September 07, 2014
Dude, it's after Labor Day. No khaki pants. Or suits. No bueno.
July 26, 2014
The Economist has had it with Putin; calls out France, Italy, Germany, US and UK.
The West as Appeasement Weenies? See Russia, MH17 and the West: A web of lies. Screaming excerpts:
Since the murders of the passengers of MH17 the responses have been almost as limp. The European Union is threatening far-reaching sanctions—but only if Mr Putin fails to co-operate with the investigation or he fails to stop the flow of arms to the separatists. France has said that it will withhold the delivery of a warship to Mr Putin if necessary, but is proceeding with the first of the two vessels on order.
The Germans and Italians claim to want to keep diplomatic avenues open, partly because sanctions would undermine their commercial interests. Britain calls for sanctions, but it is reluctant to harm the City of London’s profitable Russian business. America is talking tough but has done nothing new.
Enough. The West should face the uncomfortable truth that Mr Putin’s Russia is fundamentally antagonistic. Bridge-building and resets will not persuade him to behave as a normal leader. The West should impose tough sanctions now, pursue his corrupt friends and throw him out of every international talking shop that relies on telling the truth. Anything else is appeasement—and an insult to the innocents on MH17.
July 15, 2014
Happy 125th Birthday, Coca-Cola.
On this day in 1889, the Coca Cola Company, then known as the Pemberton Medicine Company, was incorporated in Atlanta, Georgia.
June 24, 2014
Floundering, fear and a modicum of loathing at the EU.
And you think the U.S. economy proceeds at a limp and that citizen faith in leadership is waning? See The Perils of Merkelvellianism in England's enduring The Economist. It begins:
The European Union is in deep trouble. Growth is sluggish at best, unemployment punishingly high and deflation threatens. The European elections returned many populist, anti-EU members to the European Parliament; public support for the project has plummeted. Against this background, the squabble over who should be the next president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, looks an ever more dangerous tragicomedy: Franz Kafka meets Dario Fo.
The front-runner for the job is Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured). The former prime minister of Luxembourg was picked as “lead candidate” by the centre-right pan-European political group, the European People’s Party (EPP), in March. He stands for the cosy [sic] federalist consensus that many European voters want to change. He was an ineffectual head of the euro group of finance ministers, creating doubts over his ability to run the commission—a huge job at the moment.
May 22, 2014
Read Jeffrey Carr's analysis of DOJ's China cyber-spying indictment.
Three days ago, the U.S. Department of Justice announced its indictment of five Chinese military officers for cyberespionage and theft of trade secrets from six American companies. Yesterday, Jeffrey Carr, a well-known cybersecurity consultant based in Seattle, posted a company-by-company "Analysis of the Victim Companies in the PLA Indictment" at his blog Digital Dao. While we don't agree with every point Carr makes, his assessment (read: dissection) of the charges is compelling. Chinese cyberespionage, moreover, is big part of Carr's expertise. The writing is knowledgeable, smart, forceful. If you do IP, Internet law or international law, do read Carr's post.
May 20, 2014
Dan Harris's China Law: Contracts That Work.
There are three rules for making contracts enforceable in China:
Make the jurisdiction a China court.
Make the governing law Chinese law.
Make the governing language Chinese.
American companies routinely insist on contract provisions that effectively render their contracts unenforceable in China. By their own efforts, they make their contracts worthless, much to the amusement of the Chinese side of the transaction.
Calling for U.S. court jurisdiction is almost always a disaster because Chinese courts will not enforce U.S. court judgments. If, as is usually the case, the Chinese party has no assets in the United States, the U.S. judgment is effectively worthless.
May 19, 2014
Grand jury in Pittsburgh indicts 5 Chinese "military hackers" on hacking and espionage charges.
Today the U.S. Justice Department announced its indictment of five Chinese military officers for stealing commercial data from American companies and unions. The defendants are in Unit 61398 of the Third Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. They are Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu, and Gu Chunhui. See DOJ's press release--we believe that it has coined here the phrase "military hacker"--and articles by Reuters and Bloomberg News. The case will be brought out of the well-regarded U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) against the named Chinese officers for spying on several Pittsburgh-based companies, including established firms in steel or energy-related products and services, like Alcoa, U.S. Steel and Westinghouse. China's response has been predictably quick and shrill. The Los Angeles Times: China blasts 'absurd' U.S. charges of cyberespionage. But something other than the well-crafted indictment, compelling press release and China's initial response really caught our attention today. The best symbol of the sheer novelty of this action? And of DOJ's seriousness in pursuing it? It is--hands down--the FBI wanted posters made available to the press today. Is Eric Holder's DOJ in your face or what?
Above: Materials on display during AG Eric Holder's press conference in DC today. (Charles Dharapak/AP)
May 13, 2014
John F. Lynch's "Sitting on the Wall." Or how should Outside Counsel think about GCs and In-house Counsel?
The client wants you on that wall looking after his problem and being mindful of his career. If the night is cold and rainy, and if down in the client’s bedchamber the fire is roaring and the best brandy has been opened, you are still to sit on the wall and look for the Hun.
We're lucky that veteran patent litigator John F. Lynch is a regular reader of this blog. Born and educated in Manhattan, John moved to Texas shortly after the New York bar examination, went to work at a relatively large Texas law firm specializing in intellectual property firm, and eventually became a partner in that firm. In later years, John's firm merged with a larger Washington, D.C. firm, where he would be a partner and chair the new firm's IP group. John now lives in the Seattle area.
About ten years ago, the firm asked John to give a talk on lawyering--with an emphasis on developing and keeping business--to his firm's antitrust group at a Florida retreat. He kept a copy of the talk and, last month, sent it to me as his slightly different but complementary take on this blog's 12 Rules of Client Service. We thought his remarks were not only excellent but also took up a notch the quality of this blog's running conversation on building enduring service cultures at corporate law firms.
In the talk, John is addressing this question: exactly how is a General Counsel, in-house lawyer or other executive at a client company likely to view the true role of outside counsel in almost every engagement--and especially in difficult ones? He answers the question in three parts which he denominates as "three rules". So we asked John if we could print all or some of it here. He agreed. Today we're publishing his Florida talk to his old firm--it's entitled "Sitting on the Wall"--in its entirety. Note that except for a few punctuation changes, and my underlining the key sentence in each of three rules John mentioned in his talk that day, we've taken no liberties with the text:
I have been asked to speak briefly about my observations about the practice of law, and in particular about developing business: how have I done it and the guidelines that I have pursued in that effort.
At the start, I will observe that the how and why legal business gets gotten is perhaps the most mysterious phenomenon related to the practice of law. Most of us lawyers are Type A personalities which, as a corollary means we are paranoids. We wonder what we’ve done wrong. Why is it that clients will not hire us? What is it out there that is conspiring against our developing a solid client base producing repeat business year after year?
I cannot dispel the paranoia, in fact I encourage it. It’s healthy particularly if it keeps us alert and attentive to our clients’ wants and needs. But when we look at ourselves, we are looking in the wrong place to answer how to develop clients. We have to look at the clients and what they want.
From a perspective that is at least long, I can offer overarching counsel that you develop clients and client loyalty by doing what I call “sitting on the wall.” It’s kind of a parable, but I’ve never been able to explain it better than “sitting on the wall.” In that parable, the client has invited us to his or her castle for purposes of defending it in one fashion or another, and your message to the client by both words and action is simple, “You go to sleep tonight with your family and do not worry. Even though it’s cold and rainy, I will sit on the wall, and if the Huns come in the dead of night I will pour hot oil on them and drive them away...and I will try not to wake you in the process.”
I wound up with this philosophy about sitting on the wall as a result of making three observations that I call rules about the business of lawyering. As I said, being self centered lawyers as we are it is difficult to begin where we must begin not by looking inside ourselves, but rather by looking inside the individuals from whom we seek employment. Who are these people? What are they looking for? Are they different from us, and if so, how so? These are inquiries into customer needs, customer preferences and customer impressions and these are the core questions that must be made in any service business.
And that is what we as lawyers do. We provide a service. So that is the first rule: To recognize and understand that lawyering is a service business. As an individual, you must get out of your head that that you are marketing a product. We are not selling the product of superior legal analysis, or the product of skillful advocacy, or even the product of artful cross-examination or eloquence before a jury. You or your firm will so advertise, but that’s of no consequence.
If you think about it, the typical client is inundated with material about the product offered by law firms, and for the most part he or she probably has concluded that there are a lot of lawyers offering good product.
Now that is not to say that there may not be in this audience a lawyer whose skills in one or another area are so extraordinary, so exceptional, that clients will flock to acquire that product. But even in those instances, I will suggest that greater success could be realized if that extraordinary talent could be repackaged and marketed as a service. And for the overwhelming majority of us, we are selling a service, and we will succeed if our service is good. The essence of service by its very nature means that you are adapting to the client’s needs and desires. You are not requiring the client to adapt to you.
The second rule is to recognize that clients have careers too. It has long been the case that the determination of success or failure may be much more arbitrary for an in-house lawyer or a corporate executive than it is for us as outside counsel in a law firm. After all, we all have the privilege of speaking only about our victories when in the presence of the client, since the client may not be aware of the defeats. But there is no corporate general counsel out there whose entire won-loss record is not known by the CEO who sits over him and who controls his employment. So keep in mind, that the folks who are hiring us are entrusting us with preservation of at least a part of their career. They have a problem of one type or another, and they are putting that problem in our hands for us to solve.
That’s what virtually all lawyering is: problem solving. There is a problem because the client is accused of impinging on the rights of some one else or because that someone else is perceived as intruding somehow on the rights of the client. Sometimes the problem has not yet matured, and the lawyer is asked to assure it does not mature. The client’s commission is: Make the problem go away. Sure, they want to remain informed. Sure, they want to participate. Sure, they want and need a budget that is followed. But the bottom line is that the client gave us a problem to solve, and since we aspire to represent clients in the most difficult and most important cases, what we aspire to is to represent our clients in solving the largest problems that they have. For the individual within the client responsible for hiring us, those are career shaping employments.
It is important that we remain conscious that our employer is not a faceless corporation with a lawsuit or other adversarial contest to win. Our client truly is a lawyer or executive with a career shaping problem to solve. That realization will affect how you deliver your service, and how you work to relieve the inevitable tension that can build during an employment.
Which leads to the third rule.
The third rule is to remain aware that, despite the requests for updates and briefings, in virtually every employment the client is trying to transfer the load that is his problem to you so the problem is no longer a burden, so it no longer inhibits the client’s activity. In short, the client wants you on that wall looking after his problem and being mindful of his career. If the night is cold and rainy, and if down in the client’s bedchamber the fire is roaring and the best brandy has been opened, you are still to sit on the wall and look for the Hun. You may get a visit out there on the wall, and you may even get a hot chocolate, but if you have the client’s ultimate trust you will never be invited into the warm bedchamber while there is a possibility of attack. It’s not ingratitude. It’s simply that you have been entrusted with this job and the job requires sitting on the wall--if you don’t do it someone else will have to. And if that someone else does it and does it well, that someone else will win the client’s trust. Only when the enemy no longer threatens can you leave that post on the wall.
I had a very talented partner who will remain nameless who seemingly had all the tools for success. He was bright, able, eloquent, charming and had an excellent understanding of the law. But if you watched closely around clients, his message was, “You go to sleep tonight with your family and don’t worry. But because it’s raining, I’m going back to my castle to enjoy the fire and perhaps the brandy. But don’t worry. I have a very fast horse, and if the Huns attack, just let me know and I will be here immediately and I will drive them off.” It didn’t sell, and you could see it. That message was communicated indirectly in many ways, but the upshot was that clients were never able to be confident that a problem had been fully offloaded to that lawyer. That lawyer seemed always to impose conditions on the service. There were inconveniences that took precedence over his rendering of service. The product was admittedly good, but the service was lacking.
When you get to the how-to of all of this, I could go on and on, but the take-away is simple. An employment is not about you or about the firm. It is about serving some individuals by solving their problems efficiently as possible. So the hallmarks of a lawyer giving good service are timeliness, reliability, accessibility, and making sure that the best surprise is no surprise, all in the context of a tacit acknowledgement that you as outside counsel are committed to be of service. Also take a genuine interest in the career of the individuals that employ you. Tell them, occasionally in so many words, that you are committed to make them successful. Cultivate a culture of being helpful, of providing assistance. When you are dealing with a corporate client with a corporate law department, become acquainted with those lawyers and encourage them to give you a call not so you can have a client, but so that you can be helpful. For any minor matter and offer to help if they ever need some he, and offer to help on the cuff. As corporate lawyers grow and ascend into positions of responsibility, the parts of their Rolodex that are most precious are the phone numbers of the outside counsel that they can turn to reliably to assume problems from their shoulders and propel their careers. And even if they move across the country, they will continue to call those numbers when the really threatening problems arise.
And that’s what we are in this business for, right? To do the really important stuff and the hard stuff. Lord knows why we want that, but we do, and the way to get there, as far as I can see is by sitting on the wall.
Thanks for the opportunity to speak to you, and I hope your retreat is a dynamite success.
Copyright 2003-2014 John F. Lynch All Rights Reserved.
April 14, 2014
The Economist: "Ukraine, the disappearing country"
Here. For Russia, “this region will not be enough. They want everything. They will take all Ukraine.”
February 24, 2014
Dan Harris: "Ten Keys For Doing Business in China. A New List".
There is no other online resource that can match Dan Harris's China Law Blog for timeliness, practicality or overall honesty about what Westerners will face in doing business in Greater China. In his Sunday post, "Ten Keys For Doing Business In China. A New List", Dan reviews a summary of China must-know cultural basics--similar in scope to primers Dan has been doing himself at CLB for almost ten years--by Asia Business professor Michael Witt appearing some time ago in Forbes. Here are two excerpts from Witt's piece, with Dan's comments in italics:
3. Take your time. Many companies want to get on the ground quickly. In one case, the CEO told his head of strategy to get China operations going within six months. Time pressure of this sort can create problems later on. It tends to result in sloppy planning and analysis. It shifts the attention from finding the right partner to finding any partner, regardless of partner fit. Moreover, it weakens your hand in negotiations. Your Chinese counterpart will know how to use your time constraints against you, and you will walk away with a worse deal. Completely agree. In my experience, there is a direct correlation between speed and quantity of mistakes. Again though, this fits into the overall need to prepare.
7. Notions of “out-of-bounds” behaviour do not necessarily match. Chinese negotiators occasionally push beyond what their Western counterparts consider appropriate bounds. For example, the representatives of a large Western firm were negotiating the distribution rights for one of their products. Their Chinese counterparts closed their initial pitch by threatening to use their political connections to prevent distribution of their products if they did not receive the rights. In another case, the Chinese party got their Western guests drunk to prevent them from being effective in negotiations the following morning (which, on the Chinese side, involved a completely different set of people). These sort of things do sometimes happen but smart companies generally have little problem in dealing with them.
Photo: Pete Stewart
February 20, 2014
The Economist: A global look at "the entrepreneur".
In his column this month at The Economist, our friend Schumpeter (Adrian Wooldridge) asks "What exactly is an entrepreneur?" The common sense (if dispiriting) point he makes is that entrepreneurs seem to fall generally into two very different groups: (1) the relatively few but highly publicized, celebrated success stories that give the word "entrepreneur" its current cache, and (2) what the piece calls "Mom-and-Pop shops", the countless small businesses across the globe that are viable but never significantly grow. (And as Schumpeter notes, entrepreneurial "success stories" have, of course, put lots of independents worldwide out of business.) An excerpt from the column:
Countries with a lot of small companies are often stagnant. People start their own businesses because there are no other opportunities. Those businesses stay small because they are doing exactly what other small businesses do. The same is true of industries. In America industries that produce more entrepreneur billionaires tend to have a lower share of employees working in firms with less than 20 employees.
This makes sense: successful entrepreneurs inevitably destroy their smaller rivals as they take their companies to scale. Walmart became the world’s largest retailer by replacing thousands of Mom-and-Pop shops. Amazon became a bookselling giant by driving thousands of booksellers out of business. By sponsoring new ways of doing things entrepreneurs create new organisations that employ thousands of people including people who might otherwise have been self-employed. In other words, they simultaneously boost the economy’s overall productivity and reduce its level of self-employment.
Schmidt, Brin and Page of Google. May 20, 2008.
February 03, 2014
Losing Our Religion: The End of The Brand?
Branding differentiates a seller's product or service from those of his competitors. Over the weekend at The Economist, Adrian Wooldridge, who writes the magazine's Schumpeter column, wondered aloud whether the Cult of the Brand is rapidly coming to an end. Its newest enemy? The Consumer. See "We Want To Be Your Friend". Excerpt:
But spare a thought for the poor admen. Their industry is going through a particularly difficult time. Not only are they confronting a proliferation of new “channels” through which to pump their messages; they are also having to puzzle out how to craft them in an age of mass scepticism. Consumers are bombarded with brands wherever they look—the average Westerner sees a logo (sometimes the same one repeatedly) perhaps 3,000 times each day—and thus are becoming jaded.
January 28, 2014
At Cross-Culture: "How European are the Russians?"
What is remarkable about Russians is that they seem to possess all the European characteristics, while many other Europeans seem to exhibit only some of them. The loquacious, emotional Italian is almost the opposite of the modest, humorous Englishman, but Russians seem to adapt well to either. It is a question of breadth of vision – itself a Russian trait. This is a basic Russian quality – one that they have possessed for hundreds of years. This breadth of vision is enhanced by one or two Asian traits – stoicism, self-sacrifice, adaptability, face protection.
If one had to sum up Russian psychology and abilities in one word, “versatility” would come to mind. Being a natural land bridge between East and West, they have a certain facility in dealing with neighbours from both sides. With land borders with 14 different countries, remoteness from other nationalities is never an option. Whether Russians like it or not, leadership beckons at all turns.
Peter I of Russia, 1838, Paul Delaroche (1797-1856)
December 22, 2013
The First Franchisor: Singer Corporation.
The first formal business format franchise is an honor that belongs to Singer Corporation. In 1851, Isaac Merritt Singer and lawyer Edward Clark started I.M. Singer & Co. in New York City. In the mid-1850s, Singer started to use franchise contracts to distribute its sewing machines over the then-widespread and disconnected geographic areas of the U.S. The company is now headquartered in La Vergne, Tennessee.
November 01, 2013
The Economist on MLPs: "Gaming" Sarbanes-Oxley.
Under the U.S. Code, only certain businesses are permitted to become publicly-traded entities known as Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs). Most MLPs are fossil-fuel energy companies. Think major pipeline systems delivering natural gas, crude oil and refined fuels to end markets. MLPs offer the tax benefits of a partnership, the liquidity of publicly-traded stocks, the limited liability of a corporation and, importantly, the governance of a privately-held firm. See The Economist's new piece on MLPs in Subterranean Capitalist Blues and its typically snarky take on American finance "gaming" the corporate governance rules of Sarbanes-Oxley. Excerpt:
Time and again, the imposition of new burdens on businesses distorts the flow of money. Enron’s demise led to the Sarbanes-Oxley act, a well-intentioned law that changed the economic calculus for going public in America. Finance has yet to meet a rule it doesn’t want to game. Before the crisis, regulations that made it relatively expensive for banks to hold assets encouraged them, disastrously, to squirrel them away in off-balance-sheet vehicles.
Since the crisis, the regulatory burden on firms has shot up. Many of the new rules designed to make finance safer—raising capital levels, improving transparency in derivatives markets—are vital. Plenty are laudable: allowing “say on pay” votes for shareholders, for example. But the effect is the same: capital is again flowing to where frictions are lowest. As the constraints on regulated banks pile up, the global shadow-banking system grows: from $62 trillion in 2007 to $67 trillion in 2011.
Even when rules are rolled back, new distortions can easily result. The 2010 Dodd-Frank act permanently exempted smaller public companies from some of the most burdensome elements of Sarbanes-Oxley, for example. But some firms deliberately stay small in order not to pass thresholds that would trigger tougher rules. The perversity is breathtaking: rules to protect investors encourage firms not to grow.
October 28, 2013
"Former titans of the world economy:" Britain, USA, Germany, France and Italy.
The BRICS union--comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China (with South Africa tagging along)--is a powerful union, commanding half the world’s population and nearly 50% of world GDP. These figures, as seen by the West, are daunting enough, but, with further analysis, their significance increases sharply in connection with their relation to the expansion of global growth.
The year 2013 may well represent a tipping point for the global economy. For the first time since the Industrial Revolution galvanized Britain to dominate world trade in the 19th century, emerging economies will produce the majority of the world’s goods and services. The inhabitants of the rich, advanced countries are about to become less important, in terms of both production and consumerism, than the masses of people living in the planet's poor and middle class income countries.
The former titans of the world economy – Britain, USA, Germany, France, Italy – are all rapidly dropping out of the top 10 producers and consumers as far as expansion is concerned. By 2020, only the US stands a chance of qualifying. By that year, the whole of the EU may well contribute only 5-6% of global economic expansion. China and India will represent half of it.
China is, of course, a clear leader of growth, already starring for nearly 20 years with figures of 10% and more, but the other BRICS countries were not far behind and even non-BRICS states like Mexico and Indonesia made the top 10 around 1995. The fastest-growing countries in 2013 included South Sudan (31%), Libya (20.2%), Mongolia (14%), Paraguay (11%), Panama (9%) and Mozambique (8.4%).
October 03, 2013
R. D. Lewis: Got Grϋndlichkeit?
Two Englishmen, meeting on the street may say "Hello"’ and exchange brief words on the weather.
Two Germans are likely to ask "Alles in Ordnung?" (Is everything in order?). Ordnung is not just a word, but a world view. Follow the rules, be organised, do the expected.
Some important German rules. But don't get nervous. At his Cross-Culture, Richard D. Lewis, a well-known British linguist and international business consultant, writes that German business people are very different than you and me, Ernest, in "The Cultural Commandments: Germany". There are ten. Our two favorites:
1. Be thorough...and then check everything again. Lewis: "Grϋndlichkeit (thoroughness) is a core German virtue. You should show a mastery of facts, figures, and every last detail."
3. Don’t make it sound too simple. "Life isn’t simple, is it? So why pretend otherwise? To German ears, simple messages are not complete..."
Lewis, who has made cross-cultural communication in commerce his life's work, offers a summary. Germans as traders are (a) honest, expecting others to be honest, (b) straightforward, and (c) blunt, "disagreeing openly rather than going for diplomacy".
Heavenly Creatures: Women of The Netherlands. So what's the deal with Dutch males?
Not to trade in generalizations--but it is fun. The Women of The Netherlands not only speak English (British and American dialect) exceptionally well. They are very tall, energetic, educated, confident and robust. Stunningly attractive Nordic goddesses. These days, however, Dutch men, as a Brussels-based lawyer we know once said, do tend to look and act very much like, well, Moby. And often on purpose. What gives? How could this have happened?
Name's Kleef. Buy you a Grolsch?
September 28, 2013
Anyway, a Spanish CFO, a Finnish tax lawyer and a real moody Hungarian CEO walk into this Amsterdam coffee shop together at 7:30 AM.
Statutes, regs, courts, government agencies, languages, food and coffee shops do vary from nation to nation and jurisdiction to jurisdiction--and even just within staid Europe. But business people and their deeply-ingrained cultural and national folkways? They vary just as much. Even English-speaking lower England Brits are so different in so many important ways from their Yank, Canadian and Australian cousins that the UK might as well be an entirely different (1) caste system, (2) planet and (3) dimension. So, and first, when you work abroad, assume you are doing something Wrong. Because you are. Second, work hard at understanding different countries and national character. Learn their history; if you don't, you will fail--and you will be an ugly American to boot. Third, get some good help, Jack. Start with the right people, programs and books. Join your World.
The Betty Boop, Niewezijds Kolk.
September 25, 2013
Normal is crazy enough: Doing business with the Dutch.
Here's a gem we missed in May at Richard Lewis's great Cross-Culture site: "Normal is crazy enough: Four things you need to know about doing business with the Dutch". Excerpt:
Take the law seriously, because the Dutch do. The law is another form of written rules and regulations that need to be taken seriously. The Dutch therefore highly value written contracts, although the system of Dutch law does not require lengthy contracts, like Anglo-American companies tend to draw up. The Dutch love for truth-telling, together with a desire to avoid uncertainty, explains their direct style of communication. They say what they think, what they believe is right or wrong, often unasked for and in clear words, thus coming across as opinionated or rude.
September 15, 2013
The comparisons between Rome and the U.S. are exciting and instructive. --What About Clients?
When in Rome, do as many Romans as you possibly can. --Hugh Grant
Rome. I don't like working here--charitably put, work-life balance is totally out of balance in some regions of Italy--but I love being in Rome. You can walk in this city. You can frolic in it. You can play all day long in and paround the The Forum and Palatine Hill, where antiquities are still being found. There's a guy with a shop at the Piazza Navona--2000 years ago the Piazza was a Roman circus (i.e., track) you can still see if you try--who sells me these unique old prints, beautifully framed, that I bought for my father in Cincinnati. I go to that shop on every trip. The Tiber River is still gorgeous and, like the Seine in Paris, steeped in history, and a bit melancholy and mysterious. Lots happened here--maybe too much--and it's as if the river can remember it all.
Pannini (1743): Ruins, Chiostre, Statue of Marc-Aurèle
In the West, our strongest ideas and institutions, including what became English law, were conceived or preserved by Rome. The increasingly-made comparisons between Rome and the U.S.--no, they are certainly not new--are still exciting and instructive. The Romans were competent if grandiose empire builders who borrowed their best ideas and forms from a previously dominant Greece, while America's cultural debt is chiefly to western Europe. Like Rome, America tended to overextend itself in all spheres. Like Rome, America was globally aggressive. (Other peoples resented it.) You get the idea.
But you can't see, experience and "do" Rome on one trip--same thing with New York, London or Paris--and you shouldn't try. Our advice: do several trips, and "live in it" each and every visit, taking small bites. And spend your trip with anyone but those from the same nation and culture as your own. If you go there with Americans, break out of that bubble. Politely say goodbye--and disappear into the streets on your own.
September 01, 2013
Barham, Canterbury, Kent, England.
O famous Kent
What country hath this isle that can compare with thee?
--Michael Drayton (1563-1631), in Polyolbion
I've been here several times and will return as many times as I can. London lawyer friends live here in this village and civil parish of the City of Canterbury district of Kent, England: a sane and civilized rural way station on the path from Cardiff or London to Paris. Barham is above all ancient, pastoral and undisturbed. Population 1200. It was spelled Bioraham in 799, after Beora, a Saxon chief. The Anglican village church dates to the 1100s and was likely built over a Saxon church which existed at least by 809. Barham is not far from Canterbury--and local legend has it that one of knights who killed Thomas Becket had an estate here.
December 10, 2012
This Mexico Business: Gringo Madness Interrupted. But throw in Hope, too.
Even more than old enduring good ideas, and new compelling good ones, I remain in love with human beings at their best. I love, in particular, their resilience and courage when they are confronted with the worst. I feel that way even as humans continue to disappoint us all. A problem: most of us sell ourselves short. We live in fear, and in a comfortable fog of conformity. To remedy that uneasiness, we blame others for our refusal or inability to grow. We make excuses. We hate.
Sometimes, though, humans surprise me.
It's been a long time--about 6 years to be exact--since my European clients or friends on business or holiday in the U.S. asked me excitedly to whisk them in the Mexico-ready vintage Saab or a rented car down to Baja California, Mexico (25 minutes tops from where I now live) to Puerto Nuevo or Ensenada for a drive and a lobster dinner in a close-by extoic venue. They no longer ask.
The reason for that doesn't seem to be going away. The lowest estimate of those killed since 2006 in the Mexican Drug War--something that scares even Western veteran war corespondents--is now just shy of 60,000. The trip into Baja, once all the Gringo rage, doesn't come up much anymore in conversation with folks who live in Bonn, Cardiff or Kent.
But articles like one in The Telegraph last week give me hope. See "Mexico's Drug War: A Poet and the People Fight Back. It will be especially interesting for you to read this if you are unfamiliar with the fact that Francisco Sicilia Ortega, son of the famous poet Javier Sicilia, was killed by a Mexican drug cartel in March 2011 (apparently for no reason connected with his father's notoriety) along with six friends.
The new "people's movement" in Mexico against the cartels is even more risky and brave than the anti-Putin protests in Russia during the holiday season last year. When mom-and-pop movements around the globe gain momentum, they are very hard to stop. Humans at their best and bravest.
Photo: The Telegraph/Noah Friedman-Rudovsky
December 08, 2012
By Cross-Culture's R.D. Lewis: “When Teams Collide".
By Richard D. Lewis, Nicholas Brealey International (2012)
December 05, 2012
The Economist's Daily Chart: Terrorist Attacks--The Last Ten Years of "Fear and Loathing".
While most of us are aware that terrorist attacks over the last 10 years have been concentrated in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, the Philippines and other hotspots in the Middle East and Africa, I was surprised to learn how widely distributed terrorist attacks are around the world. Russia, western Europe, Latin America and, yes, the United States also have relatively high "scores". See yesterday's chart in The Economist. Also: "Of the 158 countries the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) cover in their inaugural global terrorism index, only 31 have had no attacks in the ten years to 2011." Click on the two links. Count the red dots.
Bombing of Shanghai's South Station, August 28, 1937. Photographer: Bellhalla.
November 29, 2012
The Economist (and Bill Clinton?) on shareholder value: "Mend it; don't end it."
See in The Economist by Schumpeter Taking the Long View on the "cult" of shareholder value. Scrap it for its follies and abuses? Or tweak and fix it? It's hard to imagine a more important conversation for publicly-traded companies. Excerpts:
Rather than junking shareholder value, companies should tweak it. Some are getting better at this.... L’Oréal and Air Liquide have offered shareholders bonuses for holding shares longer than a certain period of time. Google, LinkedIn, Zynga and other tech companies have adopted dual-class voting structures that allow the founders to resist the pressure to produce short-term results.
Several companies allow their chief executives to exercise their share options only after retirement, to encourage long-term thinking. Giving managers ordinary shares (rather than options) which they cannot sell for several years aligns their interests even more closely with those of ordinary shareholders. As Bill Clinton once said of affirmative action, the best way to deal with the shortcomings of shareholder value is to “Mend it; don’t end it.”
November 27, 2012
Charlie Rose interview with Jeff Bezos: Brick-and-mortar stores for Amazon?
Answer: Maybe. Maybe not. But listen to Jeff Bezos's reasons for opening up a chain of physical book stores--or not opening them up. Charlie Rose interviewed Amazon's founder and CEO on November 16. Their discussion is especially instructive for professionals and other service providers deciding whether or not to expand into new areas. Hint: Don't go into a new line only because you can.
November 26, 2012
Argentina v. Argentina's bondholders: Will SCOTUS step in on debt restructuring?
See at Reuters this morning "Argentina Playing Last Cards in Court Battle with Bondholders". We have two additional questions: Is the resources-rich, highly-educated and diverse nation of Argentina ever going to emerge from its especially disappointing last twelve years of recession, high inflation and false starts? Is the U.S. Supreme Court really about to enter the brave new world of global debt restructuring?
Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
November 21, 2012
American Infrastructure and the November 6 Elections: The States Get Serious.
Will, more bucks and a much harder look. If you have clients in American construction or transportation, there are some signs of happier days ahead. It is true that critics in and out of the U.S. still marvel at our apparent patience with decaying roads, rail works and bridges. See, for example, LA-based Planetizen, citing European observers of our dodgy rail system, and asking "Why Do Americans Put Up With Decaying Infrastructure?" But for the states, interestingly, the November 6 elections were also about funding construction for road and transit projects--and most those ballot measures passed. An American Society of Civil Engineers blog noted on November 9 that voters in 39 states were asked to decide 188 ballot propositions, the most since 2006. The ASCE has a partial listing of states and municipalities passing a variety of measures. According to The Kiplinger Letter, about two-thirds of the 188 initiatives passed. The biggest one was in Arkansas, where voters approved a $1.3 billion bond initiative for roads and bridges.
October 30, 2012
New India Infrastructure: Who's got the cash?
See in Sunday's The Hindu "Abysmal Infrastructure". Although the piece focuses on dangerous pedestrian walkways and cycling tracks in Hyderabad, India's fourth largest city (population 7 million), all of India badly needs new roads, railways, bridges, airports and power stations. But the country's economy--globally, the third largest in purchasing power, and tenth largest in GDP--still grows at a slower than expected rate. Many Indian infrastructure and engineering firms not only build but often own or operate projects, sometimes with the Indian government as a partner. Several of the country's leading infrastructure firms, however, are plagued themselves by debt and downturns in business. Goldman Sachs recently estimated that India's infrastructure sector (which broadly defined accounts for about a quarter of India's industrial output) will require $1.7 trillion (USD) in investment over the next ten years. The questions: Where's the money going to come from? Which firms, in and out of India, will do the work?
October 21, 2012
The Economist: Do Europe's transport corridors help or hurt the EU Single Market?
Trains, boats and planes. You have clients or customers selling within, out of or into Europe? See Charlemagne's "Coming off the Rails". Excerpt:
So a train carrying Volvo cars from Sweden to Italy must change locomotives and crews three or four times. It could be held up in bottlenecks in Germany and Austria. Before entering Italy over the Brenner Pass, the crew must stop to switch the reflective panels at the rear with warning lights.
Thalys high-speed passenger trains may zip between Paris, Amsterdam and Cologne. But on some older sections of track in Germany they slow to a crawl, and they must carry seven boxes of expensive signalling gear.
How is it possible to promote competition and get freight off the roads when new models of rolling stock have to be separately certified in each country?
Graphic: The Economist and Peter Schrank
September 29, 2012
If You or Your Clients Plan to Do Business in Africa, Please Read This First.
Martin Meredith's The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence, 750 pages (2005, Perseus Books Group).
September 27, 2012
If you are doing business in Canada or America, then please get this book: Legal Aspects of Doing Business in North America (2nd Edition).
Here's a book about doing business and making investments in Canada and the United States America that businesses and law firms--especially non-North American players--need to buy. Salzburg-based Dennis and Chris Campbell are once again the Editors of Legal Aspects of Doing Business in North America (2nd Edition) published by Juris. It features a state-by-state and province-by-province analysis. As with the 1st Edition, a 1540-page looseleaf that is updated annually, the Campbells have kept and expanded upon the talented team of American and Canadian working lawyers who write it.
September 12, 2012
Africa: Al-Qaida re-groups, re-energizes and re-launches.
If your clients are among the legions of multi-nationals competing in the ongoing free-for-all for Africa's natural and human resources, here's an inevitable wrinkle of doing business. In Salon, and via the GlobalPost, see yesterday's piece by Tristan McConnell, "Al-Qaida Rising in Africa". Excerpts:
But while Al Qaeda central wanes, affiliates elsewhere are growing stronger, nowhere more so than in Africa, where groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are finding ways of hitching Al Qaeda’s ideology to their local struggles.
“Africa represents a fertile ground for diminished ‘Al Qaeda-core’ to re-group, re-energize and re-launch its mission of global jihad,” according to a recent report by the Royal United Service Institute, a London-based think tank.
The report pointed to the potential for an “arc of instability encompassing the whole Sahara-Sahel strip and extending through to East Africa.” It warned that Al Qaeda’s new strategy seemed to be “going native,” using local militant groups and their conflicts to gain a foothold in new countries.
“Much of this is being driven by the Africans themselves,” Dr. J. Peter Pham, director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center at Washington’s Atlantic Council, told GlobalPost. “They are finding in this ideology, which is not native, a way to transcend the local particularities of their individual fight and invest it with a greater meaning that has purchase beyond their borders,” Pham argued.
August 27, 2012
In the Movies, and in Real Life, the Chinese are now buying up American assets at a record pace.
The figure is about $8 billion so far this year, mainly in energy, aviation, and entertainment. The previous "record" for Chinese buying was the spree of 2007, totaling roughly $7 billion. See, e.g., in the LA Times "China eagerly buying up American assets", in the Financial Times (via CNN) "Chinese acquisitions in U.S. near record", and the new Warner Bros. fictionalized account of the misfortunes of North Carolina's 14th Congressional District in The Campaign, with Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis and half our mainstream media, all playing themselves.
July 30, 2012
Francine McKenna in the Financial Times: Sarbanes-Oxley? "It has failed".
