Habits for Cross-Cultural Lawyering

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

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

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.

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