Archive for the ‘Foreign Lawyers in US’ Category

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!


Zigzag to Get Your International Dream Job, Even if it Means Grueling Work

Friday, May 25th, 2007

“How can I get my international law dream job?” Lawyers often ask me this question.  The truth is, if you were not at the top of your class from a top tier school, your path may be bumpy. Your path may have twists and turns without a dream job clearly in sight.

However, as I am explaining in my upcoming chapter for the new edition of Careers in International Law, if you persevere, network relentlessly, exercise excellent people skills, perform great work, develop expertise, brand yourself effectively, and willingly “zigzag” throughout your career, you will eventually succeed.  You may not end up with the job that you originally envisioned, but from my observation, really determined lawyers who aspire to international careers eventually get one.  (In fact, nowadays it’s even easier to do so as the number of international law jobs increases.  Thanks, Globalization!)

How do these lawyers do it?  As mentioned, they position themselves for success.  And, they are willing to take a job just to move another rung up the ladder.  Perhaps they take a particular job to acquire a needed skill or break into an industry. Or, perhaps they take an otherwise unpalatable job for the resume boost that it offers, knowing that they will eventually zig-zag up to a better position.

This came to mind when I read yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Law Blog post interviewing Cameron Stracher, author of Dinner with Dad. The media lawyer and New York Law School professor dished about a variety of topics.  When asked whether he advises his law students to take positions at grueling firms like Sullivan & Cromwell, the author stated, “And honestly most of the time I tell them that they should because I know that as unhappy as I know they’re going to be, they need that on their resume to go somewhere where they might be happier.”

Bingo. As you zig-zag up the international law career ladder, you might need to accept–albeit temporarily–a job at a prestigious sweat shop because working there will give you instant credibility down the line. Keep your eye on the prize.

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!


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.

Ask Janet: More Graduate Legal Education vs. Legal Work Experience?

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Question from Jose:  I am a Mexican lawyer with an LLM from Georgetown University.  I have the opportunity to pursue a doctorate of laws at US institution or take a job with an international agency based in the US.  Which would be best if I want to practice in the US?

 Janet Moore:  Take the job!  Jose, so many of your foreign lawyer colleagues are clamoring for good work experience in the US.  Academia is well and good, but if you want to have a vibrant legal practice (as opposed to a purely academic career), you truly need some work experience. 

At the end of February I spoke to a bright group of foreign LLM students at the Inter-American Development Bank during a program sponsored by the International Law Section of the ABA, among others. After the program many of the LLM students in the audience approached me (as have more in subsequent weeks) to ask for guidance on getting a real job in the US.  Jose, you are lucky indeed to have landed such a job here, and I encourage you to take it.  It can be an invaluable stepping stone to future employment.

However, for your fellow LLM students who have not yet landed job offers in the US, my advice is to keep networking.  Network with law school colleagues and professors, natives of your country who are living in the US, contacts at home who have US contacts–whatever it takes. From my observation, truly persistent and determined LLM students who do NOT give up, do eventually land paying jobs in the US–although perhaps not “dream jobs”, these jobs give valuable work experience and can lead to other employment.