Happy Tenth Birthday--and R.I.P.--Sarbanes-Oxley. Publicly-traded companies--their boards, officers, CFOs, lawyers and CPAs--are not likely to forget (1) Enron, the once-admired $100 billion energy company that deliberately deceived its investors of financial conditions and profitability with elaborate and aggressive practices of accounting fraud. Or forget (2) Arthur Andersen, the 90-year-old former "Big Five" accounting firm and Enron auditor that suffered mortal blows to its reputation when it was revealed it had obviously failed to conduct ethical or competent audits of Enron’s financial statements.
Enron and Arthur Andersen quickly became symbols of unfair play. They were not, of course, the only firms in the period 2000-2002 discovered to have committed large corporate frauds that would disappoint, shock and anger both novice and sophisticated investors worldwide. In the U.S., and with the greatest of acclaim and self-congratulation, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) on July 29, 2002 in large part to ensure accurate financial disclosures, to shut down corporate fraud and to restore investor confidence in audit companies after auditors at giants like Arthur Andersen and other shops failed to do their jobs and mitigate their clients' accounting frauds. President Bush signed SOX into law on the following day, July 30.
Did SOX meet these goals? No, according to Francine McKenna, a well-known Chicago consultant, columnist and "accounting watchdog" who writes re: The Auditors, and who worked for two decades in America and abroad in two of the current Big Four accounting firms. And, as McKenna might add, SOX in the last decade has not even come close in achieving those goals.
So see McKenna's op-ed in the Financial Times this morning: "Ten Years After Sarbox, Time for an Audit of the Auditors". McKenna offers three (3) big reasons Sarbanes-Oxley has been a bust on achieving objectivity in corporate audits. One reason she gives--this is my favorite since I have been seeing this over the last 10 years on an alarming if often comedic scale in the larger accounting firms in one form or another almost every day since the passage of SOX--is that:
audit companies still encourage partners to sell additional services to audit clients. Roger Dunbar, a former E&Y vice-chairman who is now the chairman of Silicon Valley Bank, told a recent forum on auditor rotation: “There’s an increase in scope creep, of wanting to provide these ancillary services to audit clients. I am personally worried. It’s a risk.”
Remember [McKenna goes on], Arthur Andersen had a disproportionate focus on the huge fees it earnt from consulting to Enron compared to the audit.
Sarbox was supposed to eliminate this conflict.
Except for Deloitte, audit companies went back to being primarily auditors after the 2002 act was passed. That trend has now reversed. Deloitte held on to its consulting arm and it has grown ever since. The remaining three Big Four companies rebuilt consulting businesses they sold or squelched.
For the other two reasons SOX (or Sarbox, for you accounting folks) is a failure, see the entire Francine McKenna FT piece at the above link. (As we've mentioned on other occasions, London-based the Financial Times has long been run by brilliant but way-snarky Brits who like you to work for their content; in the case of McKenna's piece, they obviously really like this one and they want you to pay for it.) McKenna's short, reasoned and honest call-to-arms for real auditing reform is not merely refreshing and compelling. It is undeniable. We expect to see the sentences in her SOX tenth anniversary FT op-ed quoted, paraphrased or mimicked in the coming months.
Francine McKenna of McKenna Partners, LLC
July 22, 2012
At Cross-Culture: The Great French Dream?
...change is definitely on France’s agenda. The recent electoral swing to the left has generated new hope for many, in spite of many of the unpopular changes and reforms that Hollande and his government are about to put into place.
Irrespective of their political beliefs, most of my entourage is relieved to see the back of Sarkozyism and as one person put it, unlike Sarkozy, Hollande actually went to political school so he knows how to govern. This is one of the first cultural gulfs I had to deal with when arriving in France that bounces back at me time and time again. In other words, if you went to the right school, you’re fit for the job. You can have all the potential in the world, but if you don’t have the qualifications, your skills and experience are worth little unless you are given the opportunity to prove otherwise.
And in the employment context I think this still rings very true today. An American friend of mine went for an interview recently at a recruitment agency. When asked what kind of job she would like to apply for, given her experience in a number of senior positions spanning over a 20 year career in France, she explained that there are any number of positions she could fill.
Launching into a justification of the unstable job market today the recruiter explained: “employers are taking fewer and fewer risks and are therefore clinging more and more onto the qualifications of their potential employees as a reliable form of employability. And because of this you don’t really fit into any one particular position.”
July 17, 2012
Yesterday's USA Today: Gains in the services sector lead "uneven job recovery". This is news?
The front page USA Today article is far from comprehensive and might have better defined "services" industries--it ignores, for example, the growth of products-based businesses with large and profitable services components--but it does report some interesting numbers about jobs currently in services versus "non-services":
More than 70% of jobs lost in service industries have returned three years after the recession's end, while only 15% of jobs lost in manufacturing, construction and other industries that produce goods have come back. The analysis is based on Labor Department data from January 2008 — when total U.S. employment peaked — through last month.
And about the services businesses of accounting and law:
Accounting firms, for instance, have regained 87% of the jobs they lost. The industry is benefiting from growth in start-up businesses, as well as new financial rules and U.S. company expansions abroad, says Scott Moore, a senior manager for the American Institute of CPAs.
Legal services, by contrast, have regained just 17% of their lost jobs.
As litigation waned in the recession, many firms had to charge fixed, rather than hourly, fees, slashing revenue, says Hal Sirkin, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group. Law firms are also relying more heavily on temporary legal professionals to handle investigations, says Charles Volkert, head of Robert Half Legal, a staffing firm.
IBM: a products-based or services business?
June 27, 2012
Thank you, Frisby & Company, Solicitors, Stafford, England, for having me speak today.
Because all three--Harvard prof Alan Dershowitz, my friend trial lawyer Dave Boies and one of our U.S. Supreme Court justices I've met and don't really like that much--needed to cancel at the last moment, my longtime Cambridgeshire-based friend Ruth Barber, a talented commercial lawyer and Director (i.e., partner) with Frisby & Co., Solicitors, asked me to speak by Skype this morning at one of Frisby's regular UK-styled in-house continuing legal education programs.
Frisby is a 30-lawyer firm based in Stafford, England, in Staffordshire, in the West Midlands. It focuses on contentious commercial work, particularly in the area of serious fraud and environmental health and safety. Frisby also has a newer--but exploding and very successful--white-collar crime practice.
Ms. Barber employed a talk-show format--and asked most of the questions. Told the group (in a local hotel conference room) what I could in 45 minutes about American law markets, new law firm models and lawyer training; the federal vs. state court system in the U.S., the importance (in my view) of keeping cross-border commercial disputes out of our state courts, the problems with popular election of state judges here and our small but more talented efficient federal bench; and finally whether Anglo-Irish American lawyers were even more long-winded and full of themselves than Brit solicitors and barristers (answer: oh yes). Seriously, a wonderful and impressive program I'd gladly do again.
Thanks for having me, Ruth, and Frisby lawyers. Appreciated. And I learned much.
(JDH with D. Jackson)
West Midlands of England, where Frisby is based, are beautiful. Above: Grounds of a local rehab (folks at time told me it was like a "camp") I was guest in in early 1980s.
June 17, 2012
Ah, here we go...Greece on Sunday: "The eyes of the world..."
Is it just me--or does Greece, Europe's first democracy, even vote real slowly? NBC News: "Greeks go to the polls in vote that threatens to shake world economy".
Bloomberg photo: Alexis Tsipras, the young leader of Greece's Syriza party. “Turn your backs on the two parties of bankruptcy." And, Dude, if you win, do not screw this up.
June 15, 2012
Cross-Culture: A Dutchman born in Columbia marvels about--and explains--the post-colonial ethnic salad bowl that is Panama.
I've worked in Panama only twice--and I'd love to go back. Once spending a week there I was, like others, amazed by its legions of banks, the range of going businesses, the contrasts, the over-importance of the Canal to its economic health, the frustrations of working there, the problems with finding decent local business lawyers to work with and the daunting and king-hell blend of tribes from all over the world throughout its strange and meandering history. It is still a post-colonial ethnic salad bowl. At R.D. Lewis's fascinating Cross-Culture Maarten Stal writes this week on "Panama: A Country in Transition". In particular, note what consultant Stal has to say about Panama's history, the primacy of Canal Zone and the joys and challenges for the many ex-pats now working in a country with its human origins in "native Indians, conquistadores, blacks, Chinese, French, Americans, Arabs, Jews and a variety of other (mostly European) nationalities".
Panama City, Panama
June 10, 2012
Eurozone "buys time" with loan to Spain: 100 billion euros.
Greece, Ireland, Portugal--and now Spain. The European Union and IMF at this point have earmarked 500 billion euros to finance European bailouts. What's remarkable to me is that European policymakers and world markets largely consider this fourth loan of 100 billion euros to be good news. Short term, it certainly is. But long term? How deep and desperate worldwide must the crisis become? See, e.g., at Reuters "Eurozone Agrees To Lend Spain Up To 100 Billion Euros".
Spain's finance minister, Luis de Guindos.
June 08, 2012
China in Africa: China, Taxation & African State-Building.
See "Chinese Thinking on Taxation and African Infrastructure" at Deborah Brautigam's fine and much-needed China in Africa: The Real Story. Her recent post touches on road building in Kenya to points in South Sudan. Query: Are there any other blogs or resources on the important but mysteriously under-reported subject of China in Africa? We'd like to know.
June 07, 2012
Bloomberg: Recession-spooked Americans cling to their current jobs.
This involves everyone working in, for or with an American-based business. It's about the saddest news Americans can get: a hard right jab to our spirit, moxie and ideal. See "Americans Cling to Jobs as U.S. Workforce Dynamism Fades". Excerpts:
The deepest economic slump since the Great Depression has left its mark on both job seekers and job creators, making them more wary about taking risks in a slowly recovering labor market.
Spooked by the severity of the recession and stuck with underwater home mortgages, Americans are less inclined to leave their jobs and less willing to strike out on their own to build businesses, government data show. Even with swelling profits, companies are holding back on hiring, complaining that they can’t find skilled workers for positions they do have open.
As a result, the labor market is losing some of the dynamism for which it’s long been known. And the trend predates the recession: An aging population and the growth of two-income households have reduced Americans’ mobility to about half of what it once was, while technological gains and globalization have led to a loss of middle-income jobs. The economic slump only exacerbated the loss of vigor.
Make yours Moxie anyway, Yank.
June 06, 2012
Lagos, Nigeria: Abuja Investigates. Black Box to U.S. Dana Air Managers Bolt.
From All Africa News via The Leadership in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, see "Nigeria: Dana Air Indian Senior Managers Flee Country". Excerpts:
As Dana Air's woes continue to mount over its plane that crashed on Sunday in Lagos, its senior managers of Indian nationality have reportedly fled the country as Nigerian aviation officials investigate the cause of the crash.
Leadership gathered that the managers hurriedly fled because of the anger the death of more than 200 people has generated and the alleged Dana Air's complicity in the crash.
There are reports that the ill-fated plane was poorly maintained and in bad shape when it made its last flight.
Meanwhile, people living close to the place where Dana Air's Boeing MD-83 plane crashed have raised the alarm over the stench emanating from the site at the Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos State.
The residents of the densely populated area lamented that apart from the wreckage that still liters their vicinity, the offensive odour oozing from the site of the crash calls for concern over the state of health of those inhaling the stench.
June 04, 2012
China adds Afghanistan to its smart, ambitious hit list for resources & global position.
Today Cairo, Tomorrow Kabul. And how many Yank and Brit lawyers are watching, engaged and poised to dive in? See Reuters: "China steps up Afghan role as Western pullout nears". Despite President Clinton's famous quip that "there's not much of anything to bomb", Afghanistan has natural resources out the wazoo--and it has strategic geographical position. China and its government get that. Resources: gold, silver, copper, zinc and iron ore in southeast; lapis, emerald and azure in northeast; petroleum and natural gas reserves (substantial but indeterminate) in north. Plus uranium, coal, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, and salt. In the middle of Asia, Afghanistan has been a portal of trade and migration for centuries. And it connects Asia with the Middle East.
May 27, 2012
The Economist: "Companies are like jets; the elite go private."
Photo: Jon Berkeley and The Economist.
The Decline of the Publicly-Traded Company? The public company idea is only about 150 years old and, like the slightly older animal we call "the corporation", is so far only a blip on the screen of world economic history. What will the future hold for companies in which the public is offered a shot at sharing in a company's growth and profits in return for their contribution of capital? Read in The Economist "The endangered public company: The rise and fall of a great invention, and why it matters".
The number of public companies has fallen dramatically over the past decade—by 38% in America since 1997 and 48% in Britain. The number of initial public offerings (IPOs) in America has declined from an average of 311 a year in 1980-2000 to 99 a year in 2001-11. Small companies, those with annual sales of less than $50m before their IPOs—have been hardest hit. In 1980-2000 an average of 165 small companies undertook IPOs in America each year. In 2001-09 that number fell to 30. Facebook will probably give the IPO market a temporary boost—several other companies are queuing up to follow its lead—but they will do little to offset the long-term decline.
May 22, 2012
Tom Doctoroff in WSJ on China now: Increasingly international--but distinctly Chinese.
If you missed it three days ago when it appeared in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal, see author-consultant Tom Doctoroff's authoritative, insightful and often surprising snapshot of China in "What the Chinese Want". The article helps roll out the carpet for Doctoroff's new book on China, being released today. Three excerpts from the article:
China is a Confucian society, a quixotic combination of top-down patriarchy and bottom-up social mobility. Citizens are driven by an ever-present conflict between standing out and fitting in, between ambition and regimentation. In Chinese society, individuals have no identity apart from obligations to, and acknowledgment by, others. The clan and nation are the eternal pillars of identity. Western individualism—the idea of defining oneself independent of society—doesn't exist.
The speed with which China's citizens have embraced all things digital is one sign that things are in motion in the country. But e-commerce, which has changed the balance of power between retailers and consumers, didn't take off until the Chinese need for reassurance was satisfied. Even when transactions are arranged online, most purchases are completed in person, with shoppers examining the product and handing over their cash offline.
Chinese at all socioeconomic levels try to "win"—that is, climb the ladder of success—while working within the system, not against it. In Chinese consumer culture, there is a constant tension between self-protection and displaying status. This struggle explains the existence of two seemingly conflicting lines of development. On the one hand, we see stratospheric savings rates, extreme price sensitivity and aversion to credit-card interest payments. On the other, there is the Chinese fixation with luxury goods and a willingness to pay as much as 120% of one's yearly income for a car.
May 18, 2012
Greece's Syriza Leader to Europe: You Cut Off Additional Funds, We Stop Paying Our Debts.
"Gee, really glad we came up with all that emergency money." The man who will likely be Greek's next prime minister has told the Wall Street Journal that if Europe stops funding his recession-ridden country, Greece will simply stop paying its creditors. Greece's austerity program is widely thought to be failing. It is now year five of the country's financial crisis. The economy shrinks substantially each year (headed toward about 5% this year). Half of all young people are out of work. Funding from outside Greece is now paying for basic services, like schools and hospitals. See this story.
Alexis Tsipras, the 37-year-old head of the Coalition of the Radical Left, also known as Syriza.
May 11, 2012
China in Africa: Is China putting the hurt on Africa's free press?
Western media has long given Africa a consistently negative--if indeed often painfully accurate--portrayal as troubled, poor, corrupt and violent. Is China, now Africa's biggest trading partner, engaged in a new public relations crusade to counter that image? If so, is China's new campaign an even-handed one? See at Deborah Brautigam's China in Africa "Africa's Free Press Problem: Is China Causing It?"
From Henry Hall's China Africa News
May 05, 2012
West Africa: Liberia Soul-Searching.
In a multitude of ways, no African state is more closely tied to the U.S. than Liberia, the West Africa region colonized by freed American slaves beginning in the 1820s. See this gem in The Daily Beast we almost missed published April 28: "Liberia Rethinks Its Past in Wake of Charles Taylor War-Crimes Verdict". Excerpt:
Liberia’s fractured history was again in view last week when The Hague announced a guilty verdict in the trial of Charles Taylor, the warlord turned elected president. Taylor was convicted of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in neighboring Sierra Leone during that country’s brutal civil conflict. In Monrovia, the verdict was welcomed by some Liberians and condemned by others, particularly former child soldiers for whom Taylor is a father figure—a sign that the verdict marks only the beginning of soul-searching for the country.
For most of its history, Liberian society and political life were dominated by the Americo-Liberians, descendants of the freed slaves, who mimicked the lives and culture of their onetime owners in the U.S. Citizenship was denied to natives until 1946, when then-president William V.S. Tubman granted them the right to vote, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that tribesmen won legislative representation. For 102 years, Liberia was a one-party state, with the True Whig Party enjoying a monopoly.
April 24, 2012
The New Manufacturing: Surprise. It's Digital.
See by our Brit Watchers at The Economist "The Third Industrial Revolution", part of a special report on the ripple effects of new technologies. It begins:
The first industrial revolution began in Britain in the late 18th century, with the mechanisation of the textile industry. Tasks previously done laboriously by hand in hundreds of weavers’ cottages were brought together in a single cotton mill, and the factory was born. The second industrial revolution came in the early 20th century, when Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line and ushered in the age of mass production. The first two industrial revolutions made people richer and more urban. Now a third revolution is under way. Manufacturing is going digital.
April 21, 2012
Have a job? It doesn't mean you're smart, Jack. Not even a little smart.
It may mean you're conformist, unimaginative, risk-averse, white or lucky enough not to live and work in El Centro, California, a vibrant, hot, tough and hard-working large U.S. farming border town I've spent lots of time in since 1996. See at MSNBC "Cities where unemployment is double the national rate".
AP Photo. El Centro has 26.7% unemployment
April 12, 2012
In The Economist: Shareholders Get Serious. Corporate Governance No Longer A Joke. Dang.
Power to the Shareholders and all that--but Shareholder Rights is still an expensive, unforgiving and tortuous hell for many well-meaning Boards. Active SHs often tend to be powerful--or whack-jobs with too much time to kill. Not much in between. See "Heating up: Shareholders are ever more willing to vote against management".
April 05, 2012
Cross-Border Smarts: Getting past whether to "kiss, bow or shake". How do different foreign nationals actually think about doing deals?
So what happens when Americans do business with the English? English trading with Germans? Or Germans with Japanese? Why do the Spanish and Finns view the concept of a written contract so differently
Richard D. Lewis's When Cultures Collide. Buy it, read it, refer to it and link to his blog. When Cultures Collide (Nicholas Brealey 3d edition), by Richard D. Lewis, is our favorite book on doing business internationally. We've been gushing over it for years at WAC/P? and Hull McGuire. Practical, expert, non-touchy-feely advice by a man who studied and consulted on international business before it was cool. First published in 1996. Well-written, often very funny. We've bought about 10 copies over the years. If there is ever a movie version, we'll stand in line to get tickets.
March 29, 2012
In The Irish Times today: Democracy in Africa edges forward.
Do see "Africa's Democracy" in The Irish Times today. Excerpts:
The contrast over the last week between the stories of Senegal and Mali speaks eloquently of Africa’s unsteady path to democracy half a century after both countries celebrated their independence. In Senegal, following elections on Sunday, power transferred peacefully from defeated incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade to his rival, Macky Sall, while in Mali soldiers last Thursday seized power after two decades of relatively successful democratic rule.
The coup, triggered by army anger at the government’s handling of a northern rebellion, has been condemned by the UN, Mali’s neighbours and major powers. Yesterday, however, in the capital Bamako, several thousand came out to oppose “foreign interference”.
Across the region, democracy, despite setbacks, has been edging forward. In Niger and in Guinea, military rulers surrendered power to the people over the past 18 months. In Ivory Coast, an attempt to ignore an election victory by Ouattara provoked a citizen uprising successfully backed by foreign intervention. In Liberia, a losing opposition candidate cried foul last autumn after a poll widely seen as fair. The voters were not moved. And even Nigeria’s imperfect elections last spring were a step forward.
Reuters: Malian soldiers and security forces last week after announcing a coup d'etat in Bamako, the capital.
February 25, 2012
Cross-Culture on Japan and Australia: "Disasters create strange bedfellows."
Read the excellent article "Accidental Diplomacy: Australian-Japanese Relations" by Philip Porter at Richard Lewis's Cross-Culture. Excerpts:
What good could anyone imagine would come from the horrors of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear leak that hit the Japanese coast last year?
Let me suggest one, a profound one: Japan for the first time since WWII felt cared for by foreigners. Foreigners, the “barbarians” of Perry’s black ships, the crazy, arrogant, unfathomable gaijins who had turned up in their thousands to get a bit of the action when Japan was in bubble economy mode.
Australia has been a major trading partner of Japan since WWII, exporting raw materials and getting them back in the form of cars, trucks, computers, anything. On the softer side Australia has also been seduced by wide-eyed anime characters like Astroboy, introduced business cards into its business etiquette and sushi, sashimi and tempura have become Aussie standards.
Immediately after WWII Japan was single minded in rebuilding domestically, protecting itself against a China that was not only its traditional enemy but now communist and still expansionist. It was deep in the throws of American occupation and needing to find a dignified and profitable relationship with its victors, which included Australia.
February 21, 2012
Greece: Getting $172 Billion More, Facing Heavy Losses and Balking at Brutal Anglo-Saxon Work Regimes.
Well, dang. Greek debt is said to be at about 160% of its GNP. Its second recent bailout coupled with long- and short-term pain in markets both in and out of Greece--add to this more rioting in the streets--prompts one obvious question: Should Greece remain in the Eurozone? While we all think about this, do see this AP story via The Washington Post, "Greeks’ elation at new debt relief is tempered by prospect of years of sacrifice".
ATHENS, Greece — Greeks were torn between relief and foreboding on the news Tuesday that their country has received a new massive bailout — while the aid will protect them from a calamitous default and keep them in the euro bloc, it will also cost households years of economic hardship.
The initial relief created Tuesday by the 17-nation eurozone’s approval of a new €130 billion ($170 billion) rescue package was offset by a grim reality: Greece faces many more years of sacrifice, on top of a grueling 24 months of austerity measures that have contributed to record high unemployment and a rapidly contracting economy.
“I don’t see (the agreement) with any joy because again we’re being burdened with loans, loans, loans, with no end in sight,” Athens architect Valia Rokou said.
The deal in Brussels gives Greece its second financial lifeline in less than two years — a combined package of foreign loans equivalent to about €22,000 ($29,000) for every Greek citizen, children included. National debt already amounts to about €32,000 ($42,300) each.
Rioting in Athens: What can a poor boy do?
Cultural Literacy in American Professionals: When?
Île Saint-Louis on the Seine, seen from a famous bridge.
Americans, the Alpha-humans, the elect and the "winners" in modern world history, are not well-rounded in our knowledge of the world, its people, and how we all got to this point on earth. Art, literature, the humanities, world history and political theory are not just for the rich, the elite, intellectual, and people who attended Choate and Oberlin. These things are the best part of all of us; they can inform, stir and improve every moment. If America could put real education before "jobs", we would astonish--and charm--the entire world.
Education is about more than just getting a job. Cultural literacy has never been an American strength. Oddly, even American professionals, and executives in leadership positions, continue to be satisfied with becoming, and remaining, in effect, "techs". Four years of college or university training. Seven years. Eight years. More. We are not "well-educated" in a traditional or historical sense.
If you don't regularly read this blog--we have a small but steady non-wanker following--here's a suggestion. Before reading further, skim "Thinking Warriors " and "Ernest, the French Aren't Like You and Me". If these posts make you angry, cause a tizzy, give you a headache, or make you pull a hamstring, just try another blog.
Put another way, Americans, the Alpha-humans, the elect and the "winners" in modern world history, are not well-rounded in our knowledge of the world, its people, and how we all got to this point on earth. Browse the American blogs of the Internet for a few hours. Mostly bad neighborhoods--and getting worse and dumber every month. We are insular and at best (being charitable here) semi-literate as a people. We are uninformed about the history, political roots, ideas and art of the West.
Sure, our schools and universities are called "the envy of the world"--and it's all a crock. We are delusional about our true educational achievement for the rank-and-file. We're a pretty dumb lot--and that includes the vast majority of our white collars and execs. The Net, ironically to some, has only made the situation worse; it imparts the idea that everyone (1) has great value and (2) has something very valuable to share. Neither is true. Neither has ever been true.
In short, very few people seem to know what they are thinking and talking about. But that's not important to most of us. We are 300 million "talkers" and know-it-alls, most of whom have four (4) die-hard hobbies: 1. Sitting, 2. Eating, 3. Watching Bad Television, and 4. A Relentless And Seemingly Eternal National Wankfest: Hanging Out With And Talking To The Same People Over And Over Again. Most of us never travel further than Lake Erie. It shows.
The result: not knowing very much, thinking we know everything, having a limited frame of reference about the World--and 80% of us are now Big Enough To Have Our Own Zip Codes.
The future? Well, it's not looking too good. Consider our human resources.
Some view the 18-35 generation as already broken down, and functionally retarded, with lots more budding failures coming up behind them flying the giddy colors of Sloth and McLife. The pattern mentioned above--in which American students at all levels are given poor grounding in global, cultural and historical "basics"--is even worse for these kids. We have dumbed them down silly.
Our short-term solution for younger adults? We've told them all along that they are "just fine". But they are not fine. They are a bust and--please don't lie to yourselves, your customers, co-workers or shareholders--they are dangerous to have in places of work where quality problem-solving is the main daily event. Or on any terrain where you cannot have a "bad day". Mostly drains and bad investments. Our firm will no longer hire them without probation periods--and very tough ones (which can still be a lot of fun for everyone). Nothing less is fair to our clients and co-workers.
Can Americans change any of this? Sure. If we could just learn some things, and put education before jobs, we would astonish and charm the entire world. We would produce better people. We'd have better employees. (Partners across the country again would be able to invite associates to lunch with clients who can read.)
Art, literature, the humanities, world history and political theory aren't just for the rich, the elite or the intellectual. They are the best part of all of us; they can inform, stir and improve every moment.
February 17, 2012
Double Secret "3-Way" Talks: Yanks, Afghans and Taliban?
With Kabul and Washington pushing for peace talks, Pakistan is regarded by both capitals as a major obstacle in the process. Afghan and American officials maintain that Pakistan's intelligence community continues to actively support Afghan Taliban insurgents.
"Taliban" always sounded to us like name of a Western child's toy--but it is anything but. And the Taliban, which the current Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai seeks to engage in talks, appears to have played this one expertly. It's clear that Taliban leaders based in both Afghanistan and Pakistan will negotiate with the West--but it seems extremely unlikely to us that anyone (except the U.S.) wants or needs to talk to President Karzai, a decent and smart human and snazzy dresser who is also a major tool. The Taliban laughs the guy off. See the Los Angeles Times today: "Afghan leader Hamid Karzai seeks Pakistan help in Taliban talks".
On the Good Foot: Last night in Islamabad, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani get ready to hit a few bars, discos and clubs, tip a few and pretend that Karzai has a real job. (B.K. Bangash/Associated Press)
February 13, 2012
"Counteracting declines" in the EU: Greece's austerity measures prompt some world markets gains. But...
We must show that Greeks, when they are called on to choose between the bad and the worst, choose the bad to avoid the worst.
--Greece Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos
But will that do it? Yesterday in Athens, while being guarded by riot police, the Greek Parliament passed its austerity legislation for a nation edging toward fiscal collapse. The passage was tied to Greece's request for a second bailout for 130 billion-euro ($172 billion). See, via the San Francisco Chronicle at the consistently just-the-facts Bloomberg News, "Greek Parliament Passes Austerity Bill as Rioters Burn Buildings."
Above: Northern Ireland.
February 12, 2012
New York Times this Sunday morning: Outsourcing Risk and Death in the Afghan War.
I'm reminded of the shockingly high percentage of deployed U.S. Merchant Marine civilian seamen--from old hands to students at Kings Point--who during World War II were killed or wounded at sea, generally unsung and almost always uncompensated. German U-boats coveted Allied supply ships. Merchant Marine vessels were frequent targets. It's true that both governments and the private sector "count funny" during wars. But based on new DOD and DOL statistics, more employees of civilian contractors than U.S. soldiers died last year in Afghanistan. See in the New York Times this morning "Risks of Afghan War Shift from Soldiers to Contractors". Excerpts:
Last year, at least 430 employees of American contractors were reported killed in Afghanistan: 386 working for the Defense Department, 43 for the United States Agency for International Development and one for the State Department, according to data provided by the American Embassy in Kabul and publicly available in part from the United States Department of Labor.
By comparison, 418 American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year, according to Defense Department statistics compiled by icasualties.org, an independent organization that monitors war deaths.
The biggest contractor in terms of war zone deaths is apparently the defense giant L-3 Communications. If L-3 were a country, it would have the third highest loss of life in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq; only the United States and Britain would exceed it in fatalities.
Over the past 10 years, L-3 and its subsidiaries, including Titan Corporation and MPRI Inc., had at least 370 workers killed and 1,789 seriously wounded or injured through the end of 2011 in Iraq and Afghanistan, records show.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for L-3, Jennifer Barton, said: “L-3 is proud to have the opportunity to support the U.S. and coalition efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We mourn the loss of life of these dedicated men and women.”
Other American companies with a high number of fatalities are Supreme Group, a catering company, with 241 dead through the end of 2011; Service Employees International, another catering company, with 125 dead; and security companies like DynCorps (101 dead), Aegis (86 dead) and Hart Group (63 dead). In all, according to Labor Department data, 64 American companies have lost more than seven employees each in the past 10 years.
Late 2010: Civilian contractors at the ABP Border Center in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan. Photo: Sgt. Richard Andrade.
February 11, 2012
More China in Africa: China labor practices in Zambia's mines.
See "One Barking Dog Sets the Whole Street a-Barking" and related links and posts for a discussion on the upshot of a recent Human Rights Watch's report on labor practices in a Chinese company in Zambia. It's all at Deborah Brautigam's China in Africa: The Real Story, which we first noticed here at the year's end. If you're not watching the world's scramble for Africa's resources as many African nations seem to enter their competence phases--following those of achieving independence and across-the-board post-colonial mismanagement--you and yours run the risk of becoming a western Rip Van Winkle.
February 03, 2012
Once again, The Question: Can Non-Lawyers Own Shares in U.S. Law Firms?
And can you think of a more controversial yet important question for the legal profession? The New York Bar, with an assist from the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog, raised it again this week: "New York State Bar Revisits Nonlawyer Ownership".
February 02, 2012
The Economist: How are you at reading Tribes?
"Reading a contract is useful, but you also need to be able to read people." The Economist, which has emerged as the weekly magazine for the 21st century world, has consistently underscored that doing business internationally requires an instinct for the multicultural. Business smarts and merit, of course, count, too. But the Multicultural is Now Everywhere, as nations and tribes down through history continue see their own move to locations all over the world. To encounter different tribes and folkways, you need not even travel. Tribes will come to you. To succeed at most things, you must be cognizant that increasingly tribes are all around you, and you need to start "getting" them. At The Economist, see columnist Schumpeter's excellent The Power of Tribes, and these examples:
Cultural ties matter in business because they lower transaction costs. Tribal loyalty fosters trust. Cultural affinity supercharges communication. Reading a contract is useful, but you also need to be able to read people.
Even as free trade and electronic communications bring the world closer together, kinship still counts. Indians in Silicon Valley team up with other Indians; Chinese-Americans do business with Taiwan and Shanghai.
One of the most vibrant cultural networks is also one of the oldest: the Sinosphere. China’s growing might is reinforced by its links with the overseas Chinese. Some 70m ethnic Chinese live outside mainland China. Some are descended from those who moved abroad during China’s imperial expansion from the 12th to the 15th centuries, settling in what are now Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar. More recently, many fled to escape the horrors of Maoism, or to seek a better life in America or another rich country. Together they connect China to every corner of the world.
Graphic: Brett Ryder/The Economist
February 01, 2012
South Africa's bid to control African Union goes to Plan B.
Unfortunately, South Africa's plan to take effective control of the African Union (consisting of 54 nations), and then to make the AU a more dynamic global player, is on hold for a few months. See at Bloomberg "South Africa Fails in AU Bid, Setting Back Africa Plan". It begins:
South Africa failed in its bid to secure control of the African Union’s top decision-making body, setting back its plan for the continental organization to play a more forceful role in global politics.
South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma didn’t win enough support in [Monday's] election in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for head of the AU Commission. The incumbent, Jean Ping, who failed to secure two-thirds of the vote to win a second term, will remain in the position until the next AU summit in June, his spokesman, Noureddine Mezni, said.
It’s “embarrassing for South Africa that it has not been able to carry a majority,” Daniel Silke, an independent political analyst who has advised Telkom South Africa Ltd. (TKG) and Sanlam Ltd. (SLM), said in a phone interview from Cape Town. “It clearly shows South Africa will have to do some targeted lobbying in the run-up to any future elections.”
January 25, 2012
At CorporateCounsel.net: UK considers shareholder Say-on-Pay and performance-based Bonus Clawbacks for execs.
See one of today's posts at Broc Romanek's TheCorporateCounsel.net. Excerpts:
The United Kingdom has been on a path to revise its executive compensation laws to rein in excessive pay. Yesterday, the UK announced a slew of proposals that would push the envelope in the executive pay area...:
- Say-on-pay votes would be binding
- Approval threshold increased to 75% from 50%
- At least two compensation committee members would have no prior board experience
- Clawbacks of bonuses if executives failed
- Enhanced disclosures
January 23, 2012
Nigeria as Battlefield: "Western education is sacrilege."
Over sixty years after gaining independence from European rulers, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, and home to Africa's largest population, continues to be a battlefield. Yesterday in Kano, Nigeria, in northern Nigeria, over 150 people were killed in a coordinated terrorist bombing claimed by the Islamist sect Boko Haram. Nigeria's current government is widely regarded as inexperienced and weak. But, as news reports rarely emphasize, one of the more troubling aspects of recent attacks by Boko Haram and other groups is that, since independence in 1960, traditional tribal and religious leaders in Nigeria have seen their power and influence weaken in times of crisis and violence. Increasingly, and in most circumstances, they can no longer be counted on or trusted to step in. See this AP article. Excerpt:
On Monday, Emir of Kano Ado Bayero and Kano state Gov. Rabiu Kwankwaso sat together at the front of a mosque typically full of worshippers during Friday prayers in this dusty, sprawling city. However, the special service to commemorate the dead and ask God for peace and justice drew much smaller crowds than usual, with half of the prayer mats unoccupied.
"I call on people from all groups to pray for this place," Bayero said.
Meanwhile, secret police officers stood guard outside with assault rifles.
Bayero is one of the premier rulers of the emirates of Nigeria, a system of governance that dates back to the 1800s and still carries spiritual importance to Muslims. British colonialists used the emirates to rule the north by proxy until Nigeria gained its independence in 1960.
Many believe Nigeria's corrupt politicians now do the same, as the vast majority of those living in the north deal with crushing poverty in a nation where most earn less than $2 a day.
The influence of traditional leaders in Nigeria has waned in recent years and the 81-year-old emir himself showed his age as he walked slowly away from the mosque, leaning heavily on his cane.
Such leaders previously promised to intercede for the government to stop the increasingly violent sectarian attacks of Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language.
January 14, 2012
At Cross-Culture: Are Chinese business people getting their American thing on?
At Richard Lewis's great Cross-Culture, Maria Chow, based in Singapore, and a founder of Spark Asian Leadership Practice, has written "As the Dragon Leads..." in which she contends that the traditional Chinese business style of "collective" and "reactive" is being slowly but noticeably replaced by more competitive and individualistic modes of behavior. In short, Chow says, China business leaders are starting to act more and more like Americans. Excerpt:
...I have trained hundreds of Chinese managers and hi-potential graduates from state-owned companies as well as multinationals in leadership.
What strikes me as rather unique in terms of Chinese talent is how competitive everyone is: individuals do all that they can to stand out from the “crowd”. Few shy away from stating openly their career aspirations. This contrasts interestingly with the common belief that socialistic societies are largely collective in most things people do.
With increasing opportunities in the country though, Chinese managers are displaying individualistic behaviour, pursuing their own careers and dreams with much fervour, almost as if to catch up on lost time.
