11 May
2007

Bridging The Culture Gaps

Tsing Ma Bridge, Hong Kong

An article on Law.com, entitled The Culture Gap, is talking about how law firms are trying to break the cultural gaps between different cultures.

In Latin countries, be prepared for two-hour meals before talking business. In China, save the small talk for after the deal. And in France, you may want to arrive at a meeting fashionably late.

Globalization of the legal world has led more lawyers to travel overseas and work with foreign clients, so grasping another country’s customs can make or break a lawyer’s deal.

The article addresses the importance of issues like proper business card exchange, meeting the VPs, and lawyers’ roles etc. There are some interesting remarks in the article:

Brian Szepkouski, a certified trainer at Etiquette International in New York City who also runs his own intercultural management consulting business in New Jersey, said corporations are proactive when it comes to cross-cultural training, but law firms tend to be more reactive and wait for a pressing issue to come up.

and,

Mary Crane, a lawyer who heads Mary Crane & Associates, which consults Fortune 500 companies and law firms on various issues, including business etiquette, said law firms have been paying more attention.

“They are recognizing this is critically important,” she said. “Working in a global economy, one needs to have an understanding of international protocols. It’s an ounce of prevention.

and,

Kaplan, from Howard Rice, said large law firms should consider such investments so that American lawyers don’t learn through mistakes.

“You’re kind of an ambassador of your country every time you go abroad to do work,” he said.

“We’re considered ignorant, so to try to break that as a stereotype, I think that type of training would be highly appropriate,” he added.

In many places in the article, etiquettes in Asian cultures are mentioned.

So, what do you think?

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