto–a stop which didn’t match my original itinerary. My quick and easy international trip had morphed into a travel saga and, like many travelers nowadays, I had been redirected–several times. However, this travel snafu  had a silver lining–several, in fact.

First, I made lots of new contacts while waiting in Presidents Clubs and boarding areas, and while aboard various flights. My fellow travelers were businessmen from places as disparate as Lagos, Nigeria, Guadalajara, Mexico and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Some of these new acquaintances will simply remain contacts, while others may become referral sources or even clients.

Second, my changed itinerary gave me the chance to reconnect with some of my existing acquaintances. Unexpectedly landing in Toronto, I quickly emailed–and later dined with–one international lawyer friend, Lang Michener counsel Cyndee Todgham-Cherniak.  We swapped travel stories at dinner, agreeing that one perk of an international career is having friends no matter where you land. During my journey I also happened to run across and spend time chatting with former Baker Botts colleagues and various other attorneys. Renweing friendships during in person contact really helps in this virtual-communication world.

Business travel today can be arduous and delay-filled. Your fellow business travelers  may welcome friendly conversation as a respite from their boredom. One time I met a CEO of a public company under such circumstances; I was able to refer him to a lawyer friend of mine, and his company became one of her all time largest clients. She gratefully reminds me of this fact many years later.

Next time that you are waylaid, don’t just retreat to your Blackberry or Financial Times.  Instead, try to connect with some fellow business travelers; you could discover a silver lining to your plight.

Currency Crunch: Getting Paid in Pounds, Pesos or Pulas

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

With more clients located abroad, attorneys are increasingly being paid in foreign currency.

Billing and receiving payment in foreign currency raises a host of questions, beginning when the client pays a retainer.  Some firms require that the client pay a retainer in the firm’s national currency; other firms accept payment in the client’s native currency, and then convert it themselves (bearing any currency fluctuation risk and often any currency transaction fees).

The ABA’s Law Practice magazine’s June issue discusses this topic in Dollars to Dinars: Billing and Collecting in a Global Market by David Bilinsky and Laura Calloway. The article also explores the pros and cons of bearing currency risk, implications for financial statements, whether to bill in a foreign currency, and the like.

Regardless of whether a law firm will receive British pounds, Mexican pesos or Botswanan pulas, advance planning and research prepares lawyers to be paid by international clients.

Learn from Pink, Inc.

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Today I chuckled when I received a package from “Pink, Inc.”

I met (virtually) Dan Pink after he launched his New York Times bestseller A Whole New Mind. Now, he’s turned out a new–albeit very different–book titled The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need. Gen Y is bound to love the Japanese manga-style cartoons, sprinkled with very sensible career advice. (And, for parent-eschewing youths, what better way to get career advice?) 

For those of you who read A Whole New Mind, this book is a surprise.  And then again… it’s not. The new book’s format and verbiage show that it’s geared for a much younger audience, and in this way, it’s totally different than its predecessor. Yet, it epitomizes what A Whole New Mind talks about: the need to comprehend and creatively respond to new trends. Dan Pink noticed a hole in the market (for a Gen Y-friendly career guide)–and filled it creatively.

And so, what can we international lawyers learn from Dan Pink’s example? Research and understand market trends; anticipate your clients’ needs; and then adapt your products (and marketing) appropriately. Just so, Dan developed A Whole New Mind for the NY Times bestseller set, and his recent release for the Millennials. Experienced international lawyers do the same thing when they customize client communication to Saudi male oil execs on the one hand, and Chinese female high tech entrepreneurs on the other. International lawyers who fail to customize, limit their own success. 

One final lesson from Pink, Inc.: if you happen to have a catchy surname, capture it for your business. Now that’s a lesson that lawyers really understand.

Tackle the US Downturn: Expand Abroad

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Want to weather the US economic downturn?  Then, expand abroad…or so say the mega firms quoted in Wise in the Ways of the World, an article in the June issue of the ABA Journal. Business is booming abroad–and getting paid in foreign currency (rather than weak US dollars) sure helps.

Whenever I’ve spoken about the global expansion of law firms, including last year at New York’s Harvard Club, the audience is amazed by the vastness of the subject. In other words, deciding whether, when and how to go global raises a myriad of complex issues.

Above all, there’s the multi-million dollar cost of opening, staffing and maintaining offices abroad. For this reason, only US mega-firms like White & Case, DLA Piper and Baker & McKenzie–three of the firms mentioned in the ABA article–can afford numerous foreign offices. As the article discusses, firms with multiple offices across the globe redeploy attorneys to other international markets when the need arises.

Some mid-sized firms also opt to open select offices abroad–like Gardere which maintains a Mexico City presence. And, regardless of their size, many US firms  bolster their international presence by joining an international law firm network (as discussed in last October 19th’s post).

If your firm is considering expanding abroad, advance research is key. Managing the Modern Law Firm, ed. Laura Empson (Oxford Press 2007) is a good starting place. It explains why some US firms have gone global successfully–while others have failed.