January 05, 2012
To non-Americans starting to do business in America: The informality, and openness, is no myth.
It drives Brits, Germans and most northern Europeans nuts: American informality, openness, non-stop cheerfulness and friendliness. Over on their side of the pond, even a very self-assured and accomplished southern England executive, consultant, lawyer or other professional, for example, would rather choke to death than talk to strangers in a subway or ask how to get to a bank or money exchange. But "wide-open" is what Americans are and have always been; if you want to do business in the U.S., you need to step up. When we Yanks are over there, you guys can complain and be mortified all you want.
There is no end to multi-cultural etiquette primers on "doing business internationally", and most of them are of course drivel. The best advice in a nutshell? Go where you need to go, and watch your American hosts carefully as you work--but do "go native". Be prepared to amp yourself up just a notch. The website of UK-based Kwintessential does a nice job of laying out the overall business atmosphere here in a few sentences:
American friendliness and informality is legendary. People will not wait to be introduced and will even begin to speak with strangers as they stand in a line, sit next to each other at an event, or gather in a crowd.
Americans are direct in the way they communicate. They value logic and linear thinking [note: not sure I agree with foregoing clause] and expect people to speak clearly and in a straightforward manner. Time is money in the U.S. so people tend to get to the point quickly and are annoyed by beating around the bush.
Communicating virtually (i.e. through email, SMS, Skype, etc) is very common with very little protocol or formality in the interaction. If you are from a culture that is more subtle in communication style, try not to be insulted by the directness.
We're not ugly. We're noisy and playful. But you need to join in.
January 01, 2012
Marrakesh: Invest in "people different from you."
American expat Maryam Montague's My Marrakesh is consistently first-rate. Stylish and playful, yet profound and lovingly-written, this blog, like its author, is eclectic, well-traveled, highly educated and elegant. Fun, too. And she knows that life is, and should always be, a journey and adventure. Here's one we like we can use to carry us through the Rest of the Year 2012: "A tale of a new year of new adventures."
Photo: My Marrakesh/Vogue Italia.
December 17, 2011
Lower Manhattan's Trinity Church has a "Solidarity" Problem.
Say it isn't so, Muffie. Over three centuries ago--and just about two decades after the English finally achieved permanent control of Dutch-built Manhattan--then-local Anglo-Saxon politicians and families did things that made Trinity Church, now standing at the corner of Wall and Broadway, a major landowner in Lower Manhattan. And nowadays, Trinity (and probably just trying to be a good landlord to its tenants) has a bit of Episcopalian egg on its face: it supports the Occupy Wall Street movement, but does not want protesters doing their protest thing actually on some of its real estate holdings. Surely, this is making some of the first English settlers of New York City spin in their churchyard graves. See at The Gothamist "Occupy Wall Street May Occupy Trinity Church's Property Today."
Protesters outside Trinity Church last month (Gothamist/Mattron).
December 11, 2011
In Russia: "I want new elections, not a revolution."
Decades-long totalitarianism casts a long and powerful shadow. It keeps good people wimpy but "smart" long after free elections and other democratic engines are triumphantly installed. Visit Moscow, Prague, Budapest--and even towns in eastern Germany. Caution and endearing caginess: it's all there in gestures, speech, eye movements and personalities of entire families. For too long they were told what to think, where to work, what to say, what to write. But Russia, the Big Dog in all this, might be changing. In a country and culture where since 1917 no one likes to diss The Man--ever, for any reason, and even after the institution of elections in June 1991--Russian citizens might be finding a voice. See, e.g., MSNBC's "Russians Stage Mass Protests Against Putin" on the perceived election-rigging in Russia earlier this month and general revolt against Vladimir Putin and his younger sidekick Dmitry Medvedev. What these protesters are doing takes big ones--and Spirit. Russian Spring is something we all should watch.
December 10, 2011
Query: Has David Cameron won a short-term political boost at the cost of isolating and hurting the UK long-term?
Did the Prime Minster demand an opt-out for London and the UK from EU financial services regulation? If he did, did he go too far? See at BBC News "Cameron Blocks EU-Wide Deal to Tackle Euro Crisis" and at Bloomberg "Euro Weakens After ECB, EU Leaders Fail to Boost Confidence".
Eton's Pride: Cameron last night protecting UK sovereignty.
December 07, 2011
DC-based global IP voice Timothy Trainer: See video of his talk to US foreign service officers on importance of strong IP rights regimes, given at the USPTO.
Don't miss this video of a compelling and wonderfully practical talk our friend and veteran DC intellectual property rights lawyer Tim Trainer gave in the summer of 2010 to US State Department foreign service officers at the USPTO on the effect of strong IPR regimes on economic growth and development. The video was finally made available last month. Trainer spends much of his time all over the globe raising awareness of intellectual property rights--and educating a broad spectrum of people on the importance of strong IPR regimes to business, and to specific economies, nations and governments. For two decades, he's worked for both government and private industry in everything from developing early IP infrastructure to anti-counterfeiting and enforcement strategies in Asia, Egypt, Brunei, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Philippines, and Vietnam, to name a few. Trainer also directs the well-regarded Washington-based Global Intellectual Property Strategy Center, or GIPSC, and is President of Galaxy Systems, which develops innovative ways of providing intellectual property training and education. Galaxy has already developed an engaging and interactive online game in which the player--using IP and an allotment of money--builds a business, and develops a local economy.
Trainer with university students after June 2011 talk in Tbilisi, Georgia, its capital and largest city.
December 06, 2011
Finally, Europe may embrace audit reform: Sarbanes-Oxley Lite.
Nearly 10 years after enactment of the American Sarbanes-Oxley Act (also known as "the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act"), and just as many years of hearing Europe-based lawyers and their clients complain about it, Europe may get its own legislation: a kind of Sarbanes-Oxley Lite, proposed last week by the European Commission. If passed, the legislation would require more stringent but not draconian oversight of the auditing profession in the European Union. See for details this one at Broc Romanek's TheCorporateCounsel.net
November 29, 2011
OECD: American and EU fiscal leadership may make global recovery a pipedream.
November 07, 2011
The Economist: "First Greece? Next Italy?"
As Greece forms a much-needed new government (MSNBC), some eyes turn to Italy. At the G20 summit that concluded in Cannes on November 4, Italy was placed under IMF monitoring. See in The Economist "Berlusconi Burlesque". Excerpt:
Though yields on its bonds have soared alarmingly, Italy has not had to seek a bail-out (not yet anyway). And in an attempt to ensure it does not succumb, bringing down the euro with it, it has been placed under a special preventive regime—placed on probation to ensure it implements the many promises it made to carry out reforms designed to promote growth and balance the budget by 2013.
The polite fiction is that Italy has "invited" this monitoring, but nobody makes any secret of the fact that the government of Silvio Berlusconi has a problem with “credibility”. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, says Italy’s case is “completely different” to that of Greece, which has galvanised the attention of the G20 summit, given the prospect that it may soon default on its debt.
By the same token, Italy’s position is now markedly worse than that of Spain, which until this summer had been seen as the country most likely to succumb after Greece, Ireland and Portugal. But Spain's outlook is now less dire as a result of a succession of reforms, and the decision by the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, to step down at the next election later this month.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in better years.
November 06, 2011
This is East Anglia. Lindsey, Suffolk, England.
Neither the tiny rural village of Lindsey nor the surrounding countryside has changed much since 1634, when one side of my family left there for Massachusetts and, in time, a new "Groton", named after another small village near Lindsey. Nearly 380 years later, Lindsey is pastoral, green, mainly un-peopled and fairly remote. No visible 21st century commerce. Some farming. No tourists.
St Peter, a rough Anglican church, at one time Catholic, the one my ancestors attended, built in the 1300s, and even older church ruin, St James (1200s), are the only man-made constants. Still a "parish", Lindsey is on the B1115 Hadleigh-to-Bury road.
This is part of East Anglia--coveted, held and loved for so long by the Danes. The region's been victor and victim over and over again. Mainstream tribes from all over Europe battled here for centuries. It is storied. It is still beautiful. Nothing compares to it.
And it is a key "feeder" region in the English migration to America. From 1625 to 1640, Charles I had tried to rule England without calling the Puritan-dominated Parliament. Puritan dissenters, lots of them, lived in the area around Lindsey, and
from here hundreds of families fled across the Atlantic to the new world. The Winthrops, of tiny Groton, would become founders of the State of Massachusetts. But most of the settlers were poor, working families, and they would devote themselves to quiet, prayerful unpersecuted lives, and of work hard to build new communities. Of course, they would never see Suffolk or the valley of the gentle Brett again.
October 31, 2011
"Turn off the lights & lie on the floor." Halloween, Druids--and Your Kids.
Are your kids hanging out with Pagans?
Just a suggestion if you forget to buy the candy. Yes, Halloween--also called "Pooky Night" in some parts of Ireland--is really just a faint shadow of ancient seasonal celebrations of the mysteries of the cosmos: life, death, renewal, Keith Richards, Clarence Thomas. Things we see and sense but cannot explain.
In fact, the entire last week of October offers very old harvest and life-death cycle observances with Pagan, Celtic, Roman and even Christian variations. While some cultures commune a bit more seriously with the spirit world this week, U.S. kids of course love it for its costumes and candy. But for many it's just a sign of Fall. John Keats (1795-1821) was taken with the season, too:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom‑friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch‑eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er‑brimmed their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on the granary floor,
Thy hair soft‑lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or, on a half‑reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinéd flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider‑press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Aye, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too—
While barréd clouds bloom the soft‑dying day,
And touch the stubble‑plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full‑grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge‑crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden‑croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
September 19, 1819
October 21, 2011
Now What? With Colonel Gadhafi Gone, what about OPEC production?
See in Forbes "The Death of Gadhafi and the Future of Oil Markets". Excerpts:
Libyan oil production hit 1.559 million barrels of daily production back in 2010, according to OPEC. That was about 2% of global production and 5% of OPEC production. Civil war, though, disrupted flows to the point where in August production averaged 7 barrels a day. Over the third quarter, production averaged 151,000 barrels per day.
While it is hard to estimate the effect of Gadhafi’s death on oil markets, a look at WTI and Brent prices show a marked fall starting about 8 AM in New York, when the news initially surfaced. Markets bounced off their lows and by 2:26 PM, Brent was trading at $108.97 while WTI at $85.13.
Commodity analysts at JPMorgan note that news coming out of Libya in the last 6 weeks, practically all of it positive, suggest “the oil market is discounting a relatively rapid return of at least the first 700,000 barrels per day of production.”
October 05, 2011
The Economist on Samsung: "Asia’s new model company".
A new GE or P&G? Maybe so. But we must add a dash of serious if wonderful in-your-face quirk. See "Samsung and its Attractions" in The Economist. Excerpt:
To some, Samsung is the harbinger of a new Asian model of capitalism. It ignores the Western conventional wisdom. It sprawls into dozens of unrelated industries, from microchips to insurance. It is family-controlled and hierarchical, prizes market share over profits and has an opaque and confusing ownership structure.
Yet it is still prodigiously creative, at least in terms of making incremental improvements to other people’s ideas: only IBM earns more patents in America. Having outstripped the Japanese firms it once mimicked, such as Sony, it is rapidly becoming emerging Asia’s version of General Electric, the American conglomerate so beloved of management gurus.
October 03, 2011
Ile St Louis: Ernest, the French aren't like you and me.
Yes, they have far more class.
--with apologies to the Fitzgerald-Hemingway exchange.
Like their natural enemy, the English, Parisians are wonderful--but neither nation's citizens are openly "friendly". When the English and French encounter Yanks abroad, they just can't get why Americans are so outgoing, or why they would even want to be. Most Americans are openly curious and warm everywhere they go.
Both the English and the French, however, would rather choke to death than ask a question about something they don't know, and they bristle at at the overly-familiar tone they associate with American tourists and businessmen. True, the reserved English are getting better at customer service. But a Parisian retail-level employee is still likely to treat basic customer service as horribly degrading to his or her person-hood: "I know it's my job, I know you aren't like the other Americans, but you are still bothering me, sir."
Despite my own predominately English roots--I've got smaller bits of German, Welsh, Irish and French, and dabs of any of the four can make you hopelessly eccentric and irritating in completely different ways--the French are my still favorite. They are flirtatious and serious, volatile and sturdy, civilized and feral, logical and irrational. But they do teach their children of all social classes that education and being steeped in the best of Western culture is not something like, as Brit author Julian Barnes once suggested in Something to Declare, an optional feature to a car. Art is a necessity, not a luxury. The French are
designed by God to seem as provokingly dissimilar from the British as possible. Catholic, Cartesian, Mediterranean; Machiavellian in politics, Jesuitical in argument, Casanovan in sex; relaxed about pleasure, and treating the arts as central to life, rather than some add-on, like a set of alloy wheels.
So the humanities, ideas and old verities from great men and women now gone are essential for living and enjoying life as a Whole Person. Art isn't just for the rich, the elite or the intellectual. Moreover, the French are not runners and cowards--don't make the mistake of buying into the notion that they shrink from adversity. Throughout most of their history, they've been calculating, competitive, courageous and war-like. They are intelligently patriotic. And they'll beat you with argument, and arms, if they have to. But their real gods are Reason and Art. My sense is that, in the next few decades, the French will manage to save us all from ourselves, as they can be counted on to remind humans of what's important--and who we all really are. Watch them.
August 23, 2011
Broc Romanek: Congress, HR 2759 and Disclosures of "Social Issues" to the SEC.
And, hey, Get the Net. See at The Corporate Counsel.Net Broc Romanek's piece "A Disturbing Trend: Congress Forcing Corporate Disclosure for Social Issues". Excerpts:
Now, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has introduced a House bill entitled the "Business Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act" (H.R. 2759) that would require companies to disclose efforts to identify and address the risks of human trafficking, forced labor, slavery and child labor in their supply chains.
Although these bills are well-meaning, attempting to solve the world's problems through SEC filings simply is the wrong--and very expensive--way to go. How in the world did Congress start thinking they should influence foreign policy, as well as domestic social and environmental issues, through SEC filings?
Well, before Dodd-Frank, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) used an omnibus appropriations bill in early '04 to require companies to disclose business activities in countries designated by the State Department as sponsoring international terrorism (Wolf particularly was targeting Iran). Corp Fin's "Office of Global Security Risk" was born.
August 01, 2011
Debt Ceiling Deal Done. Obama Tax Raise Bid Shut Down. Are We Yanks Short-Sighted Tools or What?
It's not over yet. But see Washington strikes deal on debt ceiling, by David Espo, Associated Press. It begins:
WASHINGTON — Ending a perilous stalemate, President Barack Obama and congressional leaders announced historic agreement Sunday night on emergency legislation to avert the nation's first-ever financial default.
The dramatic resolution lifted a cloud that had threatened the still-fragile economic recovery at home — and it instantly powered a rise in financial markets overseas.
The agreement would slice at least $2.4 trillion from federal spending over a decade, a steep price for many Democrats, too little for many Republicans. The Treasury's authority to borrow would be extended beyond the 2012 elections, a key objective for Obama, though the president had to give up his insistence on raising taxes on wealthy Americans to reduce deficits.
July 01, 2011
The Economist: Fiscal Angst and Agony in Greece.
So you think America has problems? Yesterday's The Economist tries to make sense of the ongoing and painful debate in debt-ridden Greece over a fiscal rescue plan. See "What have we become?" Excerpt:
Theodoros Pangalos, the famously blunt deputy prime minister, put it even more starkly. If Greece were to break with its would-be saviours and launch a new drachma, local banks would be besieged by panicked depositors and the army would have to keep order. “The shops will empty, and some people will jump out of windows,” he told El Mundo, a Spanish daily.
(Last year Mr Pangalos irked some compatriots, and impressed others, by saying that ordinary Greeks, as well as the political elite, had wasted the loans and subsidies that rained down on the country: “We ate it up together.”)
June 14, 2011
"Being in London is getting to me."
From Duncan Campbell King at his soulful and introspective Wrath of a Sumo King.
June 04, 2011
Cross-Border Unbundling and Signs of Times: "Need to litigate in Germany?"
Got Grϋndlichkeit? A telling ad appears in this month's Washington Lawyer magazine. It's placed by a Frankfurt-based lawyer--a Total Teutonic Betty, too, based on her photo--with 25 years experience in corporate law, finance and commercial transactions as well as in contentious work. Affiliations (and ads) like this were not mainstream until relatively recently. It reminds you, among other things, that business is increasingly global and that Europeans speak both fine UK English and American English. It begins: "Need to litigate in Germany but have no office there?". It goes on in compelling detail. Apart from the merits and value this particular lawyer could or could not add to a project, think about what this kind ad represents.
Oberlandesgericht Zweibrücken, Higher Regional Court Zweibrücken,
located in Zweibrücken, Rhineland Palatinate, Germany.
April 28, 2011
Redux: If your U.S. client trades abroad, the UCC won't always give you the answer.
If you buy and sell in the global markets, the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) is your new friend.
If your day job is like WAC?'s, it's not off-the-wall for a longstanding client to call on a Friday afternoon with a question about a clause in a 10-year old contract under which the client, a U.S. widget manufacturer, is selling widgets to a Norwegian distributor. "No problem," you think. And you tell her: "Let me look at the Uniform Commercial Code, preliminarily. We'll start there, of course. I will call you back."
Be careful there, fancy-lawyer guy.
Commercially, we live in a world that never sleeps. Every minute, even during these nervous months, deals are struck and goods change hands. In cases of international sales of goods, the Uniform Commercial Code--or UCC, adopted by 49 states to create a standardized law for commercial transactions in the U.S.--is often preempted by the federally-adopted United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (1980)(often referred to as the "CISG").
A multinational treaty that provides a uniform law for international sales of goods, the CISG was signed in 1980--and has been ratified by over 70 countries. While the CISG is similar to the UCC, there are differences, and some are major. For example, unlike the UCC, the CISG generally does not require any contract for the sale of goods to be in writing. More importantly, unless the terms of a sales contract between parties from participating countries expressly exclude the CISG, the CISG is deemed to govern the contract.
By the way, don't guess on Contracting States, or signers, either. The U.S. adopted the CISG in 1988. Australia, most of Europe and parts of Asia, Africa and South America have also adopted the CISG.
One notable holdout: the United Kingdom.
Note: Courtesy of Pace Law School, in White Plains, New York: for U.S. citation purposes, the United Nations-certified English text is published in 52 Fed. Reg. 6262, 6264-6280 (March 2, 1987); United States Code Annotated, Title 15, Appendix (Supp. 1987). We were trying quickly to track that down, no one else had it "unofficial-quick-and-dirty-handy" on the Internet (not even UNCITRAL), Pace had it, and Pace was right.
March 18, 2011
Been everywhere, man--but nothing trumps this.
“Law is the ultimate backstage pass.”
– John Milton/Satan (L’Associé du Diable)
I'm gushing but torn, like a guy who just ran into that beloved ex-girlfriend he inexplicably didn't marry, and will never get out of his head. It's my birthplace, training ground and favorite US city, Washington, DC, where lawyers re-wrote the book on what lawyers really are and can do.
Here we more than just litigators, deal-doers, drafters, agents, fixers, politicians, lobbyists, liars and K Street pimps. A good, broad-gauged "Washington lawyer", regardless of speciality, is a thinker, doer, creator, planner, problem-solver, consiligere and true trusted advisor.
Her firm is not just a "shop"; it's a laboratory for new ideas.
You won't meet better lawyers. Or people. The city itself has energy and personality, and is a vast library of people resources. Talented and feisty folks choose to move to Washington, DC; they are not "stuck" here, or here by default. So I gush a bit. I'm grateful I lived here for the first 12 years of my career, and can keep coming back to work.
The Economist: Japan March 11 Quake Ripples Through Markets.
See "Market Tremors. Excerpt:
The Nikkei 225 index fell 17.5% in the three trading days following the catastrophe, wiping some ¥37 trillion ($458 billion) off equities. This compares unfavourably with market reactions to other disasters. Once the New York Stock Exchange had reopened six days after the September 11th terrorist attacks, the S&P 500 fell by 11.6% over five trading days, but after a further 14 days it had recovered to its pre-disaster level.
March 05, 2011
Corporate Counsel: What kind of SEC?
See Broc Romanek's piece yesterday, "Should the SEC Be Reorganized? If So, How?" Excerpt:
With a government shutdown averted--at least for two weeks--SEC Staffers still have plenty to be concerned about. One of the Dodd-Frank studies--required by Section 967 of the Act--is being prepared by an independent consultant, the Boston Consulting Group.
Expected to be published soon, the study's stated purpose is to "examine the internal operations, structure, funding, and the need for comprehensive reform of the SEC, as well as the SEC's relationship with and the reliance on self-regulatory organizations and other entities relevant to the regulation of securities and the protection of securities investors that are under the SEC's oversight."
Given that this study was commissioned at a time when it was expected that the SEC would receive more funds and would be in full hiring mode--and now the opposite is true--it will be interesting to see how the study handles this dramatic change in the Congressional-regulatory environment.
Harvey (1950): "Well, what did you have in mind?"
February 15, 2011
Mike O'Neil on Egypt: What's Next?
See O'Neil's fine "Now the Hard Part for Egypt", which appeared yesterday in The Huffington Post and elsewhere. Excerpt:
The caretakers of the transition are the military. The thing to watch for are key institutional reforms. Release of political prisoners would be a good start. Then look to whether the press begins to operate independently of government control: do they regularly and freely criticize the regime?
And look for the revocation of the blank check "emergency rule" which permits almost unlimited and unconstrained government action. It the military intent is to produce a democratic system in Egypt, these could and should begin almost immediately.
February 03, 2011
Wall Street watches Egypt: Are oil-rich nations next?
January 19, 2011
North Korea: The Look and Feel of Juche.
Only rarely does Blogdom really earn its keep. But there are exceptions. Don't miss "A Visit to North Korea", both the reporting and the accompanying photos, at Richard Lewis's Cross-Culture. Excerpt:
While it has replaced Marxism-Leninism in North Korea, Juche acknowledges the influence of traditional communist doctrine, although over the past two decades, the military rather than the proletariat or working class, is the main revolutionary force.
To the traditional hammer and sickle, symbolizing the factory worker and the farmer, Juche’s icons also include a writing brush for the “Samuwon” class of writers, professors, engineers, and bureaucrats – a departure from the emphasis in other communist nations.
"Revolutionary posters all follow the same formula: a farmer, a factory worker, an office worker or engineer, usually carrying a T-square, and a soldier. One is always a woman." (Photo: R. Lewis)
January 14, 2011
South Wales: Swansea Jacks? In Bergen County, NJ, right?
Well, no. But we know that you've never been anywhere--and that you're not the least bit curious about Anything East of Bermuda. Another "Second City", but a key one, Swansea, Wales is roughly to Cardiff, Wales what Manchester, England is to London. Vikings settled in this area on the South Wales coast in 1013, when they took it from local Anglo-Saxons. Later, in the 1100s, Normans founded the town of Swansea. It became a major industrial center and port by the 18th century, and now mixes manufacturing with an increasingly thriving services industry. About 230,000 people live here. Dylan Thomas started out here in 1914, and ended his life prematurely in Manhattan in 1953 by doing something not even most world-class degenerates (i.e., Raoul Duke, W.C. Fields, Holden Oliver) would try at home. In 1969, the highly correct, wonderful and close-to-WAC/P-perfect actress Catherine Zeta Jones was born in Swansea. Jones still speaks fluent Welsh and has an oceanside home here. Her son, with American actor Michael Douglas, was born in 2000. His name is Dylan.
High Street, 1907
December 11, 2010
Working Abroad: Expect Hiccups.
Working and lawyering abroad isn't about being cool, wearing an ascot or pretending to be George Hamilton or a Parisian filmmaker on your weekends in Montpellier or Bruges. Even if you've worked a few times in Europe in some of the most American business-friendly cities, there are always surprises, hurdles and frustrations. The good news? The glitches and delays are always different.
Language, by the way, is not likely to be a problem if you are a Yank. No need to bone up on your French or German. In the last 20 years, non-English-speaking Europeans increasingly have favored English for doing business--including with each other--and they are not struggling much with it. Do surprise them by learning as much about their country, language and culture as you can. Immerse yourself in it. But forget about learning their language as well as they have learned yours. *
Apart from the substantive challenges of doing the Work Itself (i.e., a deal or a business-to-business arbitration), there are issues of travel logistics, brand new "collisions of culture" that are highlighted on both sides of the table in every new project or proceeding, and the daily realities of erratic sleep and devil jet lag. The experience can try you.
It can get to you, too--and spoil the fun and excitement. You need to be organized and diligent. And flexible. Three years ago our friend Janet Moore was working a lot in Ireland and Holland--both relatively user-friendly jurisdictions and cultures for American lawyers and their clients. Janet's a veteran of working abroad. Her take? As she wrote to us all, she needed to remind herself to "be patient"--and to "expect hiccups".
*Let's be frank. Many Europeans have come to the conclusion that even educated and well-traveled Americans are hopelessly insular--both geographically and linguistically--and they are doing their best to regard it as humorous and charming, sort of. In short, they have given up on us. We're getting a pass.
December 08, 2010
Druids worldwide to get wild around the 21st.
For centuries, starting around the 21st of the month, Druids liked to leave the house, get wild and "put on the dog". Both warriors and mystics, Druid fighters in the woods of northern Europe came at you painted, naked, screaming, hurling weapons and curses, chanting and, well, real rowdy. Not unlike our British pal GeekLawyer after them, these folks came to play.
Even the Romans were a bit afraid of Druids--especially in what is now northern Wales. But except for celebrations of solstice and equinox four time a year, Druids are pretty quiet these days. Could a Christmas-season plant with a mythical calming influence be the reason? Well, here's a Steamboat Today (Steamboat Springs, Colorado) piece that links mistletoe to Druids.
The Druids felt the plant could protect against poisons, illness and witchcraft spells. In their time, if enemies met under mistletoe in the forest, they were required to be peaceful until the next day. This may be the origin of the custom of kissing under a ball of mistletoe as a sign of goodwill.
Isle of Anglesey: A fun Druid island in northwest Wales.
November 05, 2010
R.D. Lewis: Hungary Business.
At Cross-Culture by Richard Lewis, see "Country Focus: Hungary". It's a quick but fair rundown, and one with an historical thread, of doing business in Hungary. Plus ten rules to guide you. The last three:
8. Show your individuality. Hungarians are rather cynical, for ancient historical reasons, about leaders. The Soviet rule did nothing to change this attitude. But you will gain respect if you can show your individuality and expertise in a particular field, especially if it is intellectual, scientific or artistic. Intelligence, energy, shrewdness and a quick wit are admired. But remain generous-spirited and friendly.
9. Respect high achievement and competitiveness. They are eager to demonstrate that they can recover from the communist era faster than anyone else, and that they have been progressive (such as in having been early candidates for the EU.) They have an obsession to achieve and to show the fruits of their success in the form of status symbols like plush offices, cars and good clothes. It will do you no harm to do the same, if you can.
10. Choose the countries you talk about carefully. It will not help your case to overly praise Romania or Slovakia, or to talk about ethnic minorities unless you are well informed. The same goes for the communist period in general. You are on very safe ground asking about their difficult language and their linguistic and racial ties to the Finns, whom they admire. Always refer to Hungary as being part of Central Europe, not Eastern.
September 15, 2010
China business: Bribery, rogue foreigners, risk.
Is bribery by many foreigners normal, "fair game", an option, or rare? Inspired by Rich Brubaker at his All Roads Lead to China, Seattle-based Dan Harris writes about China corruption at his tirelesss China Law Blog. Excerpt:
When it comes to getting caught, there are essentially two kinds of companies. One kind makes very clear it will not permit corruption and it does whatever it can to make that very clear to its people.
The other kind does a lot of winking and nodding and other things to make clear that though "I personally don't like it, the less I know about it, the better."
Above: Like our cousins the French, the Chinese often overreact--but only for show, the appearance of enforcement, and to get attention.
September 01, 2010
Best prof-loved corporate law sites.
They may in effect send 25-year-old teacups and teletubbies to your shop each Fall--but some law profs do have fine taste in resources for working stiffs who must labor in the streets and trenches. Read the takes on better corporate blogs of J.W. Verret (George Mason) at Truth on the Market and of the still-famous Professor Bainbridge (UCLA). We would not add to the combined list. Well done. Pass+ to both. You need not call your mothers.
August 29, 2010
NYT Photo of the Decade
Of comrades Paulson, Bernanke & Geithner taken in late 2008. It gets better all the time.
Matthew Cavanaugh/European Pressphoto Agency (October 2008)
August 27, 2010
Making plays: Point guard Bernanke on 1.6% "crawl" in Q2
Getting "unconventional" is fine with us, Ben. Have at it. AP: "Fed Consider Another Large Purchase of Securities". In part:
JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Friday that the Fed will consider making another large-scale purchase of securities if the slowing U.S. economy were to deteriorate significantly and signs of deflation were to flare.
The Fed chief offered his most extensive thoughts yet on how to pull the U.S. economy out of a deepening slump. His remarks came 90 minutes after the government said the economy slowed sharply in the second quarter to a 1.6 percent pace.
"I believe that additional purchases of longer-term securities should the FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee] choose to undertake them, would be effective in further easing financial conditions." he said.
The other two options he laid out are:
--Providing more information in the Fed's post-meeting policy statements about how long Fed policymakers would continue to keep rates at record lows. For more than a year, the Fed has been pledging to hold rates at ultra-low levels for an "extended period."
--Cutting to zero the interest the Fed pays for banks to keep money parked at the Fed. That rate is now 0.25 percent.
August 13, 2010
Once the salmon capital of the world (fish farms ended that), Dillingham, Alaska is a stop-over for sports fishermen, wildlife lovers, bear studiers, bush pilots, extreme camper-hikers, "square pegs" and fed-up spouses in the lower forty-eight who went out one day for a pack of Marlboros and never came back. A point of endings and beginnings, it is also the entrance to a remote, roadless and eerily beautiful part of the world. The town itself (pop. 2,500) is on Nushagak Bay, an inlet of Bristol Bay, in the Bering Sea. Dillingham was named in 1904 after U.S. Senator Paul Dillingham, who had toured Alaska extensively as part of his committee work in Congress.
August 01, 2010
If your U.S. client trades abroad, the UCC won't always give you the answer.
If you buy and sell in the global markets, make the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) your friend.
If your day job is like ours, it's not off-the-wall for a longstanding client to call on a Friday afternoon with a question about a clause in a 10-year old contract under which the client, a U.S. widget manufacturer, is selling widgets to a Norwegian distributor. "No problem," you think. And you tell her: "Let me look at the Uniform Commercial Code, preliminarily. We'll start there, of course. I will call you back."
Be careful there, fancy lawyer. Commercially, we live in a world that never sleeps. Every minute during these last 40 or so nervous months, deals are still struck and goods still change hands.
In cases of international sales of goods, the Uniform Commercial Code--or UCC, adopted by 49 states to create a standardized law for commercial transactions in the U.S.--is often preempted by the federally-adopted United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (1980) (often the "CISG").
A multinational treaty that provides a uniform law for international sales of goods, the CISG was signed in 1980--and has been ratified by over 70 countries. While the CISG is similar to the UCC, there are differences, and some are major. For example, unlike the UCC, the CISG generally does not require any contract for the sale of goods to be in writing. More importantly, unless the terms of a sales contract between parties from participating countries expressly exclude the CISG, the CISG is deemed to govern the contract.
By the way, don't guess on Contracting States, or signers, either. The U.S. adopted the CISG in 1988. Australia, most of Europe and parts of Asia, Africa and South America have also adopted the CISG.
One notable holdout: the United Kingdom.
Note: Courtesy of Pace Law School, in White Plains, New York: for U.S. citation purposes, the United Nations-certified English text is published in 52 Fed. Reg. 6262, 6264-6280 (March 2, 1987); United States Code Annotated, Title 15, Appendix (Supp. 1987).
Redux: Andy Grove on U.S. jobs: "Rebuild our industrial commons".
[P]lowing capital into young companies that build their factories elsewhere will continue to yield a bad return in terms of American jobs.
We should develop a system of financial incentives: Levy an extra tax on the product of offshored labor. (If the result is a trade war, treat it like other wars -- fight to win.) Keep that money separate. Deposit it in the coffers of what we might call the Scaling Bank of the U.S. and make these sums available to companies that will scale their American operations.
Such a system would be a daily reminder that while pursuing our company goals, all of us in business have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability--and stability--we may have taken for granted.
Agreed. But will this be true in 20 years?
July 21, 2010
The Iranians: For centuries, governments have come and gone.
But they do endure. The truly global Sir Eldon Griffiths--former MP, writer and diplomat who for decades has traveled extensively in the Mideast--has popped up this month on Richard Lewis's fine Cross-Culture. See Sir Eldon's article "The Islamic Republic won’t last forever. The Iranian Phoenix will be reborn". It concludes:
The Mullahs are not forever. One way or another, they too will pass or be absorbed into the cultural fabric of historic Iran. With Ardeshir Zahedi, I cling to the belief expressed by a mutual friend, Houshang Navahandi, when he served as Rector of Shiraz University:
"Four thousand years of history with so many ups and downs have taught this to the Iranians: Iran has always survived, overcome its invaders… absorbed its occupiers. The Phoenix is always re-born from the Ashes."
Why Salzburg Matters.
Yes, we know you dream in American. But you live in the world. Great clients know that. Do you? Apart from Mozart, art, salt, ancient Celtic culture, St Peter's (above) and restaurants carved into cliffs, this staid Austrian city is home to the International Business Law Consortium, an active group of over 85 first-rate law and accounting firms in strategic cities all over the world. It was founded in 1996.
July 06, 2010
U.S. stocks make strong and cautious return.
But "ratchet down" expectations for rest of 2010. WSJ: "US Stocks Rise, Australian Comments Lift Growth Hopes".
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--U.S. stocks roared back from a deep slump Tuesday as an encouraging forecast from Australia's central bank and strong semiconductor sales fueled fresh optimism for stronger global demand.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 131 points, or 1.4%, to 9818, in recent trading. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index climbed 1.5% to 1038.
All of the S&P 500's sectors were in the black, led by its financials and technology.
June 30, 2010
The post-Soviet Russia spy novel: Eric O'Neill on "The Ten"
Good morning, American workers. George Stephanopoulos interviews O'Neill on yesterday's Good Morning America.
June 25, 2010
Congress: New financial rules would cover Wall Street to Main Street.
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama declared victory Friday after congressional negotiators reached a dawn agreement on a sweeping overhaul of rules overseeing Wall Street.
Lawmakers shook hands on the compromise legislation at 5:39 a.m. after Obama administration officials helped broker a deal that cracked the last impediment to the bill -- a proposal to force banks to spin off their lucrative derivatives trading business. The legislation touches on an exhaustive range of financial transactions, from a debit card swipe at a supermarket to the most complex securities deals cut in downtown Manhattan.
June 05, 2010
To Ray Ward: We're not worthy--but thanks.
We "don't care what the neighbors say". We never will. We do get compliments--but rarely from people who, like you, put both sentences and Western culture together in cogent ways.
And to be mentioned along with Peter Friedman, who we also admire. We be duck walkin'. Thanks, sir.
May 25, 2010
Not a good day so far: The world's stock markets.
Global markets said to "swoon". To blame for today's plunge are Europe's debt crisis, its faltering banks (especially in Spain), way-low oil and metal prices, and an ultra-bold North Korea. Many expect the Dow to dip again below the 10,000 average. See AP, The Sydney Morning Herald and Reuters.
May 24, 2010
The Senate's over-hyped overhaul.
And is 'shambolic' a real word? See The Economist's take on last week's Senate approval of the financial reform bill in "Almost There". Three excerpts:
The most important component aimed at preventing another crisis is “resolution authority”, under which any big financial company, not just a bank, can be seized and wound down in an orderly way. Lack of such authority led to the shambolic failure of Lehman Brothers and the controversial bail-out of AIG.
The new consumer-protection bureau should help to close the gap between well-regulated banks and poorly regulated mortgage brokers and finance companies, which led the race to the bottom in loan-underwriting standards. But many firms, most significantly small banks, are exempted from its authority.
...Some of banks’ biggest worries remain unresolved. They are resigned to accept some form of the “Volcker rule”, which would restrict their proprietary trading and investment in hedge funds and private equity.
