Habits for Cross-Cultural Lawyering

The following contains excerpts from Sue Bryant & Jean Koh Peters, Five Habits for Cross-Cultural Lawyering, from Race, Culture, Psychology, and Law (2005). (Read More)

Where lawyers and clients do not share a same culture, trust issues can develop. It is important for the lawyer to be understanding to build a good attorney-client relationship, and to do this they must be culturally competent.

Habit 1
Identify differences/similarities between yourself and your client. Assess the significance of the differences/similarities –this helps to identify any misunderstandings, biases, or stereotyping that may be happening. Try to be honest in identifying these differences (ethnicity, social status, religion, etc.)

Habit 2
Analyze how cultural differences/similarities may be influencing interactions between you and your client (also others involved in the legal process). Keep note of what you think may affect the case. What cultural biases could affect the jury?

Habit 3
Question your client’s behavior. Sometimes we perceive behavior from our perspective instead of from someone else’s. Consider it with Habits 1 & 2 in mind.

Habit 4
Incorporate cross-cultural knowledge. Be culturally sensitive. Ask your client questions –ask them what they think about the problem and ask for advice. If your client is from another country, ask them how it would be handled in their country.

Habit 5
Be self-analytical instead of self-judgmental. If you notice a red flag, think of ways to address it. You are more likely to stereotype when you are feeling stressed.


Choosing Wisely

By Robert A. Creo, Editor

In the climactic scene in the 1989 movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, both Indiana Jones, and the villains arrive at the cave where the Holy Grail has been guarded for centuries by a Knight.   There is a table with numerous grails (cups) where the Holy Grail is hidden in plain sight.  The Knight admonishes them to “choose wisely.”

 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade(1989):Choosing the Holy Grail(whole scene) (5:15)

As we saw in the clip, the bad guy chooses the fanciest cup and is destroyed.  The Knight’s only comment is “he chose poorly.”

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