May 05, 2010
Nashville: The Big Moxie
Southern moxie: The Grand Ole Opry? It just moves across town.
The EU, the Euro and the Greek debt bail-out.
As actor Bill Murray might note while hunting shades and bogeymen in Manhattan, here's something you don't see every day. For starters, see "Debt Jitters Hit European Markets" at WSJ and "Acropolis Now" at The Economist.
May 04, 2010
Running dog Yankee Mr. Oliver want fries with this?
Hooters restaurants in China? Say it ain't so, Joe. Los Angeles Times: Hooters Underscores Mixed Sexual Messages in China. Maybe Greater China lawyer Dan Harris would weigh in? Mr. Harris, you speaking to us these days? Lord knows no one else is. Anyone? Please yes to have picture taken with the American Mister Dane Hool. We meet once on Sint Jacobsstraat in Amsterdam. Fun guy. Way cool. Click-click.
Chairman Coby: To Get Rich on Hooters in China is Glorious.
April 15, 2010
The Real Tax Day: February 3, 1913 and Amendment XVI
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
April 15 has been federal Tax Day--now "Cyber Tax Day"--for individuals in America since 1955. While the income tax system really started here during the Civil War, it got jump-started by the 1895 U.S. Supreme Court decision (5-4 vote) in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan and Trust Company. In Pollock, the Court declared unconstitutional a federal income tax on income from certain stocks and bonds, and thereby invalidated part of an 1894 act that imposed a direct tax on the incomes of U.S. citizens and corporations.
The 16th Amendment was proposed by Congress on July 12, 1909, and finally ratified by the states on February 3, 1913 (1,302 days). It mooted Pollock. The amendment was rejected by New Hampshire, Arkansas, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Utah. Other tax days: the original was March 1, 1913. Between 1918 and 1954, it was March 15.
Going over trial strategy: The IRS stuck Judy Garland with huge tax bills in the 1960s.
March 12, 2010
China Business: The Rules.
If you are walking into a meeting preparing for a heated pissing contest why bother? There are no deals of the century in China, no deal has to be done today, and there are options.
For pros, clients, and the unwashed. Seattle's Dan Harris has located "The Rules" over at Rich Brubaker's Shanghai-based All Roads Lead To China. Our three--make that four--favorites with Harris's commentary:
3. Have lines (moral and economic) that cannot be moved. This is a great one and one that I too often have seen violated. In fact, I met with someone just the other day who told me that he had left China after building up a successful business there when he realized that what he was doing to keep it up had turned him into someone he did not want to be.
4. Understand the motivating factors of the parties sitting across the table. Stop negotiating and begin collaborating. "If you are walking into a meeting preparing for a heated pissing contest why bother? There are no deals of the century in China, no deal has to be done today, and there are options." Right on all counts.
7. If something goes wrong, look internally first. "It is not always the supplier's fault or a nationalistic regulation. When things fail it is typically no more than the byproduct of a failed process or system. Identify that, work with it, and move on." .... I cannot tell you how many times companies have come to me after having failed to abide by a Chinese law and seeking my confirmation that the Chinese law they violated was stupid. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of China's laws make sense, but whether they are sensible or not, it is sensible for you to know what they are and to follow them.
2. Develop a high tolerance for pain. Yup.
January 12, 2010
"France as a model?"
As an economy? No, not yet. But we'd love it here at WAC? if the French would get back to work. Sixty-five years is a long holiday, even in Europe. President Sarkozy, a reformer who continues to impress working Yanks, wants that to happen. He's just never been sure how to get there. But the man can sell. See at Richard Lewis's Cross-Culture this week something by Jacques Méon. Excerpts:
Indeed, the French Economy has been more resilient than many other developed countries and President Nicolas Sarkozy has been quick to state that France has been one of the countries that best resisted the crisis.
The situation is in fact not that rosy and 2010 and beyond will hold many challenges for the French Economy. The pick up from the crisis is actually quite slow and quarterly GDP growth projections for 2010 are between 0.3 and 0.4%.
France is living beyond its means and President Sarkozy has again recently insisted on getting them through. One of these reforms will be the delicate one on retirement age and pension benefits, but at a time of slow economic growth, implementing all the planned reforms will not be easy.
January 07, 2010
The Plural Life.
I don't think we're in Indianapolis any more. Here's something you don't see much. And it combines a serious purpose with a sense of humor. Brooke Adams, a reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune writes a blog called "The Plural Life", where she covers the polygamy beat, especially polygamy trials, her speciality. Adams, who also writes regular straight news items (e.g., the usual "Polygamous Sect Seeks to Stop Sale of Farm") for The Tribune, takes you "there", using all known social media tools to do it. She has a breezy oh-well tone about this assignment. It's compelling. Like she's covering the State Fair in Oz and, after all, someone has to do it.
Raymond Jessop Trial, November 2, 2009 (The Plural Life)
December 21, 2009
The Economist: 2009 not so bad?
Today’s stability, however welcome, is worryingly fragile, both because global demand is still dependent on government support and because public largesse has papered over old problems while creating new sources of volatility.
Apparent signs of success, such as American megabanks repaying public capital early), make it easy to forget that the recovery still depends on government support. Strip out the temporary effects of firms’ restocking, and much of the rebound in global demand is thanks to the public purse, from the officially induced investment surge in China to stimulus-prompted spending in America.
December 18, 2009
It's Limey Time at the ABA Blawg 100.
GeekLawyer is a barrister with an IP specialty. He is smart, rude*, hopelessly un-PC, and usually toasted. A tad more sober, Charon QC is a charming academic with a velvet voice and golden pen. He is eclectic, erudite, and only mildly Albion-eccentric. I.e., criminally insane by Yank/New York City standards.
These blokes are lawyers. But, even so, each steps up and just says it--on a variety of subjects. Each reconnects us with our European forms and heritage. And of course neither uses "party" as a verb. Or "interface" as a word. What more could we want from real Limeys? Or from real Lawyers?
So do vote (just click on ABA banner above) for our English cousins in the ABA Blawg 100's In My Humble Opinion category. These are not the only remarkable sites in the "IMHO" niche--but do cast your votes for these two fine writer-thinkers.
*On good days, Americans are merely dismissed as "the colonials".
December 05, 2009
Dites-le en anglais, s'il vous plait?
French blogs (see lower left of this blog), not that suprisingly, often have stunning designs, photos and graphics, but we'd still like to see more of them in English. And especially ones about law, business and public policy.
To the French: we're sorry we let our French fall into disrepair; you, the curators of all things fine, still teach all how to live and remind us what we should know about the West.
But any Blogs of France in English out there? Doesn't have to be "American" English.
For now we'll continue to make do with an American writer Tara Bradford's wonderful Paris Parfait. While she routinely ignores us--probably because many of us here at WAC? are from the Midwest--her site does make us want (1) to get back to the Hull McGuire island and (2) meet and speak with Maryam, who we discovered in Paris three years ago. We owe Tara a great debt.
October 06, 2009
What's a Nyilv Nosan Muködo Társaság, anyway?
You don't know that one? And what is that strange German symbol-thing you keep seeing in your due diligence--"GmbH", yeah, that's it--what does that mean? How about: S.A.? Oy? Hevra Pratit? And "Cyfyngedig". To be sure, that old rascal Dr. Quaalude, your Corporations prof at Siwash Law, didn't cover any of these. But increasingly lawyers are helping clients to do business with foreign companies and in foreign jurisdictions--and are even guiding clients as they set up shops abroad. See for starters the International Directory of Corporate Symbols and Terms, first published in 2002 by member firms of the Salzburg, Austria-based International Business Law Consortium. An American law prof, writer and businessman named Dennis Campbell is the IBLC's founder and director.
October 02, 2009
The Economist: The U.S. Manufacturing Slump.
In a continung recession, the Wolf will visit every house. See in yesterday's issue of The Economist "Wanted: New Customers". Excerpt:
Manufacturers were hammered in the recession of the early 2000s in large part because they were at the centre of the preceding boom in capital spending. They seemed far removed from the housing and finance bacchanalia that spurred the latest recession. Indeed, employment never recovered from its previous collapse. But much of America’s manufacturing output is destined for new homes and buildings, from bricks to bulldozers, and a lot also goes into cars. When sales of both collapsed, manufacturers were clobbered.
September 25, 2009
Talk to the China Hand: "China Trademarks--Do You Feel Lucky?"
Read it again. Listen to Dan Harris, no punk, never law cattle, and hands down the most feisty China hand on the planet, at China Law Blog, "Part II: Do You Feel Lucky? Do You?". Seattle-based Harris is a transplanted Hoosier with Moxie--even though he inexplicably sidestepped one-on-one hoops challenges from the undersigned in August 2008, when he was in Seattle. (Speculation: WAC? is older but taller, quicker, meaner, has better jump shot, and shoots with either hand.) But outside of basketball, Dan's the Greater China business king. Talk to the old China hand in a post from last year we love.
"Well, do you, punk?" (Warner Bros.)
September 24, 2009
Pittsburgh: Lord, Take Me Downtown.
I'm just looking for a way to get into work. The irony of the third G-20 summit? Despite the worldwide plug Pittsburgh is getting, the summit short-term is bad for business in Pittsburgh. For a couple of days, anyway. This proud and enduring old steel town built modern America and much of the world. It has a bustling downtown area built on a narrow concrete peninsula, with fine corporate lawyers, tech start-up employees, bankers and Fortune 500 execs housed in gorgeous buildings, often older gilded age stock built at the turn of the last century. It also has a local economy that peaked circa 1946.
And Pittsburghers? Well, they all want back in the game. Based on the past two decades of admirable re-thinking and reinvention, they will likely get there. Although both geographically and culturally isolated, Western Pennsylvania remains a storied region of characters and character. These are tough and determined people. But right this minute the City is effectively shut down for business. Due to security concerns, today and tomorrow, you can't get down to, ahem, the US Steel Tower to contribute to the restoration of our faltering global economy. Are at least the bars in Southside open?
September 08, 2009
Remedies: More China Mistress Sex Contract Law.
Chinese courts tend to look much more at the equities of a situation than at the literal meaning of the contract or of the written laws.
September 04, 2009
P&G's new chief Bob McDonald: On leadership.
The graveyards of leadership are littered with people who have ignored culture.
Bob McDonald, the new CEO of Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG), which ranks 10th on Fortune’s Most Admired Companies list, recently discussed his leadership philosophy on “Strategy with Passion” on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel. McDonald teaches that, to be successful, one must study and appreciate the client's culture. You can-–and should--hear the interview in this podcast. McDonald joins the discussion at 16:58. If you would like to see his leadership philosophy in print, it’s in the appendix to The Leader’s Compass, 2nd Edition.
Procter & Gamble Co.'s Bob McDonald. He just received a 40% salary raise--up to $1.4 million--when he took over as chief executive last month. Like P&G or not, the company and its home-grown management have a history of profits, stability and genuine class. Just twelve CEOs in a 173 years.
August 26, 2009
FCPA and China: Teleconference on September 3.
China is, after all, this century's Wild West show. See Dan Harris's China Law Blog for details about a seminar next Thursday on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977--and China. FCPA, enacted during the Jimmy Carter administration as an amendment to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and amended in 1998, prohibits (and makes a crime) bribery of foreign officials to obtain or retain business, and requires companies with securities listed in the U.S. to keep accurate records and effective internal controls.
August 08, 2009
Greater China: More than a feeling.
Dan Harris is no digital creep. In good and bad times, China is part of our new world. Visit China Law Blog. Bold, aggressive, never a generic "law weenie", and a stand-up Midwesterner like WAC?, Dan Harris (bonus: his real name!) thinks about and covers China business and culture better than anyone. Find out about "getting on" in China.
July 16, 2009
The Economist: Goldman Sachs's record profits.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King.
--Erasmus of Rotterdam (1468–1536)
But a win is still a win. See yesterday's article in The Economist, "Keeping Up with the Goldmans". Excerpts:
This windfall will eventually dwindle. Goldman and other survivors will benefit from the coming wave of debt issuance by federal, state and local governments. But dealer spreads are sure to shrink as markets normalize and those that have retreated return to the fray.
This is likely to be offset only partially by a pick-up in businesses tied more closely to economic growth, such as advising on mergers and acquisitions.
Wall Street will also face tighter shackles. Regulators are on the warpath against commodities speculators. A clampdown is also coming in credit derivatives; this week America’s Justice Department joined those probing that market.
Erasmus, by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1523, Musée du Louvre
July 12, 2009
London: The Good Ship Rioja.
I sit here on the bridge, a glass of Rioja in my hand. It is 9.45 am, but even though there are no icebergs on the Medway, Horatio Charon is not terribly good at sailing and if we go down I would not wish to do so without a wine glass in my hand. This is my new mantra.
The pathologist will not find anaesthetics, painkillers or enough dope inside me to kill a herd of elephants, but I would like him to write on my death certificate, should my soul be lost this day at sea.... “He died with an acceptable level of red wine inside him for a gentlemen of letters”.
An earlier famous Charon trip on the River Styx.
June 30, 2009
Charon QC: Bearing gifts, as always--so take this with you to Nantucket.
Law School for Cretins? WAC? happens to know that he is traveling; we aren't at liberty to say where. While his "anonymity" may have all along been in great jeopardy, if not totally blown, that secret will remain with us. As always, the man's been busy--but has left us plenty of summer reading while he's away. See "Beware of Greeks causing rifts… and other thoughts…"
June 28, 2009
Down but never out in the Andes.
Many more people have died for their drink and their dope than have died for their religion or their country.
--Aldous Huxley, 1958
Cocaine is patient--and always ready for a comeback. The Economist, a bit jacked up on the subject of drugs lately, has much to say this week about fallen cocaine production in "Mixed Signals Among the Coca Bushes".
June 19, 2009
Financial regulation in America: A British view.
See an opinion piece entitled "Better broth, still too many cooks" in this week's The Economist. It is a critique of the Obama administration's plans (and new white paper) for U.S. financial reform. The article hits a high note in the beginning: a portrait of a vast, clumsy, and myopic animal that is our current system of financial regulation:
There is both too much of it and too little. Multiple federal agencies oversee the financial system: five for banks alone, and one each for securities, derivatives and the government-sponsored mortgage agencies. They share these duties with at least 50 state banking regulators and other state and federal consumer-protection agencies.
Yet all these regulators failed to anticipate and prevent the worst financial crisis since the Depression, because risk-taking flourished in the cracks between them. Toxic subprime mortgages were peddled by lenders with little federal oversight and shoved into off-balance-sheet vehicles. The greatest leverage accumulated in firms that avoided the capital requirements of banks.
TriStar Pictures, Inc.
June 16, 2009
"Mexico: Working With The Mañana Culture"
By Fernando E. Rivadeneyra, Puebla, Mexico
Editor's Note: Fernando Rivadeneyra is a talented and highly-regarded business lawyer who works literally all over the world. In fact, Fernando and his firm were "international" back in those days when international "wasn't cool" or trendy; he's been a pioneer in working in global legal and business markets.
And he is also a colleague, and a close friend. My partner Julie McGuire and I have met with Fernando and other members of his firm, Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo, countless times over the past twelve years in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. We have worked together on client projects. Like our firm, Rivadeneyra, Treviño is an active member of the International Business Law Consortium, a working alliance of law and accounting firms based in Salzburg, Austria.
A founding partner of Rivadeneyra, Treviño, Fernando works in mergers and acquisitions, corporate structuring, foreign investments, and private international law. He is a member of the International Bar Association, the Mexican-American Law Institute, and its Export Support Group, and is Vice-President of the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce--Puebla Chapter. Jodie Paula Cohen, head of Client Relations at Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo assisted in the preparation of this article.
Mexico: Working With The Mañana Culture
Be well informed and work with the right partners.
There are myriad differences between Mexican business culture and legal practice and those in the rest of the world. Nevertheless, by being well-informed and working with the right partners, it is entirely feasible for foreign companies to carry out fruitful business endeavors in this country.
The biggest cultural obstacle for many foreign investors in Mexico can be described in one word: “mañana.” Processes will likely be slower and appear more drawn-out than in your home country. It is important to accept this difference and not become impatient. There are many savvy business-people and lawyers in Mexico, and your business affairs will be dealt with (eventually) to a high standard.
If your investment in Mexico includes spending time there, be aware that certain parts of Mexico are less safe than your home country; and eating food from street-stalls is asking for trouble. Your Mexican business partners will be able to inform you of the many safe places to visit and the high-quality restaurants in which to eat.
Work With The Right Lawyers
There is no central source of information to help you choose a lawyer in Mexico. Many of our clients have found us through word-of-mouth recommendations, which can be a very reliable way to initiate contact with a new law firm. Similarly, lawyers from your home country who have carried out work in Mexico will likely have contacts here and will be able to make trustworthy recommendations.
Clients have also found us through the organizations in which we participate, such as the IBLC or IBA, or through the Martindale Hubbell directory. By approaching the members of respected international groups, clients can be assured that they are contacting reputable and highly-respected firms.
Unless your Spanish is fluent, make sure that your lawyers have a thorough working knowledge of your language (many Mexican lawyers speak English, and some also speak other languages). This will make your work eminently easier, especially when discussing the nitty-gritty of legal processes or contracts.
In Mexico, your lawyers need to maintain good relationships with government officials. A direct line to such officials will enable them to speed up legal processes on your behalf.
Carrying Out Projects In Mexico
The golden rule when doing business in Mexico is to get good, solid contracts and comprehensive legal assurances that your projects will be completed on time. Don’t leave anything to chance.
Health and safety standards have tended to be lower in Mexico than in many other countries. This situation is improving thanks to new environmental laws, and standards are now equal to those in many developed countries.
Do’s And Don’ts
* Do become familiar with the relevant laws and rules before you start. A good lawyer and a good accountant will be able to inform you about these.
* Do be patient. Time frames won’t be the same as in your home country, and deadlines may not be adhered to as closely.
* Do explain in detail what you want and expect so that you, your law firm and your local partners are reading from the same page from day one.
* Do respect the Mexican “way”. If you become frustrated, remember that a smile and a friendly gesture will always get you the best results when dealing with Mexicans.
* Do enlist the help of locals. As in many countries, locals sometimes receive preferential treatment over foreigners. For this reason, it can be worthwhile engaging local lawyers to carry out certain business tasks for you.
* Don’t get involved in corrupt practices; this will only spiral into bigger problems. If you are asked for a bribe, consult with a good law firm which will be able to advise you on how to deal with the situation.
* Don’t flaunt your wealth, either in business negotiations or in public.
* Don’t use risky legal or fiscal strategies. To safeguard your operations, it is best to stay well within the limits of the law.
Old Mexico City
Note: A version of this article originally appeared in December 2008 in The Complete Lawyer.
June 15, 2009
Mañana at What About Clients?: Fernando Rivadeneyra
The biggest cultural obstacle for many foreign investors in Mexico can be described in one word: 'mañana.'
--Fernando E. Rivadeneyra, Puebla, Mexico.
Tomorrow, we'll feature a second appearance here by our friend and colleague Fernando Rivadeneyra, a partner at Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo, a Mexican corporate law firm with a serious global reach. It is based in Puebla, Mexico, 100 kilometers southeast of Mexico City. Like Hull McGuire, Rivadeneyra, Treviño for many years has been a mainstay and leader in the International Business Law Consortium, based in Salzburg, Austria.
In March, we ran Fernando's two-part article, "Reinventing" the Latin American Law Firm . It was very popular for weeks. It detailed specific changes Rivadeneyra and his partners made to their respected Mexican law firm. Tomorrow's piece is about lawyering for clients in Mexico and Latin America: "Mexico: Working With The Mañana Culture" .
The Ninth Circuit: Banks, Credit Cards and Collections.
If you’re a bank, consider writing your contracts under New Hampshire law. (If you’re a cardholder, pay your bills).
If you have a credit card agreement with a choice of law clause subjecting any disagreements to New Hampshire law, there doesn’t seem to be a statute of limitations that applies. So says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Avery v. First Resolution Management, No. 07-35726 (decided April 2, 2009; amended May 22, 2009), reviewing a decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. The decision was adverse to an Oregon credit card holder who was sued under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) after three years--the length of time limiting credit card disputes in New Hampshire.
Despite amicus briefs by advocacy groups warning of the consequences, the suit was allowed because New Hampshire law also tolls (essentially, suspends) the statute of limitations if the defendant wasn’t available for service of process in the state. The Ninth Circuit interpreted that the statute’s use of “state” referred to New Hampshire itself. But defendant Avery, like many credit card holders, had never even visited the state in question--so the statute of limitations could be tolled forever. The Ninth Circuit acknowledged this possibility in a footnote (at page 6097), but left it for the lower courts and, possibly, the New Hampshire legislature to hammer out.
In another debt-collection case interpreting the FDCPA itself, Hyde, et al. v. Midland Credit Mgmt., et al., 07-55326 (June 9, 2009) (factually unrelated to Avery), the Ninth Circuit reversed the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. It held that the FDCPA does not permit a court to award attorney's fees against a plaintiff's attorney where the plaintiff brought a frivolous claim for alleged violations by a creditor. In the absence of specific language to the contrary, the customary presumption applies: if a plaintiff's attorney is to be held liable for a defendant's attorney's fees (or vice versa), then it would have to come through traditional means (e.g., Fed. R. Civ. P. 11).
June 12, 2009
The Economist: On the Public Debt
The worst global economic storm since the 1930s may be beginning to clear, but another cloud already looms on the financial horizon: massive public debt. Across the rich world governments are borrowing vast amounts as the recession reduces tax revenue and spending mounts—on bail-outs, unemployment benefits and stimulus plans.
June 04, 2009
China Law for Business: Marriage, Mistresses--and Love's Odd Equitable Remedies.
Make beaucoup dollar. Now give back. Here's something that didn't happen in Elkhart, Muncie or Connersville last week. Or Indianaoplis, either. At Dan Harris's thoroughly cosmopolitan yet endearingly Indiana-loving China Law Blog, see "China Sex, Mistresses, And Improper Payments, And What They Mean For Your China Business Litigation."
Does ex-Hoosier and Seattle-based Harris have China business covered, or what?
"Hui Ying pay all money back."
May 30, 2009
W-L Balance: Real lawyers spend time with their wives, girlfriends, and dogs.
London's Bits and Bites of America. It's Saturday in Anytown, America, in almost-June. Shopping. First, the Food Lion. Then Costco. Maybe Wal-Mart. Quick guilty stop at the Porn Warehouse. Lunch at the The Red Lobster. The look of real wood, and pleated vinyl. All day long, huge "mountain" people waddling and lunging through aisles. They talk. They say exactly the same things all the time--and don't even know it. And, finally, Barbecue! See "Barbecue man returns… argghhhhh…" at CQC.
May 21, 2009
The world's best banks?
You're kidding, right? Tough one. "Trying to work out which banks are the world’s best is a bit like awarding the prize for prettiest war-torn village." Let's see, Goldman Sachs? No, JPMorgan Chase. Maybe Credit Suisse, Deutsche, BNP, Barclays, Santander? The Economist discusses its short list.
May 15, 2009
International banking does a self-audit.
There is still great uncertainty about the nature and extent of the support that governments will end up offering to their banks. But governments are now deeply embedded in banking systems.
The popular perception of bankers as Porsche-driving sociopaths obscures the fact that many of the industry’s staff are modestly paid and sit in branches, information-technology departments and call-centres. Job losses in the industry have been savage. “Being done” used to refer to hearing about your annual bonus. Now it means getting fired.
May 04, 2009
Global bribery: Getting a consensus there, too.
Last month, during Obama's trip to Europe, Ben Heineman, Jr., former general counsel at General Electric for many years, and now a fellow at the Kennedy School, wrote "G20 Fails to Take on Global Bribery" at a Harvard Business Review blog. Excerpt:
Unfortunately, the summit failed even to mention the pernicious protectionism created by developed nations' failure to enforce the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Public Officials, ratified in 1999. This Convention, building on the the United States' Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, required the 34 signatory nations (now 37) to pass laws which made bribery by their multinational corporations in foreign nations (especially the developing world) illegal.
April 24, 2009
The IMF and World Bank were super-noisy this week.
Is this play money like in Monopoly? First, earlier this week, The International Monetary Fund, as it prepared to have its annual meeting with the World Bank this weekend in DC, said that American financial institutions might lose $2.7 trillion, as part of the expected worldwide loss of over $4 trillion. Then, IMF top advisers said they wanted to aid all ailing countries (WSJ). Next, the World Bank said it wants to give extra infrastructure money to poorer nations in the amount of $45 billion (AP). Finally, the IMF Managing Director said he wants "speedy bank reform" (BBC News).
It's wonderful that the IMF-WB have the resources, clout and support from Congress and G-20 nations to do all this great "stuff"--because WAC? was certain before this week that they did not. It's true that at the G-20 summit earlier this month, delegates agreed to quadruple IMF funds to $1 trillion. But does anyone expect those nations to affirm that "decision" and deliver in short order?
March 30, 2009
Wagoner fails Obama test, resigns from General Motors.
It's a big story--and an unusual one. Over 4,000 articles, including this one at WSJ. But no publication is more entitled to report it than The Chronicle, Duke University's 105-year-old student daily.
March 27, 2009
"Reinventing" the Latin American Law Firm--Part II of II
By Fernando E. Rivadeneyra, Puebla, Mexico
Editor's Note: This is Part II of an article by our friend and colleague Fernando Rivadeneyra, a partner at Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo, a corporate law firm with a global reach based in Puebla, Mexico, located about 100 kilometers southeast of Mexico City. Part I began on March 23 and details specific changes Rivadeneyra and his partners made to their respected Mexican law firm.
Part II: How Do We Implement These Fundamental Changes in Mexico?
Since 2006, our firm has employed two external consultants. One consultant has been instrumental in giving each lawyer--or group of lawyers--in the firm a large hand to play in the growth of one specific law practice area. Our other consultant has developed a concrete career development program and training program, which sets achievable goals for each lawyer's career progression.
Next, in early 2008, our firm hired an experienced marketer in-house to develop a Client Relations Department within our firm. The goal of the new Department is two-fold:
1. To maintain an excellent working relationship with our existing clients and to encourage their loyalty to our firm, and
2. To promote our firm's expertise to a wide audience of potential clients, both in Mexico and abroad.
In order for other Latin America firms to improve their management systems, they must also invest in outside help, make some internal hires, and make adjustments similar to those made by our firm. In addition, firms must be aware of management trends at other leading firms in the international legal community and, when appropriate, emulate and borrow from them.
Problems inherent in transforming an established work culture
The principal obstacle we have encountered has been the lawyers’ natural resistance to change; at times, they are opposed to new elements being added to their job descriptions. However, if other firms in the region plan to reorganize themselves in a similar way, a heightened level of "buy-in" and support will be needed from everyone: senior partners, department leaders, and all lawyers and staff.
The results of re-organization
Latin American law firms are at the beginning of a long-term project in terms of introducing new modes of management; the results won’t always be easy to measure.
Within Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo, we have already realized notable short-term gains, such as a greater cooperation between lawyers and a more relaxed working environment. We have also achieved a broader presence and name recognition--and a far more extensive (and more international) client list.
We have also learned a great deal from observing how other successful firms are organizing themselves, and are open to discussing any of the issues discussed above in more depth with other firms both in, and outside of, Mexico and Latin America.
About the Author: Fernando Rivadeneyra is a Founding Partner at Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo. He specializes in: Mergers & Acquisitions, Private International Law, Corporate Law and Foreign Investments. He is a member of the International Bar Association, the Mexican-American Law Institute, and Export Support Group, and is Vice-President of the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce – Puebla Chapter.
Rivadeneyra has written articles for several publications, and frequently speaks before legal conferences. This article was written in collaboration with Jodie Paula Cohen, who is in charge of Client Relations at Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo. For further information, please contact: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.rtydc.com.
March 24, 2009
"Reinventing" the Latin American Law Firm--Part I of II
By Fernando E. Rivadeneyra, Puebla, Mexico
Editor's Note: Fernando Rivadeneyra is much more than a talented and highly-regarded business lawyer who works literally all over the world. He is also a colleague and a close friend. My partner Julie McGuire and I have met with Fernando and other members of his firm, Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo, countless times over the past ten years in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. We have worked together on client projects. Like our firm, Rivadeneyra, Treviño is an active member of the International Business Law Consortium, a working alliance of law and accounting firms based in Salzburg, Austria.
A founding partner of Rivadeneyra, Treviño, Fernando works in mergers and acquisitions, corporate structuring, foreign investments, and private international law. He is a member of the International Bar Association, the Mexican-American Law Institute, and its Export Support Group, and is Vice-President of the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce--Puebla Chapter.
His article--on fundamental changes in Latin American law firms--will be run in two parts. Part I, below, discusses changes Puebla-based Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo has made in the last three years. Part II, which WAC? will run later this week, focuses on implementing those changes. Jodie Paula Cohen, head of Client Relations at Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo assisted in the preparation of this article.
"Reinventing" the Latin American Law Firm
Three years ago, the founding partners of my firm, Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo, based in Puebla, Mexico, took a hard look at the fast-changing global legal terrain. We decided to radically change the structure and management of our firm. The objective: to better position ourselves within the increasingly globalized legal markets. That goal had already been admirably achieved by many overseas law firms, and the in-house legal departments worldwide.
However, reorganizing law firms in Latin America poses different challenges, and requires fundamental and difficult changes in the way firms are organized in this region. Latin American law firms have certain traditions--including some very old ones--which we needed to address. This article, hopefully, will be useful to other law firms who assist clients in Mexico, and in-house legal counsel of companies that operate here. It will highlight the advances which are being made in the region, the obstacles, and what can be expected in the future.
Turning lawyers into pro-active business people
In Latin America, lawyers historically have not been active in marketing and selling their services. Our firm’s lawyers are now encouraged--indeed expected--to support our focus on both national in Mexico and overseas expansion. By explicitly linking their compensation to the number and quality of new clients they bring to the firm, and by training them in marketing and sales techniques, we hope to overturn a long-embraced tradition of "not selling"--and make our lawyers highly "engaged" and pro-active business people.
When recruiting new lawyers and paralegals, we search for specific talents, cultural attributes and experience which can help make the firm a true player in the global marketplace. For example, Latin American firms are currently experiencing a shortage of bilingual lawyers with capabilities for cross-border deals. Our firm has actively recruited both lawyers and staff with significant multilingual skills.
Training and development to become global players
So we began a "training course" for lawyers at the start of 2009. Aiming to bring our lawyers’ skills and professional attitudes in line with those of the international legal community, the course includes:
--Etiquette in Business Negotiations: Cross-border cultural skills will enhance our lawyers’ sensibilities to cultures in other parts of the world--and facilitate business relations with overseas clients and firms.
--Cultural Diversity: This is a relatively new concept for Latin American law firms, but one which we expect will be of vital importance going forward.
--English Language Fluency: As suggested above, fluency in English will continue to be a priority for Latin American law firms--to increase their access to overseas clients, and enable them to participate in global markets.
We are also working with our employees with three overall professional development goals in mind.
First, we want each employee to become aware of and focus on his or her unique role within the firm. Second, we encourage our employees to view their work product and delivery of services critically. And third, we expect our employees to continuously improve not only their substantive legal skills but also their client service skills.
This "team" approach is relatively new to many Latin American firms--and we believe it will both encourage positive attitudes amongst employees, and significantly enhance their day-to-day dealings with clients.
A new concept in employee salaries
The salaries which we pay to our employees are an important acknowledgment of their efforts to help the firm achieve its business objectives; and we ‘pay’ this salary in three ways:
1. The ‘economic salary’ is, of course, money; it fulfills our employees’ physical needs--for food, a home, clothes, etc.
2. The ‘psychological salary’ fulfills our employees’ desire for recognition and appreciation. Competition for excellent lawyers is as fierce in Latin America as anywhere in the world. One simple way we promote "good feeling" at our firm about the lawyers’ professional life--and encourage loyalty to the firm as well--is to regularly highlight and praise their successes and useful contributions.
3. The 'spiritual salary’ we 'pay' gives employees a sense that their work is meaningful and worthwhile. Pro bono work contributes to this, as will similar schemes which we plan to implement this year.
Part II, later this week: "How Do We Implement These Fundamental Changes in Mexico?"
March 12, 2009
$46.8 billion: Basel-based Roche acquires rest of SF's Genentech.
GENEVA (March 12)--Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche agreed to pay $46.8 billion to buy the 44 percent of biotech pioneer Genentech that it doesn’t already own, ending a long corporate struggle with its U.S.-based cancer drug partner. [more]
March 09, 2009
RESPA: “It’s my closing--and I’ll close how I want to.”
Hopkins v. Horizon Management (U.S. 4th Cir. December 3, 2008). In the five states subsumed by the U.S. Fourth Circuit--Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas--a bank can exercise control over the sale of its properties by having the same title company perform all of the bank's real estate closings without violating Section 9 of federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. 2608, 2601-2617. A contract for sale that forces a buyer to use a particular title company is enforceable so long as the bank foots the bill for the owner’s title insurance. Although Hopkins is an unpublished opinion, this interpretation of RESPA's Section 9 will likely stick for these five states; it can also be expected to be followed in other states and circuits.
March 04, 2009
The China instability hype.
February 21, 2009
McDonald's saves Germany.
In "No Crisis Here", Hermann the German, our friend and Berlin-based stringer, notes that the company is opening 40 new restaurants in Germany. Up to 2000 jobs may be created. "You know how people eat when they’re under stress sometimes?", Hermann asks. Most WAC? contributors have lived in the American Midwest. Stressed out or not, entire towns are Powerless over Twinkies and Big Macs. We know.
February 18, 2009
GM and Chrysler want a few billion more.
General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, both drowning in debt as car sales continue to spiral downward, submitted requests to the U.S. Treasury late Tuesday that, if granted, could provide up to $39 billion in emergency loans to keep the automakers from falling into bankruptcy.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, GM also has outlined a "bankruptcy contingency" plan, which it said would require up to $100 billion in financing from Treasury should GM take the conventional Chapter 11 route. In any event, GM will also
shut five more factories on top of the closures it had already planned. In addition, it plans to eliminate thousands of dealerships and slash 47,000 jobs this year around the world, leaving it with a work force of about 200,000.
All of the above is true. WAC? has not made anything up yet today.
February 17, 2009
China Corruption Happens.
And it's okay to talk about it. At China Law Blog, see "China Law And Corruption. You'd Better Know Which Way The Wind Blows" by Dan Harris and Steve Dickinson. Excerpt:
The [China] economy is trending down and paying bribes is illegal. You knew that already. What you probably do not know is that downward trending economies...always seem to expose things that upward trending economies do such a good job of hiding.
February 14, 2009
Congress passes the "just-might-work" $787 billion stimulus bill.
A bold and historical action. President Obama keeps reminding us it might not work fast or well. We get it. What's in this thing, anyway? Bloomberg: "Congress Sends Obama $787 Billion Economic-Stimulus Package". Excerpt:
The Senate late yesterday voted 60 to 38 to approve the legislation. Three Republicans joined Democrats in favor of the measure. Earlier in the day the House passed the bill, 246 to 183, with no Republicans in favor.
February 09, 2009
Look, before you stimulate?
It matters what gets built: Japan spent too much on increasingly wasteful roads and bridges, and not enough in areas like education and social services, which studies show deliver more growth and jobs than basic infrastructure.
January 30, 2009
Amazon: In the Zone.
And how nice for you. Americans do "small" pretty well; we've raised it to an art form in some circles and regions. But certainly we are more attractive when we enter the No Schadenfreude Zone. Amazon, the nation's largest online retailer, is doing quite well, thank you, according to the The Seattle Times late yesterday:
NEW YORK — Amazon.com Inc. said Thursday that its fourth-quarter profit rose 9 percent and easily surpassed analysts' forecasts. Those results, plus an optimistic forecast, sent its shares soaring 13 percent in extended trading.
Amazon had called the holiday season its "best ever," and the earnings report backed up the idea that the online retailer is not being seriously hurt by cutbacks in consumer spending. Amazon said its revenue in the current quarter should be between $4.53 billion and $4.93 billion, while analysts are expecting $4.57 billion. [more]
January 26, 2009
China Business: What about Dan Harris?
At Dan's China Law Blog, see "Is Your China Business Recession Resistant? What Is?" Excerpt:
My firm has seen increased business of late from companies related to energy and fuel savings, food companies, gaming companies, health care companies, education related companies, and, (no surprise here) collection companies. All of these companies seem to have relatively stable (or even rising) income flows and they are seeking to expand in China or take advantage of China cost savings.
January 15, 2009
One big global downer: car sales worldwide.
Sales figures published the week before the show confirmed what everyone already knew: the second half of 2008 saw the most savage contraction of demand since the modern industry was formed after the second world war....
Prestigious brands have been clobbered as much as volume manufacturers. BMW’s American sales fell by 40% in the year to December and those of Mercedes by 32%. Rolls-Royce, whose customers might be thought impervious to hard times, sold 29 cars in December 2007, but precisely none last month.
January 14, 2009
No ordinary times.
Never in my career--or the careers of those I speak with continually--has there been a time of greater uncertainty. The future is as hard to visualize as it is to see the East Side of Manhattan from Central Park West on a deeply foggy morning, or New Jersey from Riverside Park. You know it's there, with definite shape, but you can't see it or draw it or write about it with clarity and conviction.
January 12, 2009
Does culture drive global trends more than economics?
The US, Russia, the EU, China and India may react differently to the same event. See at Richard Lewis's Cross-Culture, one of our favorite sites, "Culture and the Credit Crunch". I don't think the post supports the thesis that well--but it's an interesting and worthy idea. Excerpts:
The USA, with its risk-taking, speculation and short-termism, is always likely to tend towards boom and bust. But we should never underestimate the USA's supreme ability to bounce back. As staff started filing out of Lehman Brothers for the last time, representatives from other investment firms were filmed outside trying to recruit those leaving. A true demonstration of the American spirit.
How about China? Its march may be held up by temporary obstacles along the way, but it is an inexorable march with an unstoppable momentum.
[W]hat future for the EU? In a crisis, will the key countries hold together? Or will German caution berate Anglo-Saxon profligacy and French pride be hurt by German frankness?
January 05, 2009
111th Congress: The Hill watching the watchers.
See, e.g., the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg. The House Financial Services Committee takes a stab today at the SEC's past monitoring of the Madoff funds' business and investment methods, which some SEC employees had allegedly regarded as "questionable" and off the wall. SEC’s inspector general David Kotz, among others, get questioned.
Force-starting the economy: one way out?
See at Reuters "Japan's Yosano Says Quantitative Easing May Not Work". In "quantitative easing", governments flood the banking system with new money to promote lending; it generally happens when lowering "official" interest rates doesn't do anything because rates are close to zero. But doing that now, when you're already in debt up to your wazoo, doesn't make that much sense to WAC?, and hey we majored in English. But people like Japan's finance minister and Tel Aviv's Shalom Hamou--who commented here recently via a press release which is now all over the Net--are worried.
Allman Brothers perform "One Way Out", former U.S. national anthem circa 1971/traditional philanderer folk ballad.
January 02, 2009
Greenspan: "I made a mistake."
There were warnings along the way. Cassandras who feared that exotic financial innovation, specifically unregulated at the behest of both Democratic and Republican politicians, was setting the stage for a major systemic shock. But their voices were drowned out by a chorus of status quo defenders who told us, again and again, that financial innovation was making the world a safer, less risky place.
December 31, 2008
Getting America back to work.
An energetic debate on displaced workers—on the role of the private sector, for example, or which training programmes give the best return to workers and taxpayers—has yet to emerge. In the meantime some 608,000 Americans, 74% more than last year, are not seeking work because they think no jobs are available. Their label is simply “discouraged”.
December 29, 2008
Associated Press (Ellen Simon) piece of December 26:
NEW YORK (AP) - Economic cycles are Darwinian, picking off weak companies and leaving survivors stronger.
More than a year into the recession, solid retailers have their pick of mall space. Respected banks are getting an influx of deposits. Tech companies with money to spend are having an easier time hiring.
It's been a year of brutal losses. [more]
December 22, 2008
At some point after the government in your Western nation lends or grants you your money, and whether or not you ski, consider attending the week-long program Lawyering in the International Market (March 22-28) at the Lebenberg Palace, a baronial estate just outside of Kitzbühel. It's presented by the well-regarded Center for International Legal Studies, based Salzburg and founded in 1976. CILS was "global", when global wasn't cool.
December 18, 2008
Say it ain't so, Europe.
When Siemens, Europe’s biggest engineering firm, adopted the slogan “be inspired” in the mid-1990s, bribery was not what it had in mind. But no one can accuse its managers of lacking inspiration when it came to devising novel ways to funnel huge sums in backhanders to corrupt officials and politicians across the globe.
On Monday December 15th Siemens pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and corruption and agreed to pay fines of $800m in America and €395m ($555m) in Germany, in addition to an earlier fine of €201m.
There is something almost touching about the candour and trust with which Siemens went about a very dirty business. Take the three “cash desks” it set up in its offices, to which employees could bring empty suitcases to be filled with cash. As much as a €1m ($1.4m) could be withdrawn at a time to win contracts for its telecoms-equipment division, according to America’s Department of Justice. [more]
Europe could learn a thing or two about law enforcement from America. Above: Citizen Thompson on duty.
Photo: Anita Bejmuk
Madoff scandal: Madoff-Jack Warden link?
Madoff (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
December 17, 2008
What's my share of the interest per day on just $350 billion?
Let's see. There's $15 billion to Bank of America, $45 billion to Citigroup, $3.5 billion to Capital One, $6.5 billion to U.S. Bancorp, and then $1.4 billion to Zions Bancorporation in Salt Lake City. Huh?
(20th Century Fox)
The Fed goes way out of the box.
Hello, Treasury? This is Ben. I need you to print me up a few more 100s. Well, a lot more. See "US Interest Rates Slashed as Low as Zero" at UK's Daily Telegraph (via our friend Justin Patten at Human Law Mediation):
America’s central bank has taken drastic steps to resuscitate the US economy out of its year-long recession, placing interest rates as low as zero - their lowest level in history - as it announced widespread plans to inject liquidity into the ailing financial markets.
By doing so, the Federal Reserve appears to have replaced the base rate as its primary weapon in its battle to support the American economy, putting lending in its place in a move known as quantitative easing.
Above: Mid-October photograph of glorious comrades Paulson, Fed Chairman Bernanke & Geithner (NYT/Matthew Cavanaugh/European Pressphoto Agency).
December 16, 2008
The Recession: Shanghai, Silver Linings.
There is a fairly prevalent theory that the best time to start a new business is during a recession/depression. I buy that. During tough times, established companies often disappear, get overly cautious, and lay off scads of good people, who can be hired relatively cheaply. During tough times, big shifts can occur.
A few months ago, I pretty much scoffed at the idea of Shanghai becoming a financial capital... Though I certainly am not convinced, I certainly am not scoffing either. To use a bad pun (particularly during this bear market), China is grabbing the bull by the horns and seems to be boldly making moves to increase its worldwide standing as a financial center. [more]
December 04, 2008
Begging for Billions, America and the Bankruptcy Code.
Look, we won't need any more than $38 billion in loans. We made the trip here twice. Washington Post: "Senate Banking Committee Chair Endorses Support for Auto Industry". To Chris Dodd: A significant number of U.S. jobs are linked to the American auto industry. But if (a) you make cars, (b) you screw up and (c) you start making cars that no one really wants to buy because buyers get better value from European and Asian makers, what about seeking protection under Chapter 11 of the Code? Our vote: Ford files, reorganizes, and merges with Chrysler. We could care less what happens to GM--but could GM please immediately sell the GM subsidiary Saab Automobile AB back to Europeans? WAC? lawyers have a thing about funny-looking Swedish road cars before GM got a hold of them in 1990.
File and merge--but free Saab first.
December 02, 2008
We knew that.
The U.S. is and has been in a recession.
WASHINGTON (NBC) - The economy fell into recession late last year, according to a panel of economists that is responsible for determining the dates of business cycles.
Monday's declaration by the panel of the National Bureau of Economic Research confirms what many private economists, lawmakers and members of the general public already have assumed and puts an official date on it: A U.S. recession began in December 2007.
November 30, 2008
A China business snapshot.
November 29, 2008
IHT (Paris ed.): Standoff in Mumbai Down to One Hotel.
Washington Post (op-ed:) Mumbai May Derail India-Pakistan Peace Progress.
November 17, 2008
The Economist: Obama, Eastern Europe and Russia.
See "Looking West, Hopefully". The President-elect is popular and "has juice" in most of mainstream Europe. He presumably wants to keep that. What, if anything, would the Obama administration do to promote the political and economic autonomy of eastern European nations? Will the new administration "fight hard for greater European independence from Russia’s monopoly of east-west gas pipelines"?
November 11, 2008
Circuit City: Down, and not likely to get up.
Financial Times: The Richmond, Virginia-based Fortune 500 company, the second largest electronics retailer, files under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Owes HP and Sony a bundle, too. For what it's worth, Circuit City was a leader in spectacularly lame CS at every store we "studied". Lethargy, and GenY-led apathy raised to high art, really jumped out at you. We're not that sad. Bonus bummer: most stores will operate through the holidays.
Circuit City employees keep on working anyway.
Art: M. Judge/MTV
November 05, 2008
The Complete Lawyer is now Global.
It's a New Day, and this morning America, as well as the World, welcomes new leaders. And a new issue of the Atlanta-based The Complete Lawyer is out. Several authors, writing on lawyering for clients in Mexico, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Greater China, are lawyers with law firms that are members of the invitation-only International Business Law Consortium. The IBLC is based in Salzburg, Austria, and was established in 1996.
November 4, 2008: All Americans win.
So America is built to last after all. Even if, like me, you didn't vote for Barack Obama, you're a winner if you voted. John McCain is a great man, and not that different ideologically from Obama. But the win for Obama, our first black commander-in-chief, is a great moment for the United States--that aggressive young country which could never square ideals with reality. Let time put my reservations about President-elect Obama to rest. Everybody won, and the candidates we saw over the last two years who lost party nods were the best crop I've seen in my lifetime. America still has political talent. The process still works, however imperfectly. We still fight in the open air. Yes, I preferred one of "my lot", Hillary Clinton, to be president, and yes I voted for McCain. But even the Clintons must feel pride today. I do.
Sore losers--yet somehow happy about it. So sue us.
October 31, 2008
The Great Consumer Society stops buying.
In London's The Economist, here's an article we missed last week; it's in the we're-watching-you genre that that publication does best: Left on the Shelf. "The unthinkable has happened. American consumers are losing their urge to shop."
October 22, 2008
How to "give face" in Hong Kong.
The Economist: Do No Wrong in Hong Kong. "When receiving a business card, make a show of examining it, then put it into your card case or place it on the table. It is rude to stuff it straight in a pocket." And more. Is a clock a good client gift? As they do in Mainland China, do Hong Kong women retain their maiden names?
October 13, 2008
We'll take it.
AP: "World stock markets soar after last week's rout". IHT: Wall Street, too. So a massive flood of government money is a good thing? Well, I'll be. Good morning, American workers. Comrade Paulson speaking.
Update: For now, governments' buying banks and brokerages pays off. Today closed with a record surge of 936 points on Dow Jones industrial average and S&P index gain of over 11%. Paris and Frankfurt markets also do well. See NYT. Cautious and practical free trader WAC? may seek post in new U.S. Department of Correct Thoughts and Lifestyles, as its first Secretary. But will settle for Undersecretary, Sector B.
One by one, European leaders have lined up to hail the triumph of welfare over Wall Street. “The idea that markets are always right was a mad idea,” declared the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. America’s laissez-faire ideology, as practised during the subprime crisis, “was as simplistic as it was dangerous,” chipped in Peer Steinbrück, the German finance minister.
And then Europe had a really bad week last week.
Photo: "Statue Garnier" by M. Daniel Schteingart
October 06, 2008
So far, U.S. bailout not helping in Asia and Europe.
It's official: Blawg Review, and legal blogging, have arrived.
Today I'm in hard-working heavily-German southwestern Ohio, where it's always German-American day. And this morning from Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate--the area thousands of west Germans (including a few Hohl families) left for America in the 17th and 18th centuries, and where more than a few global law firms have business clients--Andis Kaulins at Law Pundit gives us his Blawg Review #180 , a truly international and immediately useful tour of this morning's odd world. Bravo, sir.
Since we began in 2005, WAC? has wanted insular North American and European businesses and their advisors to compare notes. Mr Kaulins' Blawg Review #180 is a good place to start. Please do not miss the list of German transatlantic organizations at the conclusion of #180. Clearly, the now-global Blawg Review has arrived.
September 30, 2008
THE List of Global Arbitration Centers.
Courtesy of the excellent and always-understated China Law Blog, and particularly of Los Angeles lawyer Constance Kim, here's a gem your clients and you can use now: THE List of International Arbitration Centers. We'd change only one thing: it: put the ICC's International Court of Arbitration under "International" rather than under "France". And see CLB's "How To Handle Bad Product From Your China Supplier".
The World's Markets: Grim.
The headline and Andrew Clark's reporting in London's The Guardian are representative:
Panic Grips World's Markets; Shock as American Rescue Plan Rejected.
NEW YORK--The US government's $700bn bail-out of the banking industry collapsed yesterday as Congress defied the White House by voting down the plan, sending Wall Street stocks plummeting and spreading shockwaves through the global economy. [more]
September 29, 2008
Citigroup buys Wachovia's banking units.
For $2.2 billion. Another Black September sideshow and detail--but a fair one for Wachovia shareholders. See New York Times.
September 26, 2008
FDIC seizes, and starts selling, Washington Mutual.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. sells most of WaMu to JPMorgan Chase & Co. See Bloomberg, WSJ, New York Times. Meanwhile, on our pages WAC?'s Holden Oliver cruelly savors, and celebrates, the brutality of the return of the work ethic.
September 24, 2008
U.S. Justice Department investigates 26 large lenders.
The Associated Press reports that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers Holdings, AIG and Countrywide Financial (recently bought by Bank of America) are five of them. Failed IndyMac Bancorp is also being probed for possible fraud.
September 18, 2008
The federal bailout of AIG: loan or purchase?
And was the $85 billion loan to AIG legal? See Eric Posner ("I suspect the deal is a loan in form but a purchase in substance") at The Volkoh Conspiracy, Carolyn Elefant at Legal Blog Watch, David Zaring at The Conglomerate and Marty Lederman at Balkanization.
France: Dites-le en anglais, s'il vous plait?
Illustration: Peter Schrank
September 15, 2008
158-year-old Lehman Bros. will file for Chapter 11.
September 13, 2008
The lawyer thing: GCs, do you really need Big, Clumsy & Mediocre in 50 cities Worldwide?
If you are a savvy General Counsel, is there any reason to keep engaging your US or UK-based law firm that expanded in the past few years all over the globe like a spastic hamburger franchise?
One of our most clicked-on posts is here. It's a bit dated, about 3 IBLC meetings behind--our Fall gathering and work sessions, with law firms of 5 to 250 lawyers in size, were in Zürich just last week--but you'll get the idea. The IBLC has 100 law firms in strategic cities worldwide.
September 03, 2008
Man of Kent, or a Kentish Man?
As with London, and with the County of Suffolk to the north, from where my mother's family came to Massachusetts via Ipswich 373 years ago, I am completely and hopelessly in love with Kent, mainly the "eastern" part. The County of Kent is the southeastern doorway to the British Isles--it has even more history, legend and myth than London. Lots, and maybe even too much, has happened here during the past 2500 years...
Eventually, in 51 BC, Julius Caesar called it Cantium, as home of the Cantiaci. Augustine founded what became the Anglican Church here in about 600 AD. And of course Thomas Becket, Chaucer's "holy blissful martyr", was killed here (Canterbury) in 1170. I stay with lawyer friends in a tiny and ancient rural village I've visited before--during a visit not long ago, I helped Jane and Michael destroy and begin to re-build their home's 300+ year old fireplace. They live near Canterbury, in what is traditionally East Kent; therefore, I'm among the "Men of Kent" and "Maids of Kent".
August 20, 2008
China post-games economic hangover?
July 25, 2008
Brother, can you spare a quid?
In a few weeks I go to London for a quick stay on the way to points west. There, prices are as high as ever for Americans. Aside from the image of my panhandling (maybe Legal London would be a good neighborhood for begging, in my case) the price of my normal Mayfair or Marble Arch hotel room for a couple of nights, it got me thinking about a trip there 16 years ago. One of my first business trips to Europe was in September 1992, near the end of Bush I's first and last term. And Europeans, including rank-and-file white collar Londoners and Parisians, conveyed to me deep concerns about the then-faltering American economy, and the ripple effects on Europe.
Are things going to turn around?, they'd ask. What about this Clinton guy, the one from the southern state? Will it help if he's elected? What if Bush wins? Lots of questions about specific industries. I thought: Whoa, ordinary Europeans know their markets are linked to ours, and they worry about it--but do we Americans worry in reverse the same way? Well, if you think our British brethren aren't in our corner these days, think again. See at The Economist the new piece "Unhappy America", thoughtful and sympathetic, which begins: "Nations, like people, occasionally get the blues; and right now the United States, normally the world’s most self-confident place, is glum".
Brother, can you spare a quid? Yeah, other side of Hyde Park is okay. Your couch in Notting Hill? Okay, sure, I'll just slum.
July 23, 2008
Clean Energy Markets for China Exporters
Our friend Dan Harris is all over China. He wants your clients and you to make money. See at his China Law Blog the link to the U.S. Department of Commerce report, Clean Energy: An Exporter's Guide to China. From the 113-page report's summary: "It offers an analysis of the existing infrastructure of clean energy technologies and identifies market opportunities through 2020, including market forecasts, market drivers, cost data, and market segment analysis".
July 22, 2008
The People's Republic of Helpful.
"It starts out proclaiming China to be ruled by law, but beyond that, it actually is quite helpful on the legal dos and don'ts for foreigners in China." Via Dan Harris at China Law Blog, see this English translation of mainland China's "Legal Guidelines for Foreigners" for entering, exiting and staying in China during the Olympics. A 13-page white paper of mainly true stuff. There's even short sections on how the government will deal with drunks and guns--presumably in case a U.S.-style firefight involving Texans breaks out during the Parade of Nations.
July 21, 2008
In case you missed it: 75 new non-U.S. blogs.
"Americans do tend to think that the rest of the world is rather far away and not terribly important." Delia Venables, UK legal IT commentator, in interview with UK's Law Society Gazette, March 2, 2006. See our May 29 post on new sites added to the Directory of Non-U.S. Blogs on your lower left. Our total is now about 300--but there are more worthy ones out here. If you have suggestions of additional sites on law or business from around the world, just forward them.
Grits courting Brits.
The cheap dollar lured foreign investors to the U.S. last year for the biggest spree since 2000. Some American investors want that favor repaid. Last week's The Economist: "America’s Confused, and Sometimes Scared, Relationship with Foreign Investors". It begins:
Eight-five Alabamians will descend on Britain on July 13th. Despite the timing, they will not be tourists in garish shorts. This group wears pinstriped suits and includes Alabama’s governor. Their destination is the Farnborough Air Show. Their goal, in flying overseas, is to convince foreign investors to return the favour. [more]
July 14, 2008
China: Corruption by the Numbers.
I have been living in or doing business with corrupt countries for over thirty years and one of the things I have noticed is corruption far more often runs with men then with women...
--Dan Harris, China Law Blog
The "politically correct" speech-and-ideas ethos... It's big here in America, of all places. Apart from being no fun at all, "PC" (a) inhibits and emasculates speech, and (b) is often out of step with workday reality. Wouldn't it help us all if we chucked "PC" and just talked? Bribery, business theft, corruption and/or high-handedness is a way of doing business in some regions of the world more than it is in other regions--and there are often good historical or cultural reasons for it. Examples are Greater China, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Yikes. If you want to really understand, you'll need to stash your Western and Anglo abstracts in the closet. See Dan Harris's post "China Corruption By the Numbers", and related links at his respected and well-traveled China Law Blog. And see his "China Corruption. It's A Guy Thing?".
June 27, 2008
UK and American boards
From the FT piece:
UK: The most analysed and debated governance environment anywhere. The unitary board model survives, but since the recommendations of the Higgs report in 2003 there are more non-executives (and fewer executives) around board tables than in the past. The chairman and chief executive roles are usually kept separate.
US: Also a unitary board model, but with chairman, chief executive (and president) roles more often than not being held by the same person. A longer tradition of non-executive dominance of the boardroom. There is, however, a growing sense that Sarbanes-Oxley went too far and needs to be refined.
June 26, 2008
Condi Rice and South Korea
South Korea is a "global partner" but Japan and Australia are "allies". See at Korea Law a June 10 piece by Seoul-based Brendon Carr: "Korea Left Out of Condi’s List of American Allies in Pacific". It's based on Korean news coverage of an article U.S. Secretary of State Rice wrote in the July-August 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs.
June 25, 2008
A Blawg Review with Gaul.
More Europeans. Dang. This week's host of Blawg Review hails from the European nation Yanks (and Brits, for that matter) like to complain about the most. But we at WAC? think that France does reflect the best if buried part of the American soul. It serves, if you will, as Caretaker-in-Chief of the West's best political and artistic folkways and traditions: the haughty over-educated big sister who annoys us, excruciatingly so because she is often right. And, hey, the French do food well. Take this musical, literary and political jaunt through #165 with Edinburgh-based Nicolas Jondet at French-law.net, "French Law in English". We asked for it, we like it.
June 21, 2008
Rome. I don't like working here--charitably put, work-life balance is totally out of balance in some regions of Italy--but I love being in Rome. You can play all day long in and around the The Forum and Palatine Hill, where antiquities are still being found. You can stroll the City. There's this guy with a shop at the Piazza Navona--2000 years ago the Piazza was a Roman circus (i.e., track) you can still see if you try--who sells me these unique old prints, beautifully framed, that I bought for my father in Cincinnati and my alleged girlfriend in LA. I go to that shop on every trip. The Tiber River is gorgeous and, like the Seine in Paris, steeped in history, and a bit melancholy and mysterious.
Lots--much of it sad and unbearable--happened in western Europe, folks. The rivers remember it all.
Happily, many of the West's great ideas and institutions, including what became English law, were conceived or at least preserved by Rome. And the obvious comparison of Rome to America these days is both daunting and exciting: the Romans were competent if grandiose empire builders who were great "copiers". Rome got most of its better (if unrealized) instincts about government, and its best artistic and traditions, from a different nation. Americans got theirs from Europe--but old Rome's debt was to Greece.
Back to travel. You can't see, experience and "do" Rome on one trip--same thing with New York, London or Paris--and you shouldn't try. Here's what happens when you do. See at The Exploration of Undiscovered Worlds--Or Just Europe and Myself this recent post "Rome" by an anonymous traveler who otherwise seems to know what he/she is doing and just visited Rome and then Paris back-to-back. Our advice: Learn a little more about Rome first, and then "live in it", taking small bites.
June 20, 2008
China gasoline up 18%.
June 09, 2008
Essential China Law
June 04, 2008
International Dispute Negotiation: The ICC
Listen to the IDN's latest podcast, No. 28, "The ICC's New Leadership: Interview with Jason Fry". Fry is the new Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce's (ICC's) 85-year-old International Court of Arbitration. Established in 1919, the ICC is based in Paris, with offices worldwide. It has been a leader and innovator in global business arbitration since 1923 (about 15,000 cases.) GE's Mike McIlwrath talks with Fry about the ICC's role in ADR globally in 2008.
May 31, 2008
Big Dog finally hosts Blawg Review.
Old China Hand, fellow ex-Midwesterner and another guy who travels too much, Dan Harris of China Law Blog and Harris & Moure hosts Blawg Review this Monday. Expect the usual Harris: insightful, innovative, feisty and cosmopolitan. He wants us all to make money in China. And he owes me a one-on-one game of hoops--but I can take this Hoosier.
May 30, 2008
Corporate Japan closes up.
May 29, 2008
Update: Blawgs Abroad--75 more non-U.S. blawgs and sites.
Americans do tend to think that the rest of the world is rather far away and not terribly important.
Today at What About Clients? we add another 75 international blogs to our Directory of Non-U.S. Blogs on the left-hand side of this blog (scroll down a little). We started the Directory in early 2006; see here, here and here, a/k/a the World Cup Blawg Review. It now has nearly 300 sites, and the list of course belongs to everyone. Our last update was in August 2007. Since then, we've worked to discover more international legal weblogs, sites and resources. We list the good ones: active, high quality and preferably in English. We'd have done this earlier--but clients and our boss The Timesheet got in the way.
An important thank you is in order to five important sources: pioneer Bill Gratsch and his Blawg.com (US), Diane Levin (US), Dan Harris (China/US), Guy Kawasaki (Universe), and Jordan Furlong (Canada).
The new blogs come from 26 countries, including Belgium, Malaysia, Romania, Sri Lanka and Turkey. Are there more out there?
Blog de Mediacion, Daniel Martinez Zampa
eMediacion by AcuerdoJusto, Franco Conforti
Resolución Electrónica de Disputas, Alberto Elisavetsky
Secretos del Meliador Exitoso, Nora Curtis, Franco Conforti and Nora Femenia
Adelaide Criminal Defence Blog, Simon Slade
Australian Mediation Association, Callum Campbell
Open and Shut, Peter Timmins
Réseau Médiation, Dominique Foucart
Brazilian Arbitration Law, Pedro Alberto Costa
bc business law blog, Meldon Ellis
The Bizop News, Michael J. Webster
Class Actions in Canada, Ward Branch
Law Firm Web Strategy, Steve Matthews
A Mediator's Calling, Ken Bole
Perspectives from a Mediator/Arbitrator, Stephen Raymond
Precedent: The new rules of law and style, Melissa Kluger
Vancouver Law Librarian Blog, Steve Matthews
The Work it Out Blog, Allan Revich
Workplaces That Work, Lynne Eisaguirre
Servicios de Mediacion, Paola Aedo Peralta
Chinese Negotiation - Negotiating in China, Andrew Hupert
Go East - Outsourcing to China, Dean Stevens
The Mediation Times, Amanda Bucklow
European Union: 2
L'Observatoire du Droit Panameen et du Droit International, Pierre Julie Ivan Alonso
Parliaments Ideas, BsiLi AdeL
Die Maschinistin, Kirstin Nickelsen
Institut Sikor, Marianne & Markus Sikor
Kleinblog, David Klein
Konfliktmanagement, Mediation & Dialog, Dr. Simen Joachim and colleagues
Master of Mediation, Christoph Stroyer
Mediation Solutions, Natalia Martin Rivero and Axel JC Brodehl
Unternehmensjurist.de, Stefan Deyerler
Legal Process Outsourcing, Rahul Jindal
Technology Law India, George Vivek Durai
Malaysian Mediation, Chan Kheng Hoe
Fer Kousen Conflictmanagement, Fer Kousen
ComparativeLawBlog, Jacco Bomhoff
New Zealand: 2
Mediation vBlog Project, Geoff Sharp
My Weblog, James South
TogetherResolve, Emmy Irobi
Conflito: uma oportunidade!, David Santiago Pires
The Negotiation Guru, Jens Thang
blog solomediacion.com, Miquel Tort
todomediacion.com, Isabel Medina
Sri Lanka: 1
ICT for Peacebuilding, Sanjana Hattotuwa
May 28, 2008
International Dispute Negotiation: Asian Tiger Singapore
Listen to IDN's latest podcast, No. 27, "Mediating from Singapore: An Interview with Christopher Lau". In this segment, GE's Mike McIlwrath and Lau talk about how to find the right mediator in Singapore. And they talk about critical cultural and historical traits that may make Singapore different--different from, say, South Korea, Hong Kong and mainland China. Lau is a senior counsel in the Singapore office of the London-based barristers' chambers of 3 Verulam Buildings.
May 27, 2008
U.S. still most competitive economy.
For 15th year in a row. AP: "Swiss survey: US maintains edge in competitiveness". Excerpt:
Asian tigers Singapore and Hong Kong ranked just behind the U.S., as they did last year. Switzerland jumped two places to fourth, while Luxembourg rounded out the top five most competitive national economies, said the Lausanne, Switzerland-based, IMD business school, publisher of the World Competitiveness Yearbook.
Warren Buffett on recession: "Long and deep".
According to Reuters:
BERLIN - The United States is already in a recession and it will be longer as well as deeper than many people expect, U.S. investor Warren Buffett said in an interview published in German magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday. [more]
May 22, 2008
Ford CEO Mulally: Tough times
May 21, 2008
Oil is $132 a barrel.
Another new record. Bloomberg: "Oil Rises Above $132 on U.S. Supply Drop, Bank Price Forecasts". Last week, the US DOE says, supplies fell 5.32 million barrels to 320.4 million, the biggest drop in 4 months.
China's New Labor Law
May 16, 2008
EU steps up antitrust investigation of drug makers.
BRUSSELS (Canada's Law Day) – European antitrust investigators are expanding their inquiry of the European pharmaceutical market in an effort to determine whether companies are blocking generic drug makers from getting less-expensive medicines to market quickly.
May 14, 2008
Like other Midwestern U.S. cities with manufacturing roots, it has tried to diversify. In recent years Cleveland lost TRW, Office Max, BP, and Oglebay Norton to acquisitions, mergers and re-structurings. But it's still headquarters to National City Bank, American Greetings, Eaton Corporation, Sherwin-Williams, Parker-Hannifin and Aleris International. It's become a go-to city for biotechnology and fuel cell research, led
by Case Western and the Cleveland Clinic. Jones Day (in our view, one of the few functional mega-law firms still out there, along with Skadden and a few others) started in Cleveland over 100 years ago. It has about 2300 lawyers. It's had only 7 managing partners since 1913, including the respected Dick Pogue during the 1980s and 1990s. Dean Erwin Griswold was a partner there.
May 12, 2008
Toyota suspends southwestern China plant after quake.
TOKYO/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp. on Monday suspended production at a 13,000-units-a-year joint venture plant in Chengdu, southwestern China, after a powerful earthquake struck, killing at least 107 people. [more]
May 09, 2008
International Dispute Negotiation: Iraq
May 06, 2008
The U.S. candidates and global trade.
Thanks to China Law Blog, we picked up on this still timely February 28 piece by Craig Maginness at Going Global entitled "Presidential Primary Edition--The Candidates, the Parties and Their Positions on Global Trade". Excerpt:
[John McCain] seems to be very much a free trader, and is willing to go even further in staking out what I think is a sensible but apparently unpopular stance on immigration as well. Among the Democrats, their records would suggest that Ms. Clinton has a more favorable view of international trade than Mr. Obama, though their pitched battle for the nomination is forcing both of them to skew their rhetoric to play to the protectionists in the labor movement bloc of the party.
May 05, 2008
Smile when you violate our patents.
International Dispute Negotiation: Mark Kantor interview
In ADR, nothing is more important than the quality and backgrounds of the arbitrators or mediator you select. Internationally, the appointment process is even more challenging. So hear (along with the program's trademark perky jazz violin intro) the newest IDN podcast, No. 24, "Mark Kantor on Appointing Arbitrators". Kantor, a D.C. lawyer, discusses how to assemble a first-rate international arbitration tribunal, from obtaining good information on candidates to logistics to ethics rules.
May 02, 2008
"No love" in China for foreign corps.
Sorry, Yanks. China does love foreign investment--but it puts managing its populace of 1.4 billion people first. It will not tailor, bend or even explain laws and regs for foreign companies upon demand. WAC? doesn't like it either--but then we have an ugly American streak where U.S. clients doing business abroad are concerned. But listen to these two old China hands. Dan Harris at China Law Blog notes that "Foreign Companies In China Can't Get No Love" and Shanghai-based Rich Brubaker at All Roads Lead to China has this one: "Regulations in China: Are You Prepared? Are Ready? Are You OK?". And see CLB's earlier and related piece, "China Law As A Guessing Game".
May 01, 2008
The new Wall Street Journal
We know what you mean, sir. Yesterday Broc Romanek got cranky about the "new" Rupert Murdoch-driven Wall Street Journal in "The New Media: Time to Merge with Old Media?". It's at Romanek's TheCorporateCounsel.net Blog. Don't be killing the brand, please.
Labour Day, May Day, Beltane.
If today and in the next few days you have trouble rousting people in Norway, Italy or China on the phone or with e-mail, here's the reason. In many nations of Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa, May 1 is Labour Day, or international workers day.
2007: "Prelude to Famine?"
Is Carolyn Elefant a saucy wordsmith or what? See at Legal Blog Watch her "Am Law 100: 2007 Was a Year to Feast, But Is It a Prelude to Famine?". The new Am Law 100 list is out, where clients can find (a) some of the very best (as in olden days) and (b) some of the most spectacularly mediocre lawyers on earth. Guys, you aren't what you used to be--on either skills or service.
April 30, 2008
Will railroads make a come-back?
With gas at $4 a gallon, it's something to think about. And, hey, Warren Buffett suddenly loves trains. See Reuters article of April 20.
Photo of non-U.S. train
April 22, 2008
Doing business in China: Cutting paths on uncertain terrain.
Dan Harris at China Law Blog discusses "China Law As Guessing Game", inspired by the Stan Abrams post at China Hearsay called "The Law and New Tech in China". Harris and Abrams are full-time China lawyers with busy practices. Note how they hit on not only handling the barrage of first-impression legal and regulatory issues confronting their clients in Greater China, but also on the importance of guiding clients in an active, non-CYA fashion on issues abroad where the "applicable law" is very often silent, muddy or missing. Incidently, over the years, WAC? has met with Beijing-based Abrams, an IP and business lawyer and old China hand, in Europe at meetings of the IBLC.
April 21, 2008
Is GAAP on its way out?
Will the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) soon replace Generally Accepted Accounting Principles? See this post by Brian Ritchey at More Partner Income, inspired in part by "Goodbye GAAP" in CFO Magazine.
April 19, 2008
Greece: Litigation and ADR
Mike McIlwrath, a GE in-house litigation counsel based in Florence, Italy, discusses litigation, mediation, and arbitration in Greece with Greek litigator Pericles Stroubos. Listen to IDN podcast No. 23, "Negotiating a Binding Dispute Clause with a Greek Company".
April 17, 2008
S&P/BusinessWeek's Global Innovation Index
The notion is that over the last year companies in the "GII"--an upstart index launched in February 2008--have outperformed companies in the S&P 500 Index and the S&P Global 100 Index. See the index and "Innovation Scores Again" at Not An MBA. Via Ed. of Blawg Review, a global and innovative being.
April 15, 2008
Recycling Is 2% of U.S. GDP?
April 14, 2008
Cincinnati's P&G gets wiggy.
Reuters: "Procter & Gamble plans hip-hop music foray" with its Tag body sprays. Yeah, they bad.
April 11, 2008
Mediating Internationally: The Netherlands
Why Salzburg matters.
Apart from Mozart, salt, ancient Celtic culture and restaurants carved into cliffs, this Austrian city is home to the International Business Law Consortium, an active group of over 80 first-rate law and accounting firms in strategic cities all over the world. It was founded in 1996.
April 10, 2008
London's Magic Circle law firms: Who are those guys?
Lots of people talk about London's Magic Circle--but who are they really? The commonly accepted firms are Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, and Slaughter and May. According to Richard Lloyd's article for The American Lawyer Magazine, "The Global 100: Magic Circle Firms Have the Magic Touch", featured at Law.com, these law firms dominate high-end corporate work in the UK and Europe, are the most profitable and expansive firms, and are surpassing their American rivals. Listen to J. Craig Williams and Bob Ambrogi discuss the Magic Circle with Lloyd on their Lawyer 2 Lawyer podcast at Legal Talk Network.
IMF: Global growth threatened by biggest shock "since the Great Depression".
WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States is headed for a recession, dragging world economic growth down along with it, the International Monetary Fund concluded in a sobering new forecast Wednesday that underscored the damage inflicted from the housing and credit debacles. [more]
The Fund is always a living tribute to the human spirit.
April 04, 2008
US: Stocks up, jobs down.
AP: "Stocks rise despite gloomy jobs report". In March, 80,000 jobs were lost.
International ADR: Is arbitration on the rise?
April 03, 2008
More bird-watchers: Henry Paulson's excellent adventure.
March 28, 2008
Real estate: Got cash? (part 2)
WSJ reports that banks are acquiring foreclosed homes faster than they can sell them off. Via beSpacfic.
March 25, 2008
AP: On U.S. housing prices in January 2008, Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index reflects record 11.4 % drop.
March 24, 2008
Mediating Internationally: Barcelona's Arbitration Tribunal
Ancient Barcelona, Spain has always been a key commercial center--apart from its gifts to the world of Miró, a tradition of cultural prosperity, and the Sagrada Família church. Listen to the newest IDN interview, No. 19, "The Arbitration Tribunal of Barcelona".
March 23, 2008
Following our two days in LA, two London lawyer friends and I this weekend are touring what's left of upper Baja California, Mexico, a gritty shrine to bad planning, spoiled Nature, bribery and failed cultures everywhere. Not snobbery--just fact, mixed with a lawyer's prayer for renewal and rebirth. Dudes, got standards?
March 18, 2008
Heroic, not-good news.
March 17, 2008
Mediating Internationally: France & Italy
March 11, 2008
AP: U.S. malls and retailers falter. "Darwinism".
March 10, 2008
Mediating Internationally: India's Outsourced Litigation Work
At the International Dispute Negotiation series of The International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (CPR), hear the latest IDN interview, No. 17 "Offshore Litigation Work in India" featuring the entrepreneur-founder of outsourcing firm Pangea3 and one of its top managers.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. average retail gasoline prices have reached a new high of almost $3.20 per gallon and will likely jump another 20 to 30 cents in the next month, worsening the pain of consumers struggling to make ends meet in an economic downturn. [more]
March 07, 2008
U.S. private sector: biggest job drop in 5 years.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. private employment fell unexpectedly for the first time in nearly five years in February, according to a private report on Wednesday that dealt another blow to an economy teetering on the brink of recession. [more]
U.S. Senate approves product safety reform bill; foreign-made goods highlighted.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate on Thursday passed the most sweeping reform of the nation's consumer safety system in a generation, including stricter tests for toys, greater public access to complaints about products and an overhaul of the federal safety agency charged with regulating most items in American homes.
The bill, which passed 79-13, is tougher in key areas than a House version approved last year. House and Senate negotiators will meet to reconcile the differences before the bill heads to President Bush. [more]
March 05, 2008
Mediating Internationally: Boston's Dwight Golann
At the International Dispute Negotiation series of The International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (CPR), hear the latest IDN interview, No. 16 "How to Borrow a Mediator's Powers" featuring Prof. Dwight Golann from Boston's Suffolk University Law School. Hosted by Michael McIlwrath, Senior Litigation Counsel with General Electric based in Florence, Italy.
February 28, 2008
Mediating Internationally: Hungary's Eva Horvath
At the International Dispute Negotiation series of The International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (CPR), hear the latest IDN interview, No. 15 "Prof. Eva Horvath, of Budapest, Hungary, on ADR in Eastern Europe". Hosted by Michael McIlwrath, Senior Litigation Counsel with General Electric based in Florence, Italy.
February 27, 2008
UK: The Erudite, The Good, The Sultry, The Insane.
We--the habitually insular Yanks--are not alone. Some fancy Brit lawyers with blogs: Charon QC, Justin Patten, dearest Ruthie, and finally IP barrister GeekLawyer, who just caught the attention of Ed. at Blawg Review. And there's lots of notable non-US blogs of all manner on your left if you scroll down a bit--and lots of legal and business talent you can use across all those big ponds, friends.
February 21, 2008
U.S. economy: Stocks swing up on hope of new stats and rate cut; JC Penney circles the wagons.
February 20, 2008
Eversheds: Your world in 2018.
From the alert Australia site Law Fuel: Magic Circle firm Eversheds heads up and completes study on what to expect in 2018. Dominance of the Magic Circle firms "set to erode" and partners believe work-life balance and excellent client service is a "contradiction in terms". More.
February 19, 2008
China Law 101 Plus.
Checking in with Dan Harris at China Law Blog, we find "How To Learn Chinese Law. Do Try This At Home". If you practice corporate law in this new world of ours, are busy, and have limited time to read legal weblogs/blawgs, please make CLB one of the four or five you religiously visit along with, say, SCOTUS, the WSJ's Law Blog and Blawg Review. Read CLB first--and WAC? way later. We can wait.
February 18, 2008
Euphoric: Blawg Review #147
What a Rush. Sorry, at least one of WAC?'s writers is an aging hippie, and we couldn't resist. Rush Nigut hosts this week's Blawg Review #147 at Rush on Business. Creative, upbeat, informative, even euphoric.
U.S. economy: well, things could be worse.
AP: In Houston last week Alan Greenspan tells oil execs that we're not in a recession yet--but getting there. Pulitzer-winning fossil fuel guru Dan Yergin moderates Q&A and asks a wonky question or two. And Americans feel frustrated and shaky as gas and milk prices stay high and they worry about their jobs.
February 08, 2008
A gem from Iowa: Rush on Business
Soon Des Moines-based Sullivan & Ward shareholder Rush Nigut and his Rush on Business will host Blawg Review--we look forward to it. His blog is subtitled "Information on Iowa Business Employment and Franchise Law". In ways his site is like ours: focused on corporate clients. But he has much better material than WAC? for medium-size and small business (he's also a hell of a lot nicer than us). And there's more going on here than Iowa HR, franchise law and even general business law. Rush covers a variety of topics, like the basic team to start a business, politics (affecting business), some litigation, and sports. We loved the reminder in one post which the most sophisticated clients ignore: "Prompt Investigation to Sexual Harassment is Critical". Short useful posts here, the kind a busy client would like to read. He writes well, like a human, too. Interesting and exemplary site business lawyers in any state should really watch.
February 07, 2008
U.S. jobless claims slightly down; but retailers struggling; tech spending may slow.
February 06, 2008
U.S. Senate to act on stimulus package.
AP. What's an extra $40 billion? Jeez-Louise.
February 02, 2008
Procter & Gamble to spin off Folgers.
Here at the New York Times. P&G will focus more on its other consumer products, like paper products Bounty and Pampers (which helped send one WAC? lawyer-writer to college), and razors. Procter, which has trained and hatched some of the smartest, most aggressive and proudest marketing and sales people on the planet, gave WAC? our Ease-of-Use idea. It came from the "new" plastic red Folgers coffee container and an assist from the Arthritis Foundation.
January 31, 2008
Newest Wall Street worry: Bond insurance.
AP: A "heavy loss" by bond insurer MBIA Inc., and the prospect of new downgrades in the bond insurance industry.
January 30, 2008
America: 2.2% growth rate in 2007; 0.6% in 4th quarter.
AP: "Worst year since 2002."
January 25, 2008
Tax-based stimulus package "robust".
AP: President Bush likes it. Hill leaders like it. Now, get ready--and worry about too little too late. We need a $150 billion shot in the arm three weeks ago. If WAC? gets a rebate, we'll hit Target's Great Books section in Aisle 26A.
WASHINGTON - Congressional leaders announced a deal with the White House Thursday on an economic stimulus package that would give most tax filers refunds of $600 to $1,200, and more if they have children.
January 23, 2008
Wall Street: Quite A Ride.
NEW YORK - Stocks extended their decline Wednesday, with investors uneasy after reports from big names like Apple Inc. and Motorola Inc. dashed any notion that the Federal Reserve's emergency rate cut could in short order patch up the economy. Bond prices rose but pulled back from their highs after stocks pared their steepest losses.
Wall Street: Now, whiplash.
January 22, 2008
The Year of the Bull
January 17, 2008
More coverage of MeadWestvaco Corp. case...
Crude oil supply unexpectedly up; price down to under $90/barrel.
AP: "Oil Prices Slide as U.S. Stockpiles Soar". The U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration weekly report: crude oil supplies rose by 4.3 million barrels last week, the first increase since November.
January 14, 2008
Citigroup may write off up to $24 billion; 20,000 jobs at risk.
Due to subprime and credit-related losses. See Reuters.
January 11, 2008
$4B in stock: Countrywide unloads itself.
Bank of America agrees to acquire Countrywide Financial for $4B in stock
NEW YORK (Thomson Financial) - Bank of America Corp. Friday agreed to acquire Countrywide Financial Corp. for roughly $4 billion in stock.
The deal calls for Bank of America to swap .1822 of a share for each share of Countrywide stock. The transaction values Countrywide shares at roughly $7.16 each, based on Thursday's close. This is roughly a 7.6% discount to the Countrywide's closing price of $7.75 on Thursday. [more]
January 10, 2008
Fed will cut interest rates again.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Any confusion as to whether the Federal Reserve plans to cut rates further to help a struggling economy may have been cleared up today.
In prepared remarks, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke pledged Thursday to slash interest rates yet again to prevent housing and credit problems from plunging the country into a recession. [more]
January 09, 2008
Written agreements: "More security for Chinese laborers".
At National Public Radio's Marketplace, listen to this recent interview with China Law Blog's Steve Dickinson. Effective January 1, a new employment law in China is requiring employers to give written contracts to workers--or risk big penalties.
January 07, 2008
January 04, 2008
U.S. job growth slowing?
WAC? has optimism in its DNA, but Automatic Data Processing, Inc., based on payroll data on nearly 24 million U.S. workers, reports that December was a bad month. See the WSJ Real Time Economics blog, "ADP Report Indicates Weak Job Growth".
January 02, 2008
Crude oil hits $100
NEW YORK (AP)--Oil prices soared to $100 a barrel Wednesday for the first time ever, reaching that milestone amid an unshakeable view that global demand for oil and petroleum products will continue to outstrip supplies. [more]
December 28, 2007
The Good, The Bad and The Congressman-Needs-The-Press-Release.
China bills in 110th Congress. Trade, IP protection and safe food and toys in about 100 items. As with most legislation, some are duplicative of each other, and some are headed nowhere fast. Via BeSpacific, see the US-China Business Council's bare bones but useful summary: 110th Congress, First Session, "Legislation Related to China" (i.e., 2007 activity).
December 26, 2007
So how are those Mandarin classes going? AP: "China controlling more of U.S. economy". Excerpt:
China has been making increasingly aggressive investments in some of the world's most prestigious financial companies in recent months — most of them American. Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns, Blackstone Group and Britain's Barclays have all negotiated major stakes by Chinese government-controlled investment funds.
December 22, 2007
Stocks enter the holidays on a high note.
From the Wall Street Journal:
In the last full trading day before Christmas, stocks brought joy to the investment world, delivering the December boost investors had hoped for.
Sources of holiday cheer included strong earnings, signs of healthy consumer spending and a possible capital infusion for Merrill Lynch, one of several Wall Street firms struggling with losses on mortgage-related investments. [more]
December 19, 2007
U.S. trade deficit falls by 5.5%
AP: Trade Deficit Declines To Lowest Point In 2 Years. To $178.5 billion in third quarter. But deficit with China is higher than last year.
Iran receives nuclear fuel from Russia
WASHINGTON (NYT) — The United States lost a long battle when Russia, as it announced on Monday, delivered nuclear fuel to an Iranian power plant that is at the center of an international dispute over its nuclear program. Iran, for its part, confirmed on Monday plans to build a second such plant.
In announcing that it had delivered the first shipment of enriched-uranium fuel rods to the power plant, at Bushehr in southern Iran, on Sunday, Russian officials said that while the fuel was in Iran, it would be under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear monitoring agency for the United Nations. Russia also said the Iranian government had guaranteed that the fuel would be used only for the power plant. [more]
December 17, 2007
Exactly where should you live in China?
Well, it depends. See this one from Dan Harris's China Law Blog, inspired by a post at Matt Schiavenza's A China Journal. And do not miss the comment (no. 4) at Matt's site from our Beijing-based Irish cousin Brendan O'Kane over at bokane.org.
December 14, 2007
"Is Bangalore another Silicon Valley in the making?"
Maybe. But there's more than just hype here. See at London-based The Economist "Indian Start-Ups: Entrepreneurial Push". Excerpt: "The demand in India is not so much for new technologies as for new ways to make technology affordable to the masses." Warning: You should factor in the usual dose of British condescension where India is concerned.
December 12, 2007
Citigroup: Pandit new CEO, Bischoff new chairman
Citigroup Names Pandit CEO to Clean Up Subprime Mess
Dec. 11 (Bloomberg) - Citigroup Inc. named former Morgan Stanley President Vikram Pandit as chief executive officer, ending a monthlong search after Charles O. Prince stepped down amid at least $9 billion of mortgage losses. [more]
Former U.S. Treasury chief Robert Rubin engineered the change.
December 11, 2007
Wild Bill menaced by non-GOP robot.
'Robot' heckles Bill Clinton (MSNBC).
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is Argentina's new president.
Argentina's Fernandez Succeeds Husband As President
Buenos Aires, Dec. 10 (Reuters) - Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner took office as Argentina's first elected female president on Monday in a rare husband-to-wife handover Argentines hope will sustain an historic economic boom.
Fernandez, a former first lady and senator, began a 4-year term promising to continue the policies of her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, who presided over a dramatic recovery in South America's second-biggest economy. [more]
December 10, 2007
GeekLawyer: American attorneys are "revolting".
But it's an ex-New York Governor Mario Cuomo solidarity-with-Pakistan-lawyers-so-why-not-against-George Bush thing, and we can't get a copy of the speech or a report from a non-blog news source. A couple of weeks back, Cuomo allegedly said: "If US lawyers are marching in the streets in support of the rule of law in Pakistan [referring to a NYC protest], why aren't we marching in support of the rule of law here?" Upcoming (June 30, 2008) Blawg Review host GeekLawyer, a feisty London barrister with that rare lawyer mix of guts and credentials, actually loves Yanks, mainly, sort of. Anyway, see "American Lawyers Are Revolting".
EU-Africa trade summit in Lisbon ends badly, bitterly.
Mugabe Rallies Africa Against Europe As talks End In Disarray
LISBON - Africa and Europe's first summit in seven years ended in disarray yesterday, with no agreement on the key issue of trade and a defiant Robert Mugabe telling Africa to "fight the arrogance" of European countries opposed to his regime in Zimbabwe.
The two-day summit in Lisbon did agree an action plan and a promise to meet again in 2010, but the world's largest trading bloc and its poorest continent remained bitterly divided over how to replace current economic agreements. [more]
November 25, 2007
Helmut Schmidt: Russia less dangerous than the US.
Helmut Schmidt, the former German chancellor (1974-82) and U.S. arms ally against the former Soviet Union in Cold War days, raised eyebrows with this one. Many Germans and Europeans still listen to and respect the 78-year-old statesman turned newspaper executive. See "How Dangerous Is America?" by Gabor Steingart, a DC-based reporter for Der Spiegel, the influential German weekly magazine.
November 21, 2007
Does America lack capacity for entanglements abroad?
That question keeps coming up. The young Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville thought 170 years ago that the answer is yes. He wrote that America by nature was an isolationist creature. For a more recent take, see today's post by Joerg Wolf, a German Fulbright alumni, in the Atlantic Review. Wolf comments on a recent WSJ op-ed piece by DC lawyer David Rivkin, "Diplomacy in the Post-9/11 Era". Both are excellent. If your firm works abroad--or will be--read them.
November 19, 2007
Pakistan's lawyers, Musharraf and emergency rule.
How can you walk into a courtroom and address a judge as 'My lord' if he has taken an oath to a dictator? --Asad Abbasi, Islamabad lawyer
The Washington Post's Pam Constable writes about how lawyers in Pakistan wage a campaign against President Pervez Musharraf by boycotting courts.
November 17, 2007
Our Wunderkind in Berlin
Being a Very-Minor-Almost-Imperceptible-Celebrity, I sometimes get to hang out with Very-Major-Totally-Obvious-Celebrities...
Chris Abraham, in a post at Because the Medium is the Message
Learn a lot, grow a lot, get famous and make money. You have our permission. As long as you "serve somebody", like the man from Hibbing said, it's your world. To keep level, read T.S. Eliot, some Flaubert and maybe The Upanishads. But watch a little, too.
Watch this guy: WAC?'s talented DC friend and IT mentor Chris Abraham of internet experts Abraham & Harrison kept his old life in America and just started a new one in Berlin, Germany. Chris is a rising star in public relations blogging, new marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO). He amazes me. Chris, well under 40, is no geek,
and someone should run him for office the minute he turns too rich. The last time I saw Chris, a couple of months ago in Monterey, California, he introduced me to another way-talented fellow from NYC we should all watch named Jonathan Swerdloff. And then Chris just happened to invite me to dinner along with a former Fortune 100 company GC-turned-CEO an entire generation older (okay, my age) who I had been wanting to get together with for four (4) years.* Chris is creative, smart, marketing oriented--and charming. You can follow Chris in Berlin at this blog or his other blog. Watch him.
*This annoyed me. WAC? has uber-thick skin. But Chris is better at my job than I am--and he doesn't even have my job.
November 15, 2007
Checking in with Charon QC
The urbane and refreshing Londoner Charon QC is in top form. See "Europhile Top Shelf…and Downing Street Matters" and his Saturday review of last week's news and UK blog posts. On January 7, CQC hosts Blawg Review, which will never be the same. Some lawyers are international lawyers. Charon is that, and much more: he's a lawyer and an international kind of guy. He would rather choke to death than just talk or write about The Law. We Yank working stiffs stand in awe.
November 14, 2007
Paris, Marrakesh, and Not-Law
No matter how hard we try, we can't stay away from Paris Parfait, where an American writer in Paris muses about art, antiques, poetry and politics. Or from My Marrakesh, where a "Moroccan blog girl-next-door" and her bemused American family build a guest house.
November 13, 2007
Lowland Libertarian lawyer.
"As a lowland Scot, I am as alien to Gaelic culture as I am to the ways of the inuit." Thus speaks the anonymous writer of Musings of a Reactionary Snob. He's a lawyer and Libertarian who lives in Edinburgh. He doesn't want his taxes funding Gaelic broadcasting--through the Gaelic Media Service--yet he personally supports the culture and language of Gaelic. He's got a point. See his post "Gaelic". Colorful and good writing.
November 10, 2007
A little CPR on the Spanish Steps: new program on cross-border disputes.
Thanks to Diane Levin for pointing out to us "International Dispute Negotiation"--a new podcast program presented by the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (CPR). Not boring. Lively, with a short jazz violin opening and then intro by a woman with an interesting voice, the IDN program presents examples of the ways companies and professionals from different countries and cultures approach dispute resolution. It is hosted by General Electric's Michael McIlwrath, Senior Counsel, Litigation for GE Infrastructure--Oil & Gas, in Florence, Italy. The introductory interview, from the Spanish Steps at the Piazza di Spagna in Rome, is with CPR Senior Vice President F. Peter Phillips. And hear the more recent McIlwrath IDN interview with Brazilian lawyer Antonio Tavares on dispute resolution in Brazil.
November 08, 2007
Getting it right: UK firms with double digit revenue growth
Do "UK law firms have a more sophisticated approach to strategy than North American firms"? See this post at The Adventure of Strategy, a consistently fine site by business strategist Rob Millard, a partner at Edge International.
November 07, 2007
Legal Talk Network: The SoCal fires
There's an interesting interview of three San Diego lawyers on the recent southern California fires right here at the October 31 edition of the LegalTalkNetwork's "Lawyer2Lawyer" radio show. It's hosted by Law.com bloggers J. Craig Williams in Los Angeles and Bob Ambrogi in Boston. WAC?'s Dan Hull is one of the lawyers interviewed.
November 06, 2007
Merrill Lynch's bad week.
Make that a tough month for Merrill Lynch, the U.S. brokerage founded in 1914. First, record losses and stock plunge, and CEO replacement. Now the SEC investigation on off-balance-sheet deals to obscure risky mortage debt (AP), the forced exit of the chief of ML's consulting services arm (Jacksonville Business Journal), and the exit of a municipal pension fund from the ML portfolio (Global Pensions).
CNN's Nancy Grace gives birth.
A Truly Blessed Event. Twins--a boy and a girl, according to AP. Forty-nine year old mother and babies are doing fine, CNN rep says. Which is of course good. But this is very, very suspicious to WAC? How could this happen? Who saw it? Why weren't we briefed about this earlier? Who drove to the hospital? Who was at the scene first? Did someone secure the area? Sounds like the old run-around to us.
November 05, 2007
Melbourne muscle boutique launches new IP blog.
The talented but "unstuffy" Melbourne-based commercial law firm of Nicholas Weston just launched Australian Trade Marks Law Blog. This is a promising new site. See "Madrid Update", which is both a status report and primer on the longstanding Madrid system of international trade mark registration, administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). WIPO is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
November 03, 2007
Saturday's Charon: Lawyers dull? Say what?
Well, WAC? thinks lawyers are exciting. If you've never "partied" with American corporate tax lawyers drunk on Jesuit educations and a few Blue Nun spritzers, you don't know the meaning of bohemian and decadent. But for really edgy excitement, see re: "reality TV lawyering" Charon QC's post "Lawyers simply too dull to be on TV shock!…". Apparently, an executive producer of Legal TV in England canceled the show Lawyers Save the World because "the lawyers were not able
to rise to the occasion and save London [from floods]…some of them were listless and not bothered that London was drowning." Click here to find the clip from the ill-fated show and watch and hear a pretty young half-asleep English female solicitor born circa 1980 say the words: "Remember the Dunkirk spirit..."
October 31, 2007
New York or London: Who's the man?
Blawg Review goes global.
Blawg Review is the popular and clever showcase of each week's best law blog posts. It's edited by a person known as "Ed.", who only a few lawyers have even seen in the flesh. It is just 30 months old. And in recent months, BR has become increasingly international, with blawger hosts from England, Ireland, Canada, Asia and Down Under, and featured posts from everywhere. The trend continues and accelerates in the next months. Due in part to Ed.'s superior technology skills, Blawg Review will procure what WAC? in its two years could never procure, a French blawg in English. We are not worthy.
January 7 - Charon QC (UK)
May 19 - Ruthie's Law (UK)
May 26 - Moral Dilemma (Australia)
Jun 2 - China Law Blog (China)
Jun 16 - cearta.ie (Ireland)
Jun 23 - French-Law.Net (France)
Jun 30 - GeekLawyer (UK)(X-rated)
October 30, 2007
Merrill Lynch CEO O'Neal steps down.
The AP reports that Stan O'Neal will retire. Merrill Lynch has announced $2.2 billion in losses, due largely to the expansion of its portfolio in mortgaged-backed securities tied to the failing sub-prime market. ML's mortgage investments lost $7.9 billion in value during the third quarter. Earlier this year, investment banks that finance the mortgage industry pulled much of their money out.
Rancho Bernardo: The fire this time.
After fifteen days away, I returned to San Diego on Saturday. The whole town, starting inside of the airport terminal, smelled like a campfire, and parts of town still do. My car at the airport parking lot was sprinkled with a brownish ash. I then get home. Mainly, it's what I imagined: random ash deposits every few feet on sidewalks and patios, ashes even in places inside my house, bad visibility, bad brownish air (after a few hours you get a headache, and I still have one), the western and northern edges of Rancho Bernardo thoroughly and "expertly" scorched off some main roads right to the curb, destroyed or partly-destroyed homes, a few police barriers still up, an odd patch work of burned-out areas, and bald reddish mountain sides.
Some people are wearing masks. But most people were and are acting as if nothing happened. I did not expect to see evidence of the demon winds which fanned the fires here; there are unburned branches, pinecones and pine needles everywhere, and they need to be cleaned up. The rich and not so rich in this community of 45,000 lost over 350 homes--some of the "homeless" were picking up mail Saturday at the post office when I got my held mail. Rancho Bernardo will recover, and re-build, of course. But people here will never be the same. RB is populated by a strong, proud and orderly lot, many from conservative regions of Midwestern states, who don't like surprises, ever--from either humans or nature. It is, in an odd way, the End of the Perfection in a model community which over the past 25 years has enjoyed peace, quiet and nothing weird at all. The biggest problem at the moment is air quality. See from the AP "Poor Air From Wildfires A Health Threat".
October 26, 2007
"Helluva job, Holden."
Yesterday, they let people back into my neighborhood of Bernardo Heights in "upscale" Rancho Bernardo. Our own mask-clad and normally patrician Holden Oliver was kind to get his hands dirty last night by helping to return my rescued animals (including my demented cat J.D.) to the house and by cleaning up some of the soot in the rooms where windows had been cracked. Holden's no man of the people. And, while athletic, he generally shuns menial labor and the outdoors. He once told Julie McGuire that his idea of camping is "when room service at the Hay-Adams is late". But he loves hanging around Republicans--and this
week RB has even more serious "R"s than usual, a lot of them wandering around outside in RB. Holden had been working up north when the fires became unruly. Even that work stopped for a while. So he goes to San Diego, which many people are still avoiding or trying to escape. Maybe he wants to change the Constitution, and then run Arnold for something different, and national, in 2012.
Holden can adopt an observer's role in all this and even blog about it--but I can't. I live there. Someone called earlier today and said that they were finding charred bodies and skeletons at some of the burned RB house sites, and that the electricity in RB just went out. I don't even know whether this stuff is true; I have been busy on the other end of America, and I haven't watched or read much news. I'll do my own tour and assessment tomorrow when I return to RB. Not really sure what to expect. I'm a Midwest-East Coast boy. I am relatively new to SoCal, to the fires, earthquakes, bobcats, coyotes and strange reptiles, to the inland mountain wilderness that surrounds my house, to secretaries and receptionists who forget to come in on their first day on the job, to UCLA Law grads who think that 8 to 6 is a "really heinously brutal day, partner-dude". When people here talk about "energy consultants", they may not be referring to experts in fossil fuels, coal, oil or natural gas.
On every front, California has always been the World Headquarters of Surprise--good, bad, useful and lame.
Updated at 12:15 EST.
October 24, 2007
California burning: "If your fax machine rings, your house is still there".
The good news: the young San Diego councilman I've known since his pup stage just released a sad and bone-chilling list of homes that have burned down in my evacuated neighborhood--and my house is not on it, they tell me. Bad news: I am not even in San Diego, and despite my normal thick-skinned "it's-just-real-life-happening" take on these kinds of events, not being there makes it even worse. Somehow, I feel guilty, and for no reason. The last thing I--or anyone else who lives in Southern California--needed was this.
This time the SoCal fires are worse than the ones in late 2003, when on a trip to London, I literally had to drive between rural mountain ridges on fire along Del Dios highway the night before my plane left just so I could stay in a hotel to get to the airport on time--usually a 20 minute drive. It was a bit like being in the escaping-burning-Atlanta scene of Gone With The Wind, except much longer burning and with lower but hotter flames.
When I am not traveling, I "live", as it were, in staid Rancho Bernardo, a quiet conservative suburb of San Diego. For years I was on the Planning Board there, and now I am somehow glad I'm not. I've been away from California--very far away--for the last 10 days, since the 13th. Was supposed to go back to SD this Saturday, the 27th, just in time for a presidential candidate fund-raising barbecue in La Jolla, of all things. I am sure it's been canceled. This past Monday morning, I learned, oddly, from a BBC report that my Bernardo Heights neighborhood was evacuated, which is a strange feeling. Later Monday, I learned no one could go downtown into work.
Anyway, all living things got out of my house via help from neighbors. No one except me and a bunch of animals, including my cat J.D., live at the house (my lawyer ex-wife "evacuated" years ago from my house on East Capitol Street in DC). With no one around in RB who really knows what has been going on, and before the officials released the list, how do I know what's going on? Answer: The same thing I did in 2003 when I was in London and Kent--every two hours I call my home fax machine (001-858-613-XXXX); if it makes the high-pitched fax noise, my house is still there. I love that sound now.
More later, if needed and I can--but I am going to an airport. Trying to work here. But my friend and blogfather, Chicago trial lawyer Patrick Lamb, urged me this morning to find the time to blog about it no matter how "busy" I am, even though I am far away from California. You're right, as usual, Pat.
October 23, 2007
Brussels: Microsoft won't appeal EU antitrust ruling.
But just the facts, please, ma'am. Apparently, not everyone "loves a winner"--and Microsoft is a case in point. In this EU antitrust development and important but possibly short-term setback for MS, it's amazing how many different slants and headlines there are in 50 or so news reports: everything from the gloating/kiss-off-and-die Financial Times via MSNBC: "Microsoft Concedes Defeat in EU Battle") to the mildly complimentary/obsequious (AP via Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: "Microsoft to Comply with Europe").
Most leads and headlines are anti-Microsoft. "Blinks", "bows", "suffered decisive defeat" and "bytes the dust" are popular in these. The British press (MS "finally admitted defeat in its nine-year battle with the European Commission...") is especially brutal. We expect soon to see from the Financial Times: "Despondent Microsoft Has Nervous Breakdown; Jumps Into Elliott Bay To Live With Alien Sea Creatures." So far the Wall Street Journal's version is the most factual and fair:
Microsoft Yields in EU Antitrust Battle
BRUSSELS -- Microsoft Corp.'s decision to drop its nine-year fight with European regulators could signal tougher regulation ahead for big, global technology companies operating in Europe.
The defeat also means Microsoft will need to tread carefully in Europe when it bundles products or features into its core operating system and will need to welcome competitors with fairly open arms if they come calling for ways to make their software work better with Microsoft's Windows operating system. [more]
Can't a world-changer and U.S. success story like MS get a break?
IBA in Singapore: $7.50 Pepsis, "groupies", way too many dudes.
But otherwise, as always, a great event, and with the tone of a British-style Hell's Angels Labor Day picnic. Pulling no punches, Brendon Carr of Korea Law Blog, now back in "humdrum Seoul", gives his report of the week-long proceedings. WAC? is beginning to like this guy. A lot.
October 20, 2007
Brit bloggers meeting, drinking, conspiring and possibly mating.
Charon QC reports that GeekLawyer and Ruthie each host parties for bloggers in London on Monday, October 22. Venues, respectively, are The Harp off Trafalgar Square and the posh Cafe Royal in Piccadilly. WAC? votes for GeekLawyer's The Harp: cheaper beer. Blogging by lawyers and non-lawyers alike all over the world is now thought to have benefits no one anticipated.
9 New Irish Blogs
Many thanks to Daithí Mac Síthigh, recent Blawg Review host, and his Lex Ferenda for supplying WAC? and everyone with 9 new Irish blogs and blawgs to add to the Directory of Non-U.S. Blogs on your lower left.
Pres. Sarkozy's Really Bad Week, Part II: Cecilia Sarkozy
Courtesy of the vigilant and hovering Editor of Blawg Review, who ever that guy is, see this NYT piece of yesterday: Cecilia Sarkozy Speaks Out on Marriage, the one she apparently has decided to end. On the bright side, many of us do some of our best work after wives and girlfriends evacuate. Lonely workaholic WAC? feels a powerful solidarity with President Sarkozy, wishes him the best, and reminds him that this is nothing that a little bourbon and soda won't fix.
October 18, 2007
Aye, some serious booty there, matey.
October 15, 2007
Three Americans win Nobel prize in economics
(AP) STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Americans Leonid Hurwicz, Eric S. Maskin and Roger B. Myerson won the Nobel economics prize Monday for developing a theory that helps explain how sellers and buyers can maximize their gains from a transaction.
And Russian-born Hurwicz, of the University of Minnesota, is 90 years old.
Pompus, self-absorbed, driven and necessarily inefficient, the District of Columbia is not every American's favorite town. But it's my favorite, hands down. How many cities in the U.S. have this much energy, beauty, diversity, talent and so many people who affirmatively choose (i.e., they wanted it, are not there by default) to live and work here?
October 14, 2007
International Bar Association annual meeting starts today in Singapore.
The IBA, based in London, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. The 2007 annual meeting is in Singapore, starts today and ends on October 19. Although I am not going this year, I've attended IBA meetings in the past--and there is nothing quite like them. And I will not miss the 2008 meeting next year in cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, Argentina. To give you an idea, the Programme this year, over 100 pages, is here. Topics include cross-border environmental issues, international arbitration, the IT industry and IP globally, telecom, corruption, goods counterfeiting, maritime law, outer space law, international transactions, Islamic finance,
art, heritage and cultural institutions law, mineral rights, and legal systems in developing countries, to name some. In addition to the discussions, which are well-planned and often in panel or flexible talk-show formats, the IBA has nearly 50 sub-committees. The many dinners and parties given each evening are fascinating. In my view, the IBA caters primarily to firms which represent corporate interests, which is why we've stayed on as members. If you are a business lawyer who works internationally, and you like different kinds of humans, it's a must to go to an annual IBA meeting once every two or three years.
October 13, 2007
Brendon Carr's Korea Law Blog
American Brendon Carr, based in Seoul, publishes Korea Law Blog, clearly a "blog to watch." See "Popular Korean Concept of Corporate Governance Rules", and the discussion of Korean chaebols, or conglomerates. This week Brendon attends the annual IBA meeting, held in Singapore this year. He notes:
As a US lawyer working in Korea, I am a huge fan of the International Bar Association as a networking and social event. I enthusiastically recommend this event to any young lawyer, or in-house counsel, wanting to build a wide-ranging, international network of colleagues and friends. Truly a top-quality bunch of people attend this conference.
Updated: 10/14/07 4 PM EST
October 12, 2007
The Environment: Tennessee boy makes good.
Al Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize (MSNBC) for climate change work. Congrats. But, dude, don't run for president. You're not the type...WAC? thinks that, like George McGovern before him, Gore, who we admire greatly, has somehow become the "Willy Loman of the Left", to borrow a phrase from an old friend. Like Willy, Gore has a sense of entitlement, and he is liked--but not well-liked. Even the deluded Loman, created by playwright Arthur Miller, had fire in his belly. Prince Albert just doesn't.
October 10, 2007
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: and the winner is...Dylan Thomas.
Outdated draconian French racing rules almost cost the remarkably durable Dylan Thomas his victory in yesterday's Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, as stewards spent an age examining all angles of a piece of interference involving the winner in the home straight on video before eventually letting the result stand.
All manner of Europe's gentry and royalty shows up for Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Quite a party and gathering of peacocks--a great place for WAC? to do a little client development, sort of. And at Tara Bradford's Paris Parfait, see hats and more hats. Makes you forget about Rule 37 and want to get on a plane.
When will China invade Taiwan?
October 07, 2007
In Lisbon still? Meetings over? Dude, work much?
Welshonce Watch: Our Tom Welshonce has all the luck. I'm in San Luis Obispo again--and he's here in Portugal with the Salzburg-based IBLC. Last night I got a call from Hanjo of Bonn, Paul of Caridiff, Wales, and other solicitors from a prominent UK firm--all deadly serious lawyers,
usually--and Tom on my special "bat phone" I use abroad. I gave it to Tom three weeks ago when I was in Pennsylvania. It was 1:30 AM Sunday in Lisbon, and these gents were either attending late night services or conducting an experiment of some kind in the Alfama district's "cultural sector". The Welsh guys were speaking in tongues--Druid-sounding stuff, I think. Go Lisbon.
October 06, 2007
London on Saturdays: GeekLawyer gets drunk, breaks bad; Charon QC has spot of lunch, takes in rugby. But both blog...
Apart from trading ideas and news, blogging affords lawyers a forum to vent and be creative. Certainly, there are lots of frustrated novelists, poets, playwrights and would-be statesmen and pundits among us lawyers. Lots of American lawyers have unfinished drafts of novels and epic poems, or "action" memos outlining our pipe-dream 1998 congressional races, in our desk drawers.
So it's damn hard to take a degree in English Literature, American Studies or Philosophy from, say, Brandeis, Haverford or Stanford--and then some 25 years later find yourself spending all day defending Mutual of Toledo's insureds for $185/hour in a caseload that presents about 10 total (tops) different car accident or dog bite patterns. And
then there's your wife and kids. Over the years Trixie's gotten pretty mean, and beefed up a bit--almost big enough to have her own zip code--and your eldest son has a resume that already reads like a police blotter. Your teenage daughter hates everything, and named her bong after you. The family dog smells real bad. More often than you should be, you're hatin' life.
Blawgging can help. Blawgs let off steam. Blawgs keep some of us from suddenly blowing a tube one grey Wednesday morning at 8:15 and running with a chain-saw from office to office on the 48th floor of the US Steel Building. Saturday in London: see what GeekLawyer and Charon QC, two driven, creative guys, do on weekends to unwind. On both sides of the Atlantic, we all react to the pressures of lawyering in different ways.
China's environmental law policy: two standards of enforcement?
October 03, 2007
Update: Anne Frank's Chestnut Tree
The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is a moving experience. We've posted before on news of the prognosis for the 150 year old chestnut tree outside the house that she could see every day through an attic window and wrote about in her famous diary. For some, the troubled tree is a symbol of freedom and others even a reminder that children need to go outside and play. Here is an update (AP): "Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree is Granted a Reprieve". You can see the tree as it
October 01, 2007
This week's Blawg Review is from Ireland.
Trinity College in Dublin, the School of Law, to be exact, where it's a beautiful day. Blawg Review #128 is hosted by WAC?'s Gaelic cousin Daithí Mac Síthigh at Lex Ferenda. Classy, thoughtful and first Irish-hosted BR. And very well-received. But can someone let London's GeekLawyer host soon--before he hurts someone?
Is Bill Clinton a brand?
Yes, and an increasingly compelling one, according to treatments in both October's The Atlantic and this week's The Economist. With some help from talented Ira Magaziner, a former Clinton White House aide and wonk's wonk, WJC is changing philanthropy to change the world. This also explains why Bill Clinton has still not responded to our help-wanted ad we ran in 2006 to ensnare him as of counsel so he could market for Hull McGuire in the eastern U.S. and western Europe. The Bubba's been busy. But, Bill, our offer still stands.
September 28, 2007
Global corruption--and the winner is?
September 27, 2007
McGermany: Got Americanization?
September 25, 2007
London law merger market: so what's the problem, U.S. firms?
And will you know what to do once you get there? London-based Legal Week, armed with a survey, reports that "US firms target UK mergers as battle for London hots up". WAC? still sees London-U.S. law merger market "movement" as slow and reluctant because it takes cautionary lessons, for example, from some unprofitable and often ill-conceived attempts by U.S. firms to become players in Russia twenty years ago and China a decade later. Now, for once, lawyer risk-aversion is an asset. But The London legal market? Yes, London's off-the-chart expensive these days. But as stable as you'd want. Entering it poses cultural issues and barriers even sophisticated Yanks don't pick up on with any clarity for months
and usually years--Brits are different, folks--and most large American firms don't even know what those problems really are. But they sense them.
That's smart, sort of. We at WAC? have been involved personally and professionally with law firm mergers: all dressed up, and nothing to do, is certainly something to avoid.
Let's assume American firms know strategically how to enter London and all the more inviting UK/Europe legal marketplaces and have the resources to do it. So what's the problem? My answer: U.S. firms know they aren't culturally saavy and secure enough to go into the UK/Europe, and they are right to think that way. Note, via a hand-off from the vigilant Ed. at Blawg Review, a post which not only got us thinking about this but reflects the somewhat different sentiments of HMPC's overworked co-founder and international tax diva Julie McGuire two weeks ago at a meeting I attended in Pennsylvania. However, its author, Bruce MacEwen, said it first and, as usual, likely better than anyone else could have: "London Calling: But Who's Ready to Dance?".
September 24, 2007
New York: Ahmadinejad, "mystical populist", holds forth at Columbia; Columbia blows it.
Updated 7:30 PM EST: Everyone loses. Columbia allows aggressive, long-winded, grandstanding and scripted opening "questions", preventing Ahmadinejad from looking as bad as he might have looked, and giving the Iran president a chance to hit them out of the park, which he in turn also screws up. Except for letting him speak, Columbia totally blew the details of this. Everyone involved, including Columbia President Bollinger, looks bad, pandering and/or lame. Shame on us. AP: here, including MSNBC video. -- JDH and HHO
September 23, 2007
And Ronald Reagan doesn't even make the main list.
By Alonso Duralde, MSNBC film critic: Big Fame, Little Talent: These folks are all famous, but do they have the chops to back it up?
Charon QC: The Emperor has great new clothes.
The site of the always erudite, Rioja-drinking and just plain fun lawyer-professor-blogger-pundit, Charon QC, has a new look, feel and format. Still, as always, good writing. Even the Times of London likes him. He still loves quoting Churchill, as do we war-like yet irreverent Yanks:
I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.
September 22, 2007
AP: Columbia U. won't stiff author of Mother of All Blogs.
[NYC] City Council speaker Christine Quinn called Thursday for the university to rescind the invitation, saying “the idea of Ahmadinejad as an honored guest anywhere in our city is offensive to all New Yorkers.”
Next week Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (his excellency's blog is here) will be in New York to address the United Nations’ General Assembly. We don't like the guy either but... See "Columbia To Proceed With Ahmadinejad Speech". Columbia's World Leaders Forum hosts. Will someone please ask him to post more?
September 21, 2007
High-end boutique gets big time limelight.
We think you will be hearing more stories like this one as clients, client reps and GCs continue to get savvier, smarter and more independent in choosing outside counsel. At Law.com's Legal Blog Watch, Robert Ambrogi reports that, at a recent London awards dinner, a Miami-based "Small Firm Wins Big Honor", and an international one at that. Just four lawyers, folks. Excerpt: "While Cantor & Webb may be a small firm, its clients represent big money. The firm focuses exclusively in representing high net worth private international clients in tax planning, estate planning and related matters."
September 19, 2007
AP: Belgium for sale on eBay
Charles de Gaulle famously said that Belgium is a country invented by the British to annoy the French. Belgium and Belgians indeed are highly complex. Belgium historically has been the "battlefield of Europe", and there are overlapping communities here speaking Dutch, French and German. Politics are often conducted along these lines: the Dutch-speaking Flemish v. French-speaking Walloons. Personally, WAC? finds Belgians--you can't generalize, but we will--educated, efficient, smart, artistic, sophisticated, multilingual, haughty, festive, solid and yet a bit high strung (takes one to know one). A highly civilized region with subtle, and very old, tensions lurking. Finally, one Belgian, well, just lost it: "Someone Tries to Sell Belgium on EBay".
September 17, 2007
"Toying with China"
September 12, 2007
Real Bloggers will read Kevin O'Keefe's Blawg Review #125
Here's one straight from Olympus: the Art of The Blog. Save it now on your computer desktop. This week's Blawg Review, issue #125, is hosted by Seattle-based Kevin O'Keefe at his highly-regarded Real Lawyers Have Blogs. He has gathered posts of experts, gurus and leading lights in blogging and marketing who tell you "how to build and maintain" a first-rate blog. These folks generally are not, thank God, lawyers--at least not practicing ones--and so they (1) have business instincts, (2) make sense, (3) write clearly, and (4) tell you what they actually think in a non-weenie way. Mark Cuban, Guy Kawasaki, Steve Rubel and Shel Israel are a few of the stars at Kevin's #125. A visionary, thought leader and doer in blogging/blawging himself, Kevin knows what's going on nationally and internationally in the blogosphere, legal and non-legal, how to use blogs as a marketing tool, and who's who. He understands blog quality--form, content and practical aspects. So his selections for #125 are informed. Read and save if you or your firm have a blog, or plan to launch one.
September 11, 2007
Today you'll see no "where we were/what we've learned/how we've changed" pieces from us. Our contribution: silence, and a partial list of New York City memorial events from NYT.
September 07, 2007
China President Hu: "China Ready to Work on Product Safety"
What else would we expect the guy to say?
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — Chinese President Hu Jintao defended the safety and quality of China's exports Thursday and offered to work with other countries to improve any problems in the country's inspection regimes.
September 05, 2007
Ruthie does America...and vice-versa.
WAC? understands that the UK lawyer-blogger Ruthie of Ruthie's Law landed safe and sound in a Midwestern city on Saturday--and is now busy charming and seducing everyone she meets in meetings in the Heartland. Lots of press about this in England (e.g., "Ruthie in Evil Empire"). Will she finally meet my travel-worn boss on this trip? Or will she/he have to wait until WAC?'s next trip to London? Stay tuned.
In the meantime, welcome to America, Ruthie. And vice-versa.
September 04, 2007
London Tube Strike Causes Commuter Chaos
See here, from the Associated Press.
September 03, 2007
British troops leave Basra, Iraq base
BASRA, Iraq (AP) - Iraqi soldiers hoisted the country’s flag over the Basra palace compound Monday after British troops withdrew from their last garrison in the city, a move that will hand control to an Iraqi force riddled with Shiite militiamen.
Love's Labours Lost: An American holiday tribute.
NOTE: We offer this special Labor Day item rather than a thoughtful post on work-life balance or a very short but comprehensive item on current usefulness of trade unions in the U.S.
The complete text of the circa-1595 comedy by William Shakespeare is here on one page. First performed before Queen Elizabeth at her Court in 1597 (as "Loues Labors Loſt"), it was likely written for performance before law students and barristers-in-training--who would appreciate its sophistication and wit--at the Inns of Court in what is now often called Legal London. Interestingly, it begins with a vow by several men to forswear pleasures of the flesh and the company of women during a three-year period of study and reflection. And to "train our intellects to vain delight". Click above to find out what happens.
September 01, 2007
London's GeekLawyer these days
Canada's Slaw on a roll
No bad pun intended. But I noticed at my laptop from my perch here above Cannery Row and the stunning blue Monterey Bay that the excellent Slaw.ca--it mixes an eye for the important with competent writing--serves especially good fare lately. See, e.g., Canadian Kyoto Report Released, Small Arms Survey 2007 - Americans Own Most of the Guns and Making the Most of Blogs and Wikis. "Slaw is a co-operative weblog about Canadian legal research and IT, etc."--and a lot more these days.
August 30, 2007
Ruthie's Excellent U.S. Adventure
Ruthie of Ruthie's Law, GeekLawyer's former co-blogger, and allegedly both alluring and sexually acquistive, posts about it in part here. Her trip will be in September and to a Midwestern city, where she hopes to meet my boss--who doesn't like the Midwest much and doesn't sound much like The Woodman. But WAC?, currently headed to Monterey, indeed is an accomplished philanderer in any jurisdiction, and does in my view sound a bit disturbed from time to time.
August 29, 2007
Up in Monterey
Alaska, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and San Diego (think of the latter as Cincy with decent weather, an ocean, much higher prices) within 10 days time in that sequence--and their not so subtle differences in light, space, time zones, flora and fauna--will put the zap on anyone's head. For the next 5 days, and over Labor Day, I'll go to Big Sur and then Cannery Row to re-group, sharpen tools, re-read the rules, meet with some serious idea mongers and try out new ideas of my own.
In addition to marketing, customer service, foreign affairs, IT, global warming, the future of the stage, the history of Europe and fly-fishing as a "now" spiritual exercise, there will be low-keyed talk of politics in hushed tones: Hillary, Obama, Rudy, the old AG/new AG thing, and of course concern and sporadic gloating about the new Bauman-Hinson-esque Foley-Craig congressional closet gay syndrome, which Holden Oliver (allegedly a "D") has already posted about in spectacularly poor taste.
Well, Holden's a fine lawyer, and a funny dude. And like the passable poet he is, Holden is mainly suggestive but correct: when it became painfully clear that the Democratic Party couldn't do anything right for 8 years, the GOP stepped up like champs to help.
Great country or what?
"Wretched human, make that next martini bone dry..."
The Dogs of Score. AP reports that Helmsley leaves her dog $12 million in trust.
August 27, 2007
John Warner finally gets his mojo working.
He was elected to the Senate from Virginia as an "R" when I worked on Capitol Hill, just before I entered private practice. To me, he was that earnest ex-Secretary of the Navy (under Richard Nixon) who was hardworking, ambitious, nice, smooth and at turns almost too "senatorial". But John Warner was interesting, with something genuine and good under all that polish, and you wondered about him. He had had a few breaks. He had his own bucks, came to the Senate after
the Republican primary winner died in a plane accident, and was married (bonus!) to Elizabeth Taylor, who was a natural as a campaigner and charmed Virginia voters. However, on military and foreign affairs, the areas he loved and worked at, Warner over the years (to me) was not as accomplished as John McCain, Dick Lugar or Joe Biden. But over the past few days, we're thinking he's got serious substance and stones after all. AP excerpt:
WASHINGTON (AP)- Sen. John Warner's suggestion that some troops leave Iraq by the end of the year has roiled the White House, with administration officials saying they've asked the influential Republican to clarify that he has not broken politically with President Bush.
But Warner said Friday he stands by his remarks and that he took no issue with how his views have been characterized.
"I'm not going to issue any clarification," Warner, R-Va., said in an interview with The Associated Press.
August 25, 2007
Redux: GCs: Do you really need Big, Clumsy & Unresponsive in 50 cities worldwide?
If you are a hiring in-house counsel working for a great company doing business everywhere, is there any reason to keep engaging your US or UK-based law firm that expanded in the past few years all over the globe like a spastic hamburger franchise? When those firms expanded internationally, they diluted their talent and "gene" pool, and their value to your company, and you know it. They acquired lawyers and law firms in the US and abroad they wouldn't have looked at twice 15 years ago. Our firm's international group, the IBLC, is a clearinghouse of high-end corporate law talent in smaller firms all over the world.
Hull McGuire PC has been busy helping mold this group for 9 years. We know each other well, see each other often, and work together regularly. There are IBLC members in over 70 cities worldwide. Forty firms are particularly active. Member firms range between 5 and 130 lawyers, all of whom who could work at any mega-firm now or of yester year--and so they charge accordingly. Not cheap. The firms compete on service, not price. There are other tightly-knit international groups, perhaps as many as 400; the IBLC is one of several that works.
August 24, 2007
"Farnsworth, Jesus has asked me to talk with you about your performance over the past few months..."
Yesterday we found these two articles at London-based The Economist: "Praying for Gain", on the increasing use (often-outsourced) of corporate chaplains in U.S. companies, and "The Bond Between God and Power", a review of new book by a Rice University prof on the rise of evangelicals in business, government and the entertainment industry. Whether you approve of them or not, these trends just may have legs.
August 22, 2007
U.S. national anthem when WAC? was in school.
It reigned between 1971 and 1978, I think, but those years are hazy. It's a lot easier to sing than the one a fancy DC lawyer wrote in 1814. Fewer and easier lyrics, notes you can hit. And yeah buddy you can duck walk. It's still Summer. So get out of your cars, offices and bad marriages, and dance around before it's too late. Play it.
August 21, 2007
That Lawyer Dude's Week.
See That Lawyer Dude's (American Anthony Colleluori) post yesterday "Week in Review". TLD is consistently thoughtful, interesting and fun to read. Anthony's personality shines through his posts. Makes you want to have him over for dinner.
The Economist: Perth and Cleveland trump Paris and New York in global livability.
"Cities are durable. Most last longer than the countries that surround them, or indeed any other human institutions. But some thrive, whereas others merely mark time (Cleveland, Minsk, Pyongyang), go into apparently long-term decline (Detroit, New Orleans, Venice) or disappear (Tenochtitlán, Tikal, Troy). What are the characteristics of a successful city?" --The Economist, May 3, 2007
They must reinvent themselves. And WAC? thinks it is sad that ex-great republic Venice is indeed becoming a museum piece. Anyway, see this one from The Economist based on 2005 stats. Paris gets a global livability ranking of 16th, increasingly expensive Vancouver is 1st, Frankfurt (Germany) 11th, Pittsburgh and Cleveland are tied for 26th, DC and Detroit tied for 41st, and London is 47th. Huh? Well, as the article notes, you get no points for thrills (although Pittsburgh and Detroit--I've lived in both--are said to be unbearably exciting for ibogaine fanciers). Our all-round favorite based on "livability"? Vienna and Geneva, a tie. Most enduring international cities based on "reality"? That's easy: NYC, London and Paris.
All eyes on Countrywide Financial
More Brits on trips: Ormond Castle
August 20, 2007
Barrister runs amok at North Yorkshire hotel.
Lawyer guest to bridesmaid at the Harewood Hall: "I'll show you a white rose..." Well, last week there was bad craziness in England's north country showing that the wild man trial lawyer-uberboozer thing is not limited to America. Courtesy of London's Charon QC and Hertfordshire's Justin Patten, see this story, covered by the Telegraph.co.uk.
August 18, 2007
Greatness in Wales
Normally, WAC? dislikes most television in any country because it steals our time to create, think original thoughts, become who we really are, and pick up girls. But thanks to Brit TV we learn that Paul Potts, a regular guy from Cardiff, was born and can sing.
U.S. Exceptionalism and the ICC
Do see "The End of Exceptionalism in War Crimes" by David Scheffer, Richard Cooper and Juliette Voinov Kohler at The Harvard International Review. It's subtitled "The International Criminal Court and America’s Credibility in the World". Excerpt:
Reality is knocking and its name is the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC). Any claim that the US may have to moral high ground in foreign policy necessarily requires that the United States join the ICC and do so relatively soon. The United States needs the ICC to help restore its global credibility, discipline its own decision-making, and strengthen judicial intervention against atrocity crimes.
August 09, 2007
Powell secretly writing memoir on Iraq war?
Ex-Clinton wonk Sidney Blumenthal asks in Salon: Will The Real Colin Powell Stand Up?
August 07, 2007
Murdoch and the "Timeses"
Hey, this is international news, and it affects YOU. In Newsweek, Johnnie Roberts writes wonderfully-entitled "Forward Into Battle". Excerpt:
With plans to expand the [Wall Street] Journal's political and international coverage, Murdoch is itching for a fight with the nation's presumed newspaper of record, The New York Times, as well as the Financial Times of London. "I want it to be more competitive with The New York Times," Murdoch told Times columnist Joseph Nocera on Saturday. Last week, after the deal was clinched, the Journal's editorial page, accusing Murdoch's critics of "commercial" and "ideological" motives, blasted the two Timeses for giving credence to concerns that Murdoch will turn the paper into a mouthpiece for his own right-wing political and business interests.
August 06, 2007
Losing it in America
AP: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on holiday in America, loses temper with press. Reuters: Talented actor/world class player Charlie Sheen, allegedly eyeing marriage again (his 4th), loses mind. Washington Post: GAO says U.S. Defense Department loses a whole mess of guns intended for Iraqi security forces.
Prof. Kingsfield derides again: Blawg Review #120
So you call me a son-of-a-bitch, Mr. Hart?
Well, that's the most intelligent thing we've heard today.
August 05, 2007
Update: New Non-U.S. Blogs
Over the last 18 months, WAC? has worked hard to discover and share with you non-U.S. blogs, sites and resources. See here, here and especially here, our "World Cup" Blawg Review of last summer. We list the good ones--active, high quality and preferably in English--on the lower left hand side of this site. Today we add more non-U.S. blogs, 136 to be exact, to our Directory of Non-U.S. Blogs, bringing the total number of non-U.S. blogs and sites to 302.
The new blogs come from 19 countries, including Bangladesh, Denmark and Moldova:
Argentina: 1 new site
Derecho y Tecnología, Francisco de Zavalía
The Australian Professional Liability Blog, Stephen Warne
Australian Technology and IP Business, David Jacobson
IPwar’s, Warwick A. Rothnie
Lightbulb, Noric Dilanchian
Moral Dilemma, Mirko Bagaric
Law Chronicles Online, Adnan Karim
Blawg do Escritório Cassiano & Maciel Advogados Associados, Lucas Cassiano
El Derecho Al Derecho, Claudia Duran
Atlanteknology, R. Charles Perez
C'est é-patent!, Adam Mizera
Chaire en droit de la sécurité et des affaires electroniques, Vincent Gautrais
The Co-co Banana, Jarvis Googoo
CultureLibre, Olivier Charbonneau
Duty to Consult, Ooneesheh Oonaheh
Excess Copyright, Howard Knopf
La pub et le droit, Natalie Gauthier
Now, Why Didn't I Think of That?, Sander Gelsing
Rule of Law, Stan Rule
Venture Law Lines, Suzanne Dingwall Williams
Wines and Information Management (WIM), Dominic Jaar
Wise Law Blog, Gary J. Wise
Conflictologos, Juan Enrique Egaña G.
All Roads Lead to China, Richard Brubaker
Beijing Newspeak, Chris O’Brien
A China Blog on Suzhou Expat Life, Ryan McLaughlin
China Briefing Blog, Dezan Shira & Associates
China Business Blog, Jeremy Gordon
China & Hong Kong Competition Law, Peter Macmillan
China Machete, Xiao Zhu
China Redux, Ben Landy
China Rises, Tim Johnson
Chinese Law Prof Blog, Donald C. Clark
DiligenceChina, Andrew Hupert
The Opposite End of China, Michael D. Manning
This is China!, Bill Dodson
The Useless Tree, Sam Crane
England and Wales: 29
Conflict of Laws, Martin George
IMPACT, Freeth Cartwright LLP
Prisonlawinsideout, John Hirst
Pupillage and How to Get It, Simon Myerson
European Union: 2
EU Case Law, Lucia Martin
Sociaalrecht, K. Salomez & K. Nevens
La protection des marques sur internet, Simon Gobert
Weblawg.de, Stefan Deyerler
Verschmelzungsbericht, Olaf Mueller-Michaels
cearta.ie, Dr. Eoin O’Dell
Korea Law Blog, Brandon Carr
Law in Moldova, Alexei Ghertescu
Lex Turistica, Manuel David Masseno
South Africa: 1
Jacobson Attorneys, Paul Jacobson
August 04, 2007
China Trade Myths
See "Trade With China: 7 Myths and Facing Protectionism" at Richard Brubaker's All Roads Lead To China and interesting links in his post. Myth No. 5: China doesn’t allow American companies operating there to be profitable.
August 03, 2007
Crime in SW England: "Serial cyclist groper banned from talking to women for five years"
Can British editors craft headlines or what? Via London-based Ruthie's Law, which has offered commentary in "Sex Pests from the West Country", see this item about an innovative if mildly crazed young Swindonian in the UK's Daily Mail:
A cycling sex pest has been banned from talking to any women for five years after committing a string of mounted indecent assaults.
Paul Jennings, 23, rode up behind five women jogging, cycling or walking around his local park and grabbed their bottoms one evening last April.
He would slam on his brakes when confronted by an angry victim, hurl verbal abuse, blow them a kiss and peddle off.
The father-of-two, from Swindon, was given a sexual offences prevention order forbidding him from approaching any woman he does not know in the open air unless for legitimate reasons.
Mother of All Blogs - Part II: The Poland-Iran Axis
First of all, I would like to apologise. I cant speak Persian nor Arabic so please excuse me for writing in English. I would like to say that I truly respect you, mr. President. You are a person of deep faith and you keep to your point of view. That is what I value the most. From what youve written on your blog, I can notice that the Iranian people and people from my home country Poland are mentally very similar. I hope our two countries will both keep on developing. Greetings from Poland!
August 01, 2007
Mother of All Blogs: Iran's new China strategy.
Iranian officials-religious leaders have gone a bit digital. So we'd like Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (listed on lower left of WAC? in international directory) to post a bit more on his personal blog. No posts since March 16. What's the deal? At least Dr. A. still has the blog, and some of the e-mails/comments it attracts are pretty good. From a Chinese student, and verbatim, this is our second favorite:
Dr. Ahmadinejad, it is a pleasesue to read your bolg. I am a Chinese student. I think you are a great person. You give Iran peope many good thinks. I like you very much. I want to make friend with you.
July 31, 2007
Bancrofts relent, $5 billion, go Rupert--and just whoa.
Dow Jones-WSJ deal just about done, according to the Associated Press. We've followed this because it's important world business news: Murdoch's News Corp. already owns Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel, The Times in the United Kingdom, the New York Post, the Twentieth Century Fox movie and TV studios, and MySpace. Also, Hull family worries WAC? may be next target.
Germany honors Zappa: "Help! I'm a Berlin street."
Speaking of sound international lawyering, remember the 1960s song "Help! I'm a Rock"? How about "America Drinks and Goes Home" or a profoundly disturbed girl named Suzy Creamcheese. OK, so you're a lawyer who never listened to subversive songs about American sameness and mediocrity, or you're under 40, and missed the fun. Anyway, the Berlin-based Atlantic Review, written by two German Fulbright alums, and WAC?'s Berlin hero Hermann the German, who's just king-hell nuts, both confirm that Berlin finally has a Frank Zappa Street, in the Marzahn-Hellersdorf borough. "Man it's a drag bein' a rock/I think I'd rather be the mayor." Guess you had to be there.
July 20, 2007
China suppliers: So, Yank dudes, just sue us...
At Rich Kuslan's enduring Asia Business Intelligence, see "What Happens When Your Chinese Supplier Says: Sure, Go Ahead, Sue Me!", inspired by Prof. Donald Clarke's 2004 piece on enforcement of US judgments in China--which, by the way, happens rarely if ever. The Chinese take a dim view of default ajudications from a non-Chinese jurisdiction. If you must sue, sue in China--and even then plan on serious headaches. Thanks to our friend Dan Harris at China Law Blog, who chimes in, and opines, for flagging Kuslan's post and an issue which hits a raw and painful nerve with lots of Western clients doing business in China. There are, as both Kuslan and Harris point out, preventative steps you can take to protect your investment, e.g. letters of credit and arbitration provisions. But there's an overall teaching here: don't do business in China because everyone else does it or because the business media talks about it constantly. China is not Kansas, DC or southern Manhattan. Engage ultra-competent, experienced and aggressive help first.
July 19, 2007
Tom Collins: Free Man in Paris
The man who writes More Partner Income, one of the best blogs for lawyers and business people, gets around. And he's been strolling around in the heart of Paris--WAC?'s favorite city, a place of ideas, definitions and possibilities for over 2000 years--getting the juices flowing. Apparently these trips work for Tom. Read his blog. And this.
London v. Moscow--2nd inning, tie game
MOSCOW (AP) - Russia said Thursday it will expel four British diplomats and suspend counterterrorism cooperation with London, the latest move in a mounting confrontation over the radiation poisoning death of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko.
Britain had announced Monday the expulsion of four Russian diplomats and restrictions on visas issued to Russian government officials after Moscow refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, accused of killing Litvinenko in London last November.
July 17, 2007
News Corp. nearing deal with Dow Jones; Bancroft family still balking.
The Associated Press reports that News Corp. has reached a "tentative" deal to buy Dow Jones, which owns The Wall Street Journal:
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. reached a tentative agreement to buy Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., the Journal reported Tuesday, but he must still win over the company’s controlling shareholders.
News Corp. already owns Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel, The Times in the United Kingdom, the New York Post, the Twentieth Century Fox movie and TV studio, and MySpace.
It's OK to be bad sometimes....
Absolutely. See GeekLawyer, "R-rated", on this subject. Which brings us to "ratings" for blawgs. Is this a joke? And if not, are we all daft? Are we just afraid of everything? Of what people think? Or are children, nuns and PC weenies really visiting legal weblogs these days? We think not. Who is this generation's non-moralizing Alan Watts, anyway? Talk hard/write angry. Avoid separateness--especially if you're a lawyer. Think art, not law. Or at least listen to the MC5, who are looking at you just before your big opening argument. Or before you go to church. Do something now--or lose yourself.
July 15, 2007
Booze, bulls and gypsies*
PAMPLONA, SPAIN (AP) - Saturday "was the worst day for injuries in the nine-day San Fermin festival."
Police arrested 125 people during this year’s reverie, compared to 60 last year, the government said. Forty-seven arrests were for theft, with the majority of pickpocketers coming from one country: Romania.
*Or the fascinating and exotic Roma, for PC types.
July 14, 2007
Saturday's Lord Charon QC--and GeekWerewolfBarrister
As usual London's Charon QC (pronounced "Karen") is smokin'. And drinking Spanish wine grown at high altitudes. Visit him in the Diary Room. Erudite, funny, creative, favorite of The London Times. Not another "poofy Brit southerner". Warning: may be even more cryptic than traveling WAC?....And while you're on the other side of The Big Pond, visit Charon's evil twin GeekLawyer and read "Wigs All Around". On a roll these days, GL's mad, bad and dangerous to solicitors. Feisty, smart, angry. We're deathly afraid of his new co-blogger, Becky. Nonetheless, DH threw rocks at her window last night....Hull McGuire in U.S. wants to try a case with GL, just to savor the brutality of it all--even though GL hates "punters" (clients).
July 13, 2007
Headed east, cryptically, sort of.
July 07, 2007
Just bulls, religion and middle-age angst
Fiesta de San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain, or the running of the bulls, dates back to 1591. But Hemingway made it way cool in his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. I've never been to it, but people I really like swear by the week-long festival and the steady intake of Rioja and beer coupled with mystique.
Despite the hype, I am intrigued. Folks from all over the world--the kind, like WAC?'s Holden Oliver, who've given up all hope of ever behaving normally in public--go there every year to be menaced and chased by mean, fast and heavy semi-feral animals through the streets. Or to see a possible goring. It is, they say, the Spanish version of the Kentucky Derby, or the Hells' Angels Labor Day Picnic.
Anyway, it began today and continues until July 14. Only 13 people have been killed since records were first kept starting in 1924. Just 13. Sign me up for 2008. Another milestone birthday that year. WAC? may just go to Spain and do himself in.
July 04, 2007
Happy 4th--and what's a "head boy" , anyway?
On Independence Day, Americans celebrate their world-changing split from Great Britain, which arguably began in earnest on July 4, 1776. Americans and Brits, who share folkways, institutions and language, have been on speaking terms continuously for nearly 200 years, since 1814.
The rub: when we do talk to each other, there are two different English-es at play.
So in case you need it--and you will if you're a Yank who does business globally--see the English-to-American Dictionary, courtesy, once again, of our patriotic Blawg Review. NOTE: There are more differences and surprises than you might think. For instance, if you're on the blower with a good punter back in Blighty, you don't want to faff around and cock it up. Know what we mean?
July 02, 2007
Nearly Legal in London (Blawg Review #115)
Today from across the pond we have a first-rate Blawg Review (#115) hosted by London-based Nearly Legal. There's some nice coverage of both US and UK blogs here. In closing, NL wishes American readers a happy Independence Day, and: "if you feel capable of happiness, and to the rest of us, pull your socks up and stop grumbling". Quite right.
June 30, 2007
Brits Blitz Blawg Review
Shameless Anglophile WAC? spends time in England each year working. And studying London, old churches in Suffolk and Kent, Druids, Vikings, Sutton Hoo and a girl named Devon in nearby Aldeburgh. WAC? now even has a thing for British lawyer-bloggers--who are funnier and less inhibited than most U.S. blawgers. So we are happy and honored that two good Brit law blogs, nearlylegal and Corporate Blawg UK, will be hosting the U.S.-based Blawg Review on, respectively, July 2 and 9.
June 28, 2007
Patten: Tony Blair, Mediator?
Lawyer and ADR consultant Justin Patten of Human Law goes through his checklist in "Can Tony Blair succeed in the ultimate mediation role?"
Global wariness of US, China and Russia increases
Not exactly surprising news from the Associated Press about a new poll:
WASHINGTON - Unease with American foreign policy and President Bush has intensified in countries that are some of the closest U.S. allies and around the globe, while Russia and China also face growing international wariness, a survey released Wednesday said.
June 27, 2007
Tony Blair's springboard to "King of Europe"
And why not? As we've predicted, watch for outgoing British prime minister Tony Blair to be the first full-time European Union president. He's off to a great start. See by the Associated Press "Blair To Be Mideast Quartet's Special Envoy". The "quartet" is the EU, the United Nations, the United States and Russia. Palestinian economic and political reform will be a big part of the new diplomatic job.
June 25, 2007
Cameron Does Peru: Whoops!
Interesting and even unusual 5-to-4 noises from the United States Supreme Court today--but a well-meaning and respected American actress also raised eyebrows. From the Associated Press, "Cameron Diaz Apologizes For Carrying Mao Bag".
June 20, 2007
Ruthie's got a brand new blog.
The British are indeed coming. Ruthie--GeekLawyer's sultry co-blogger, one of the hosts of the first LawBlog 2007 last month in London, and a woman with an enduring crush on WAC?'s well-bred and erudite Yank founder on your right--has launched Ruthie's Law ("Crime. But not as you know it.") First post was June 14. GeekLawyer, always a team player, has this to say about the new site. Ruthie gives us her version.
June 16, 2007
Saturday's Charon QC
See his Oscar Wildean "Advice is the Curse of the Drinking Classes..."
June 15, 2007
Atlantic Review: G8 Summit Sum-ups
June 12, 2007
Brit Bloggers Blitz U.S.
See New Zealand-based LawFuel.com. Whatever this is or is evolving into, this site is about as international as you can get: a combined global legal news service, news digest, press release service, clearinghouse and cyber-bulletin board for lawyers in private or public practice. Huge empahsis on American legal world but hasn't gone overboard there. So far, it's interesting, busy, inclusive and fun.
June 11, 2007
Are we Rome yet?
"Are we Rome, or not? At a crude level, the parallels are striking..." No matter what your politics, or country of origin, this June 7 article at Salon by Gary Kamiya on a hyper-obvious comparison--and one on everyone's mind anyway--is worth your time. WAC?'s answer? No, clearly not; the U.S. has yet to stretch itself as thin as Rome did, and we still haven't dumped our better principles. We have miles to go, and more nations to manhandle. But the momentum is there.
June 08, 2007
Redux - China and America: Then and Now
We liked the subject of this recent post much--so once again:
Plus c'est la meme chose, plus ça change. From Seattle-based Dan Harris, at his insightful China Law Blog, see Chinese And American Cultural Differences--La Plus Ca Change.... Learn how the Chinese diplomat Wu Ting-fang--an Asian de Tocqueville eighty years later--viewed America in 1914.
June 06, 2007
Pope, popemobile "menaced" by friendly German.
The Associated Press reports that the pope was tooling around Rome today with the top down, waving at crowds, and it happened: "Man Tries To Jump In Benedict's 'Popemobile'". The German guy who tried this just wanted to say hey. He--not the pope--was dressed in a pink T-shirt, dark shorts and a beige baseball cap, and wearing sunglasses. The German never made it into the popemobile, and was quickly wrestled to the pavement. Pope Benedict XVI was never in danger, was unharmed and apparently didn't even notice the incident. WAC? waits for Hermann the German to interpret this event properly.
June 05, 2007
Ranking UK Law Schools
Americans love lists of "the best" schools. U.S. News & World Report covers American colleges, including law schools, and Newsweek ranks U.S. high schools. Here's a new one WAC? found over at The TransAtlantic Assembly. The Times (London) and The Guardian (Manchester) have each made 2007 United Kingdom Law School Rankings.
June 01, 2007
German anti-Americanism, U.S. French-bashing, and soo much more.
Are we of western European stock small-minded and silly or what? From the consistently interesting and fresh Atlantic Review, a press digest with commentary written by German Fulbright alumni, see "Transatlantic Obsessions". Twenty-four comments so far to a post yesterday by Joerg Wolf, who thinks that the U.S. media needs to lighten up on how France manages its affairs, and that the German press should focus on a current world evil other than America.
It remains weird and unfortunate that the German media is soo obsessed with the United States and that the US media is soo obsessed with France. Both country's media outlets would do good to reduce the obsessions on some silly topics and cover more important issues like poverty in our own countries and around the world, wars and conflicts in Africa, how to increase energy efficiency.
May 31, 2007
LawBlog 2007: The Pub
An associate lawyer has been playing this podcast lately. For a couple of days I wrongly assumed it was an audio of the Hells Angels 1968 Memorial Day picnic or maybe the soundtrack from Barfly, the 1987 film on low-bottom Los Angeles drunks starring Mickey Rourke, Faye Dunaway and the elegant South African-born actress Alice Krige. Neither. It's a post-LawBlog 2007 debauch in a London pub on May 18 starring GeekLawyer and co-counsel Ruthie and featuring the astonishingly slurred voices of otherwise reputable solicitors, barristers, journalists and academics who went to schools like Oxford and Cambridge. Anglophile WAC? is both shocked and impressed. Update: More sober coverage was offered by Rupert White of The Law Society's Law Gazette, here and here.
May 22, 2007
Hail Britannia: LawBlog 2007
On Friday, May 18th, with sponsorship from UK-based IP player CPA Global, the Law Society Gazette, and the law firm of Freeth Cartwright, London barrister GeekLawyer and his co-writer Ruthie successfully pulled off the first UK and Europe Legal Blogging Conference, or LawBlog 2007. Here is their report. Speakers and better-known attendees included Professor Jeremy Phillips of IPKat, Justin Patten of Human Law and keynote speaker Charon QC, who has his own report. Update: Do see all the comments made about last Friday's LawBlog 2007 by the participants over at GeekLawyer. Brit lawyers are a relatively happy if eccentric lot.
May 21, 2007
The Greatest on the Greats: Blawg Review #109
The Greatest American Lawyer, who after much intrigue finally outed himself as Michigan-based trial lawyer Enrico Schaefer, is a seeker and sayer of great truths about practicing law and more. Enrico just says it, and we have always listened. GAL, as WAC? will always think of Enrico, hosts this week's Blawg Review, #109. His theme for Blawg Review is the "Greatest" posts, ideas and people in the legal blogosphere. "Believe or not, it's just me."
May 19, 2007
Queen City, Clean City, City-State, the City of Seven Hills, and very well-kept secret, Cincinnati, Ohio was the only town my family lived in for more than three years in a row when we were "growing up moving" around the East and the Midwest in the 1950s and 1960s. It has everything you'd want: attractive, highly educated, family friendly, business oriented, lightly industrial and German-efficient yet friendly. It has and always has had a vibrant arts community. Quirky fact: for a while, lawyer Jerry Springer was our mayor.
May 18, 2007
Francois Fillon, new French prime minister
No--not Francois Villon, the 15th century French poet and vagabond. This is a much different Francois: an experienced French politician and reformer with strong ties to Britain, including a Welsh lawyer wife. So see Spiegel International for a report about Francois Fillon, just appointed prime minister by the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. French conservatives expect Fillon, who has a more moderate style than Sarkozy, to be smooth, pro-business and a talented PM.
May 12, 2007
Hermann the German does Naples, Florida.
In addition to excellent customer service, great lawyering and the sheer fun of quietly and systematically taking higher-end business clients away from much larger law firms, What About Clients? focuses on doing business all over the world. Obviously, we like both U.S. and non-U.S. blogs on business, law, politics and foreign policy. However, the Berlin-based Observing Hermann...(cryptically subtitled "Hermann the German. And an amnesic American lost in Berlin.") is one of the few non-legal/non-business/non-policy blogs listed on the lower left of WAC? in our Directory of Non-U.S. Blogs. The reason: Hermann the German is one very rare human. He's funny, demented and smart--and, when in the right mood, he can write. See his post of Wednesday called "Shark Grossed Out Biting Into Old German Leg".
May 11, 2007
Blair out--Brown likely in. And then what?
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in many ways a politician as controversial in the UK as Bill Clinton has been in America, has announced he's stepping down on June 27. Do consult with WAC?'s London friend Charon QC on this change in leadership in
Au revoir, Sayonara, Ciao…Auf Wiedersehen, subtitled "Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a goner. He has abdicated". We also note that barrister-pundit GeekLawyer, who with co-writer Ruthie has organized the first UK Legal Blogging Conference on May 18, has published the similarly sentimental and touching "Victory in England Day".
So Chancellor Gordon Brown waits in the wings. Brown is widely to expected to emerge as the Labour Party's new leader and become the new prime minister--but there's lots of uncertainty about what kind of PM he'd be. For conventional news coverage, see from the BBC "What Is Brown Likely To Do As PM?"
May 09, 2007
Pat Lamb: King Billable Hour and European GCs
I love the discrepancy between inside and outside counsel on the issue of whether billable hour targets encourage padding. For only half of outside counsel to acknowledge the obvious suggests supreme disingenuity or that many outside lawyers in Europe live in Fantasy Land.
The Blogfather is on a roll. Over at In Search of Perfect Client Service, and since May 2, Chicago trial lawyer and consultant Patrick Lamb has had no less than four (4) great short pieces on the billable hour. The last two were "Time Sheets and Buggy Whips" and this one (quoted in part above) where he showcases views of European in-house counsel on their outside firms.
May 05, 2007
Saturday's Charon: Goodbye to Blair
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, who turns just 54 tomorrow, is expected to resign in the next few days. Like his friend Bill Clinton, he leaves power as a relatively young man with options, including getting rich from memoirs and the speaking circuit. But some, WAC? included, think he'll take a stab at European Union president in the next couple of years. And like Clinton, Blair has intense fans and detractors. So yesterday London's Charon QC posted a photo of Blair waving goodbye and started a caption contest. So far Charon's got 10 suggested one-liners for what Blair is saying on his way out.
Ray Ward: "A New Orleans rite of spring"
Renaissance man, lawyer's lawyer and Dan Hull's good twin, Ray Ward at Minor Wisdom has all the dope on the Tchoupitoulas Social Aid & Athletic Club's 25th Barathon coming up in just 13 days, on Friday, May 18th. Starting and finish lines are at Le Bon Temps Roulé. 6:05 PM sharp. Six bars, six beers, six miles. Pros only.
May 03, 2007
The French presidential election
It is between two French baby boomers, Ms. Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy. It is interesting, fun, testy and embarrassingly American in style, beginning to resemble the Hells Angels Labor Day Picnic. And yet it is still very French. The biggest issue in the campaign is the controversial French 35-hour work week. She wants to keep it; he hates it. See The Times of London's article "Sparks Fly As Royal And Sarkozy Fight It Out" about last night's televised debate, which leads off like wrestling reportage:
Sparks flew as Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy tonight launched into their two-hour face-off on French television in front of an audience of around 20 million.
Facing each other six feet apart at a square white table the finalists for the French presidency made their opening attacks with Royal notably more aggressive in her initial stance.
May 02, 2007
Rupert Murdoch: Today MySpace, Tomorrow Dow Jones?
He already owns Fox, MySpace and The Times of London. Now he's bidding for Dow Jones, and its The Wall Street Journal, and he'll probably need to exceed his first bid of $5 billion. See Newsweek Business story and the many related links.
Geeklawyer Sighted in US
British Werewolf in America. He apparently entered at Bangor, Maine, of all places. Geeklawyer may be in States to rest up for the UK Legal Blogging Conference he and co-writer Ruthie have organized in London for May 18. Anyway, the infamous barrister and pundit is here unsupervised, sans Ruthie, doing whatever he wants. Advice to New Englanders until GL leaves: Alert local authorities. Lock up your women. Stay in basement with radio and food. Don't leave house after dark.
May 01, 2007
May Day, Law Day--and Blawg Review #106
Our main author is in the humble but beautiful village of Indian Hill, Ohio, pretending once again that he actually has a career in the film industry as an agent and treatment writer--but there are big doings today which I can cover. The ever-popular Blawg Review has been out for a whole day, and this week's host for BR #106 is Brett Trout at his Blawg IT, a finalist in the 2006 Weblog Awards. It's also Law Day, USA (but not Lawyers Day, we're reminded), established by President Eisenhower in 1958. Law Day has brought out the best of the usual poetic musings by Harvard Law grad David Giacalone. Finally, of course, it's May Day, the date of many different cultural, agricultural, religious and political observances all over the world for centuries, including the ancient Gaelic celebration called Beltane, as well as Walpurgis Night, celebrated in Scandanavia and Central Europe.
April 24, 2007
Israel: 59 years
Israel turned 59 today. Starting last night, and in cities all over the world, the anniversary of Israel's independence has been observed with picnics, memorials, recollections and a bit of malaise. See this AP story in the International Herald Tribune.
April 23, 2007
"Is What You Read About China Remotely Reliable?"
Here, from Asia Business Intelligence, by American lawyer and Asia business consultant Rich Kuslan. Kuslan's post is inspired by an article by Carsten Holz of The Far Eastern Economic Review appearing this month at New York Times writer Howard W. French's blog, A Glimpse of the World. Holz's article is entitled "Have China Scholars All Been Bought?".
From Canada: Blawg Review #105
Canada, as you can see by scrolling down the left-hand side of this blog, has more than a few fine blawgs. The wise and ubiquitous Ed. at Blawg Review has noticed. So this week, Toronto's Connie Crosby hosts Blawg Review #105 in her tribute to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Book and Copyright Day.
April 21, 2007
Saturday's Charon QC: 15 Great Podcasts
Who says lawyers, law professors and businessmen in the US and the UK must be boring, artless and uninspired? Long ago my friend Charon QC in London crashed through those stereotypes. But today marks the airing of his 15th podcast-interview with a luminary of some sort, this one with UK/US television producer Michael Mallinson. All 15 Charon Podcasts, beginning with the first one (and my favorite), of Human Law's Justin Patten on February 26, can be found here.
April 14, 2007
Dining in London with Saturday's Charon.
Only a handful of writers have been able to capture the pleasures and pitfalls of breaking bread in their age--of, say, just a simple lunch or dinner. Dining is a ritual humans have enjoyed/suffered through, with others or alone, for centuries. "Lunch" must be explained by each generation--without being boring--and most of the writers who could do this are long dead. However, the erudite Charon QC, a man of the right appetites, and quite alive and kicking in London these days, is an exception. To see what we mean, visit Charon's post "It was time for lunch..." The setting is a Bar and Dining Room, the place Somewhere in London.
April 13, 2007
"Why China Should Care About The United States..."
That article is here, by Dan Harris at his prolific and truly great China Law Blog, subtitled "China Law for Business". Sometimes Harris just catches fire. This post got 41 comments between March 29 and April 4. CLB is informed, insightful, feisty and often funny. And flat-out uncanny in the number of comments Harris regularly attracts. Someone should slap the guy just to see if he's really okay. But you do it.
March 31, 2007
Saturday's Charon QC, and the Brit Blogs.
London's Charon QC is still for Saturdays. My friend Charon is always excellent, delivers and is right on time. The Times loves the guy. And today he has done a Saturday review of the past week. Another British blogger, and a surfer no less, Tim Kevan at The Barrister Blog, has started up a similar weekly review he calls Best of the Blogs. Both Charon and Tim mention US blogs in their reviews. We've posted before about the fine and innovative UK blogs out there.
March 24, 2007
Ah, NYC, and Congress, you talk a lot but.....
Two of the trans-Atlantic flights on two different airlines I've been on in the last year have played the Beach Boys' "California Girls" upon landing in New York. Is this a movement? It is clever, and maybe California Girls" should be the new national anthem anyway. Either that or "One Way Out" by the Allman Brothers.....We can lobby pro bono to introduce a bill. Would be more useful legislation than some of the stuff my 535 buds at my old jobs at the Longworth and Russell buildings have been coming up with lately.
March 20, 2007
Ile St Louis: U.S. litigation conducted from Left Bank.
And why not? Law is no longer local--and neither is the apparatus for doing it. Besides, the technology helps clients.
A happy fellow under the Gargoyles this evening, I was not a free man this morning and afternoon. I was in the Munich airport getting ready to come here, Paris--and do nothing but be here--when I was confronted by cell phone with the mother of all goofy plaintiff junk science issues by Tom Welshonce in our Pittsburgh office on an action we're defending. Look, I'm not a tech-freak. I like quill pens, old books and medieval places, and don't think your PalmPilot is the same thing as your brain. But I'll admit that the Internet, electronic court filing, cell phones, e-mail, faxes, Skype and the right people permit you to quickly and efficiently file an emergency pleading in New Jersey, Kentucky or the UK from anywhere in the world. Even from here.
March 19, 2007
A Milestone: Blawg Review #100
No one who has been to Kitzbühel has any reason to think that we are getting any work done.
But we are--see post below.
March 18, 2007
Austria: International Business Law Consortium
We've written about the Salzburg-based IBLC, which we joined in 1998, many times, including in:
March 16, 2007
My third time here, where the representative of our IBLC London firm and I are getting ready for meetings in Austria. Barham is ancient and pastoral. Population is 1800. It was spelled Bioraham in 799, after Beora, a Saxon chief. The Anglican village church dates to the 1300s.
O famous Kent
What country has this isle than can compare with thee?
From Polyolbion, Michael Drayton (1563-1631)
March 15, 2007
London: American werewolf in Mayfair--and two UK stars.
Yesterday I met for an hour with each of the following: Justin Patten of Human Law, and a man known only as Charon QC--who brought along his beautiful, bright and useful-as-hell assistant. I'll write more about these impressive, innovative gentlemen later. For now, my advice: dudes, if you can meet other lawyer-blogger-thinkers face to face (and especially stars like Justin and Charon), just do it. Get away from your laptop. Get interactive like humans used to do it. Meet.
March 13, 2007
London: lawyers, bloggers and The Stones--and Anne's chestnut tree.
Department of Broken Molds: I had lunch today near his Crown Office Row chambers with the infamous, celebrated and talented barrister and mediator Dr. Cyril Chern, an American lawyer and ex-Los Angeles judge, who I've known for 6 years. His mother is British--and he is here in London to stay. We met in Budapest, or was it Vienna, in 2001--and it was like the shock of recognition when two "similarly" unusual pain-in-the-ass people meet. Cyril, in the words of Dr. Thompson, is "not like the others". And then, walking down Fleet to Cannon Street, not far from Tower Bridge, I visited the London Stone, a day early. This quick trip to London is on my way to meetings in Austria. Today it was an honor and privilege to spend some time with the busy Cyril Chern. Tomorrow, I have the honor of meeting UK lawyer-bloggers Justin Patten and Charon QC. And it will be a privilege to spend some time with each of them.
Anne Frank would have been 78 this year, on June 12.
In 1992, I first visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam and was moved (that's understating it) to discover that Anne, who died at the Bergen-Belsen camp in 1945 at 15, had pinned up on the walls of her attic room photos of the exact same American film stars of the 1930s and 1940s my mother had also worshipped as a teenage girl. My own vibrant, youthful and outgoing mother, and Anne Frank, are about the same age. On the plane on the way over here, I read a piece in The Times, the London paper, that the comforting chestnut tree (now 150 years old) she wrote that she could see from her attic while her family was in hiding is now going to be chopped down, despite efforts to save it. The tree, now 27 tons, is in danger of falling over--but cuttings of the original are being nurtured in hopes of replanting a healthy tree.
March 12, 2007
Place of oaths, deals and mystery: The London Stone
On Wednesday I'll walk east from Mayfair into legal London, down Fleet Street past Dr. Johnson's house and then past St. Paul's, on a stroll tracing and just above the Thames, to 111 Cannon Street, in the middle of the financial district. Thanks to Peter Ackroyd, author of London: The Biography, I'll stop and discover an unspectacular grate I've passed many times before. I'll look wistfully and imagine. Therein sits the unnoticed, forgotten and neglected London Stone, indisputably ancient, over which oaths were made and deals struck for centuries. There's an inscription on it, I'm told. Although linked to pre-Christ Druid ceremonies, historians can agree that it's at least a marker from
Roman times, making it a 2000 year-old symbol. A small boulder, at or near its present spot for centuries, it has even survived the Blitz, and was once the symbol of authority and heart of the City of London. In 1450, Jack Cade, opposing King Henry VI in the Kent peasant rebellion, struck his sword against the stone in a statement of sovereignty after arriving in London with his rebels. He declared himself lord of the city. Later that year, of course, Cade's head ended up on a pike on the London Bridge.
March 10, 2007
U.S. raccoons invade Germany
March 09, 2007
Man of Kent, or a Kentish Man?
Soon, and after a few days acting as professionally, seriously and sanely as I possibly can in London during my usual first 48 hours of jet-lagged fog and ill-humour (an ironic curse I haven't shared that freely), I'll be in Kent. As with London, and with the County of Suffolk to the north, from where my mother's family came to Massachusetts via Ipswich 373 years ago, I am completely and hopelessly in love with Kent, mainly the "eastern" part. The County of Kent is the southeastern doorway to the British Isles--it has even more history, legend and myth than London. Lots, and maybe even too much, has happened here during the past 2500 years...
Eventually, in 51 BC, Julius Caesar called it Cantium, as home of the Cantiaci. Augustine founded what became the Anglican Church here in about 600 AD. And of course Thomas Becket, Chaucer's "holy blissful martyr", was killed here (Canterbury) in 1170. I'll stay with lawyer friends in a tiny and ancient rural village I've visited before--during my last visit not long ago, I helped Jane and Michael destroy and begin to re-build their home's 300+ year old fireplace, and I will inspect the finished hearth--and then leave with them for meetings in Austria. They work in legal London but live near Canterbury, in what is traditionally East Kent; therefore, I'll be among "Men of Kent" and "Maids of Kent".
March 04, 2007
Venables and Holmes Conspire.
March 03, 2007
Saturday's Charon QC
Charon QC never disappoints. He blogs often and for no reason other than he must write; for him, it's a form of both art and play. (Besides, I'm convinced the guy doesn't need the money.) See "Saturday shockers and other matters" and a Friday Charon post with a fine feral photo of downwardly mobile PM Blair in his younger days--and of the Brit upper class version of the Hell's Angels Labor Day Picnic.
UK Bloggers: The Good, the Erudite and the UnHoly.
The triumvirate of UK legal weblogs: (1) Justin Patten's forthright and award-winning Human Law, (2) the urbane and lyrical Charon QC (just written up in The Times), and finally (3) Geeklawyer, London barrister, IP pundit and genuinely savage person who, when provoked in the right way, adds a dash of language that would make Jack Nicholson blush. Other stellar UK blawgs include Jeremy Phillips' IPKat, Nick Holmes' Binary Law and Delia Venables' law sites. There are 20 more listed on the left hand side of this blog. Soon WAC? is headed again to London and Kent, then to Kitzbuhel, Austria and lastly, for pure fun, and alone, to Paris. I note that Geeklawyer's co-blogger Ruthie--a solicitor with a love-hate
relationship with GL, and alleged to have a yen for Yank lawyers--has not yet offficially been cleared by Geeklawyer to meet WAC? at the old London Stone on Cannon Street near the Bank of China at high noon on March 14. She can't meet me in Paris either. But it's not all fun, games, boy toys, irreverence and black humour with this crowd. GL and the talented, alluring Ms. Ruthie are organizing a UK legal blogging conference for May 2007.
February 27, 2007
Charon QC interviews Patten: keen advice and insights, if questionable taste in US bloggers.
Charon QC (Mike Semple Piggot) has interviewed fellow Brit lawyer-blogger Justin Patten of Human Law in a short but interesting podcast on the state of the legal blogosphere. In blogging, Justin notes, "less is more"--so be succinct. Don't miss it: a sane, to-the-point and articulate discussion between two very engaging lawyers in Charon's London studio. Justin discusses some of the better UK law sites--such as Binary Law and Geeklawyer--and is discerning enough to favorably flag Kevin O'Keefe and his Real Lawyers Have Blogs as an exemplary US blawg. After a few Riojas (presumably at Charon's insistence), Justin was also kind enough to mention WAC?
February 26, 2007
Atlantic Review: Black History Month In Germany?
February 20, 2007
American law, globally: fresh glances from a distance.
"The study of law is one of the great intellectual adventures of our time. True, there are many who mire it in the rote, the mundane and the simple-minded. Yet for those who look past the shallows, the depths of law offer excitement and wisdom. Those who learn these nuances gain a particular authority in modern culture. They become effective citizens in the modern state."
Permit me to be consistently serious for a few paragraphs:
Ever since I left a staff job with the US Congress in the 1980s, and reluctantly started to practice law, I've been challenged, stimulated and stretched. There have been times of being tired, frustrated, overworked and underappreciated--but no two days have ever been the same. Maybe I've been lucky, even a bit spoiled. I love what I do.
I bought and am reading American Law in a Global Context - The Basics, a 650 page volume by George Fletcher and Steve Sheppard (Oxford 2005), which is based on course materials at Columbia University's LLM program which (like other US law school post graduate regimes) offers a one-year course of study to non-US students who have already trained as lawyers in other nations. But this book may have charms and powers other than its first-rate "survey" value at good American law schools for non-US lawyers.
If you are an American lawyer who is (i) burned out from too much work, (ii) disillusioned with the quality of clients you serve, (iii) disturbed by the lack of imagination, lethargy or jaded nature of the lawyers you work with, or (iv) bored to tears or depressed by the cookie-cutter engagements you keep drawing, take heart--and please don't quit before the miracle occurs. Parts of American Law in a Global Context may very well make you appreciate your profession for an inspired moment or two. It's about the big picture--which some of us either missed or forgot along the way. The book may remind you that it's a privilege to work in the law. Or it may merely "remind" you to find something new--in or out of the law--to do for your life's work. It begins with the wonderful and defining passage above (at page vii).
February 18, 2007
French blawgers: Dites-le en anglais, s'il vous plait.
Law is the ultimate backstage pass. There are more students in law schools than there are lawyers walking the Earth.
--John Milton/Satan/Al Pacino in the 1997 Taylor Hackford movie The Devil's Advocate (L’Associé du Diable)
Blawgs from or about France in English: you out there?
February 17, 2007
Dan Harris: "China: Where Even The Jews Are Fake", and....
I continue to be amazed by how prolific, honest and dead-on Dan Harris is over at China Law Blog (subtitled "China Law for Business")--and by how many comments his posts regularly generate. Genuinely client-centric, Dan has emerged as a major guide in the mine field of China: its business, law, politics and culture. See two recent posts which received a total of 64 comments: "China: Where Even The Jews Are Fake" and "So You Want To Be A China Lawyer?"
February 15, 2007
Free Man in Paris
I'll spend seriously frivolous days there next month after stops in London, Kent, Munich and two towns in Austria. After one legitimate meeting at an old dude's club, there is zero for me to do for 3 days except hope my cell phone doesn't ring too much with questions about clean coal technology, the doctrine of repose and the holy surprises of Rules 30 and 45. Here is my 10 point plan for each day in Paris:
1. sleep late on Ile St Louis
2. run on Seine quay
3. drink coffee
4. eat bread/baguettes
5. smoke Marlboro Mediums
7. pick up women my age or half my age (you must chose)
8. Hotel de Cluny, my favorite place on globe
10. repeat next day
Re: item 7, don't get the wrong idea, by God. Paris is a kinder, saner place, and has its advantages. Right Bank, Left Bank, train station or the bakery, it's perfectly okay in the City of Light to look admiringly at a woman's form, her legs, gait (that's "git-along", if you're from southern Missouri or Tennessee), sway and the subtle changes in the curve of her back as she moves along the avenues or over the ancient bridges. You can even stalk her a bit. You can do this whether or not she's with her boyfriend (amused and flattered, she will always smile anyway...). And you can do all this without having Anita Hill, Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio and the French version of N.O.W. camped out with a camera crew in front of your hotel the next morning. No PC, no paranoias about being caught red-handed at real life--just playfulness and pure fun.
February 14, 2007
St Petersburg, Russia: Horse Country
It's Valentine's Day. And one of WAC?'s this year is the Empress of Russia, who ruled for 34 years. See this review in Salon on the new biography book about Russia's German-born empress: Catherine the Great: Love, Sex and Power, by Virginia Rounding. There is much more to this great woman, Catherine II of Russia (1729–1796), than the palace rumours circulated about her.
February 13, 2007
Flintshire, North Wales: Sheep Heavan
"It was a frosty morning", and the sheep, they wur' sweet, on the Flintshire 'roods.
February 10, 2007
Of Rioja, Drinking and Snow.
London's Charon QC (Mike Semple Piggot) is for Saturdays. Soon, I'll make a couple of trips to London--a good town for serious topers of all nationalities. These days, I let Mike and a few mainly English and Welsh friends do my drinking for me. But, when I did drink, I often ran amok in the snow. Here are two recent Charon posts: "Rioja is good for you", and "And it came to pass...the plague of snows...".
February 06, 2007
"Joe, me Mariko...me love you long time"
Not. Recently I met a well-known and beautiful Asian-American journalist on an airplane, tried to get her to talk to me like that--but she caught on, smiled patiently, wouldn't take the bait... Anyway, the point is that Mariko and Nigel and Hans and Vlad and Sasha "no love Joe" since the Spring of 2003--when the US invaded Iraq. And coincidentally when I started 3 months of travel in western Europe--from London and Ipswich to Prague and Budapest and several cities in between.
I started that year to learn suprising things about the nature of anti-Americanism: where it does and doesn't flourish in Europe floored me. E.g., our educated French cousins "like" and tolerate America way more these days than do our hand-wringing British kin. Brits think that, as a nation, we have gone and remain hopelessly insane. Over at the Berlin-based Atlantic Review, the press digest edited by 3 German Fulbright alums, see BBC: "World View of US Role Goes From Bad to Worse".
February 04, 2007
NYC, Venice and Sargent's Venice
John Singer Sargent's (1856-1925) "Venice", which Sargent loved and painted passionately, is still at the Adelson Galleries on 19 East 82nd Street. "Sargent's Venice" stays until March 3. If you are going to Italy this year, the exhibition will be at Museo Correr, in St. Mark's Square in Venice, March 24 through July 22, 2007.
February 03, 2007
Reuters: "Chewbacca arrested for head-butting in California"
WAC? loves both journalists and the Japanese--but prefers this headline: "Preez, to take picture [crick, crick] of American movie star, Chewie":
LOS ANGELES - A Chewbacca impersonator was arrested after being accused of head-butting a Hollywood tour guide who warned the furry brown Wookiee about harassing two Japanese tourists, police said Saturday.
“Nobody tells this Wookiee what to do,” “Chewie” from the “Star Wars” movies said before slamming his head into the guide’s forehead, the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported.
Our careers--clients, lawyers, writers, politicians, Wookiees--have ups and own. But Chewie, say it ain't so.
February 01, 2007
...and up to Hell's Kitchen.
So I go to NYC and have two meetings in Midtown Manhattan--and then I have an attack of dreaded W-L balance, which is for slackers and people under 35. I lie down in my hotel for a while, hoping the feeling will go away. It doesn't. So I escape The Business of Law, take a cab to America's First Hood and, as James would say, "do the walk" in Hell's Kitchen:
Near Times Square, but still worlds away, Hell's Kitchen was for 150 years an uneasy mix of poor and working class Irish along with Everyone Else. It got yuppie-fied 15 years ago but still has the strong feel of the "old neighborhood". It's on the west side of Midtown: 34th Street to 57th Street, from 8th Avenue to the Hudson River. Like the equally notorious but now cemented-over and gone Five Points to the south, another Irish Hood with a gritty past, HK means poverty and crime to most of us--or maybe we remember "West Side Story". True, Mafia enforcer Mad Dog Coll was from Hell's Kitchen and killed here in the 1920s and 30s like hundreds of other mobsters for generations. (Remember the brutal "Westies" of just 30 years ago?) But Robert De Niro and Alicia Keys grew up here, too. The Actors' Studio is on West 44th Street. For years, the Studio and cheap housing had drawn actors to HK.
January 31, 2007
Down to The Old Ebbitt...
Last night I was "stuck" in Washington DC, one of the few consistently interesting and civilized cities in the U.S. DC is my birthplace. I spent most of my career there, and I still have an office off Eye Street. So I left my hotel in the West End and went to the Old Ebbitt Grill on 15th Street near the White House to eat:
Twenty years ago, after quite a fight, they demolished the original Old Ebbitt, and the adjoining building, in which British soldiers, after setting a few fires in 1812, drank and gloated. And for generations after that (no fires, usually) at various times so did my dad, I, my best friend's mom, my DC friends, Peter Pan Georgetown grads with nicknames like "Baseball Bill" and "Cowboy", Dustin Hoffman, Carl Bernstein, Bill Murray, White House aides, reporters and lots of the usual serious DC werewolves with too much ambition and gall for polite company. The new Old Ebbitt is an ultra-slick and large but darkly-wooded palace--where I'm told I had a party just before I was briefly married in 1982. If you are in DC, just go there. The waitresses are still wonderful in their suspenders and red bow-ties. (If you abuse them in any way, make sure you tip $100.) You will hear some real "DC" conversations at the OEG--especially at the three long wooden bars there. And some wonderful, grandiose swearing--a dying American art form mercifully kept alive in the Beltway. Confidence, lots of it, is required at all times.
January 29, 2007
In 2004 I was lucky enough have dinner with a friend, ex-California judge and lawyer-turned-barrister at Gray's Inn. Among the West's most enduring institutions and traditions, the Inns of Court make Yale's Skull and Bones seem like Chuck E. Cheese, Mattress Discounters or the downtown Pittsburgh "Y". They lie in the true heart of London, a city of uninterrupted commerce, vitality and ideas for nearly 2000 years. See this interesting glimpse (in 2 posts) of life as a member of the Inns of Court here and especially here at Tim Kevan's The Barrister Blog.
January 28, 2007
Getting through culture clash
January 23, 2007
Redux: Our Favorite Non-U.S. Blogs and....
Updated from our January 3 post--more have been added (and will continue be added) by our brilliant, precocious and frequently annoying new associate Holden "NantucketBoy" Oliver:
WAC? is a relatively new blog by practicing lawyers who are busy, a bit cranky, and very happy, thank you, just lawyering. We don't think bloggers are the New General Managers of the Universe or the only humans with new ideas or who know what's going on in world. We humbly view "What About Clients?" as a real-time way to convey ideas and events about (1) real, "beyond-lip-service" client service, (2) our new services economy-based world, and (3) international corporate law and litigation--as we experience all these things in actual practice every day. At heart, our blog is about relationships as the main event: as assets, as fun--and as money ($USD or other). WAC?'s writers and Hull McGuire's lawyers are serious business people and capitalists. We love working, we love clients and we want to get very rich.
And we don't pretend to monitor and evaluate the entire blogosphere, legal or non-legal. We are more than lucky to have won a 2006 Blawg Review award (for "Global Perspective"), our first full year of blogging, in view of the increase in quality blogs originating from or about jurisdictions and places other than the US. But we do have some favorite non-US blogs--again, legal weblogs from or about non-US jurisdictions--which in some cases seem to have been left out of mention in recent awards by more experienced and established bloggers, awarders and/or a few insular cyber-dweebs both in and out of the U.S.
So here, in no particular order, are the active and promising non-US blawgs (all in English or available in same) we strongly recommend--and recommend whether we "like" or agree with the bloggers and/or their politics and ideas. We could care less about that stuff, we aren't buds with any of these people, and our suggestions, hopefully, are based on merit alone. These 29 "global" (maybe "global" to you if you're an American) non-US blogs and sites have real substance and promise. Each expands and adds to the Conversation about Law and Business:
There are hundreds of great non-US blawgs in English--most of which you can access through the above list--so we've certainly missed some. Send us your discoveries of strong and active non-US blawgs. We'll add them to this list or to our ever-growing list of non-US blawgs and blogs in the left-hand column of this site.
January 22, 2007
Blawg Review #92: Legal Andrew
Blawg Review keeps getting better and better, and WAC? is always amazed at what the mysterious, ambitious anonymous Ed. can and will do. This week's host is Andrew Flusche, a wise, internationally-focused and business-savvy law student at Legal Andrew, with a fine review of some of January's best posts so far on: client service, productivity, getting organized, sane writing, IT developments, the wonders of social media, blogging for dollars, and more.
January 14, 2007
Europe blah on Iraq speech, but German rent-a-protestor biz up.
The Berlin-based Atlantic Review, a news digest on US-Europe affairs, collects posts on European reaction to last week's Bush Iraq speech, and other topics. Don't miss the Deutsche Welle piece on the German protestor rental industry AR found at DW-World.de.
Hartley's Howling Point
After you are done with Church, today's playoff games, meditating on a few Sam Hazo poems, good Jameson's, the Antler Dance, or whatever mantras you do Sundays, visit my well-traveled and truly internationally experienced friend Chuck Hartley, who I have known for a couple of years. A real Renaissance guy, Chuck has a unique background and set of skills too rich to explain here. He's a San Diego-based business lawyer with government diplomatic experience, a knowledge of things South American and African (he's lived and worked in La Paz, Bolivia and Lome, Togo, among other places), and several useful wisdoms beyond his years. His blog, The Howling Point, is interesting, personal and real.
January 08, 2007
A Big Mind: Ray Ward's Blawg Review #90
For today, and maybe tomorrow, WAC? takes back some of the things it regularly laments about lawyers often being inherently anti-client, risk-averse and uncreative weenies, slugs and "robot pimps" (remember the latter expression from the movie The Paper Chase?). Sanely, Blawg Review has chosen New Orleans' Ray Ward to host a Colors of Carnival for this week's edition. Like the mystical Big Easy itself, Ray is a man of many parts, a rainbow of sensibilities. So BR #90 is for the Whole Goddamn Person--body, mind, soul, timesheet. Visit Ray at Minor Wisdom and inhale this one as you start the week.
City of Angels
Los Angeles is an acquired taste, and one that stays with you. I'm here a lot, both business and pleasure--in a way it's too bad that out of ignorance 9 years ago I chose San Diego over LA as a place from which to service business clients in Southern California. Like me, LA is East coast at heart. Drive, confidence, a little flair, and even oddity, are more than okay here. You are always selling; don't hide your light, dude. In law and entertainment, LA is a complicated meritocracy of the hugest of egos and Super-talent from everywhere. It's nearly impossible to be "inappropriate". People swear wonderfully here, mainly as a way to vent or for comic relief. Watch an LA professional blow a tube and you'll hear passionate, funny and artfully profane rants you can't hear in Indianapolis, Columbus, or even DC.
January 04, 2007
Back in DC, Foggy Bottom, and new girlfriend Nancy
Today, nearing the end of my 4 week work-and-travelthon, I am getting ready to take a deposition in an oddball business case of a public figure, a person they once made a movie about. Hopefully, before I leave tomorrow night for LA, I will have time to get over to my old neighborhood on Capitol Hill--where I worked, played and learned for 15 years--to network a bit. My hotel in the West End is 3 blocks from my birthplace in Foggy Bottom: "old" George Washington Hospital, recently torn down without giving me a heads up. Washington Circle now looks funny, half-naked and amputated, with a southeastern empty lot which held GWH's main building for over 50 years...CNN just told me that Nancy Pelosi is the new Speaker--only in America, right? You couldn't ask for a more beautiful day in the District of Columbia, City of Energies 24/7. I miss living here.
December 25, 2006
2006 Blawg Review Awards
The 2006 awards are here, presented in a guest shot by Santa, who may had have the munchies, or something. (If you didn't get the award you wanted, you can take solace in the notion that Santa may have been, like, impaired, forgot stuff or mixed things up when he got the envelopes.) Note that the awards come with a classy preface and conclusion by the BR Editor, always a sober and hard-working fellow.
December 22, 2006
Pupil Barrister - "Master, more gruel, please..?"
Maybe it's just the holiday season (in which most years I love), the winter solstice, an early appreciation of Charles Dickens, or my growing awareness of the English fascination with things antiquarian, but I'm charmed by a new blog by a pupil barrister in training in the heart of Legal London. Two fine but very different Brit lawyer-bloggers, Geeklawyer at Geeklawyer, and Nick Holmes at Binary Law, clued me in on PupilBlog. "Dickensian", comments Nick Holmes. "Tortured writhings", says GL, also a barrister. For a taste of PupilBlog see "Battered and Deeply Fried Ego". And, finally, I'm reminded of what a British instructor of religions at Duke once said to me about his school and university years after about 5, maybe 7, drinks: "At an English school of any sort, you never know what the rules are until you break them."
December 21, 2006
"U.S. Dollar versus Euro"
It's in the Atlantic Review, a Berlin-based digest on transatlantic affairs, and based on excerpts from articles in The Economist, other sources.
December 07, 2006
On your lower left: 20 new non-U.S. blogs.
The ever-growing Directory of Non-U.S. Blogs, on the lower left side of this site, recently grew by 20, with new sites from or about the law in Columbia, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Portugal, Czech Republic and Korea. We appreciate the the tips re: good and active non-U.S. blogs (legal and, in some cases, non-legal).
December 06, 2006
My mother and brother were born there. As I kid, and like other Procter & Gamble children growing up in the 1960s, I lived there twice before we moved to Cincinnati, the Promised Land for our corporate cult. Until I was about 18, I thought that moving around like that--my birthplace D.C., then Chevy Chase and Aberdeen, Maryland, Chicago (brother David), Grand Rapids, and Detroit (sister Becky)--was perfectly "normal". So, after Detroit, where Becky was born, the five of us moved back to Chicago again and lived, this time, on the North Shore, on Lake Michigan, near Ravinia, in a suburb called Highland Park, a child's perfect wonderland of woods, ravines and beach. That neighborhood is the setting for the movies Ferris Bueller's Day Off (note Cameron's yard, where the ravine swallows his dad's classic car), and Risky Business.
It was a fine and sometimes moving early lesson, thanks to my mother who pushed my Dad to move us there, in multi-culturalism. As two of the only local Gentile kids at our public school, my brother David and I would love the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) because they were ours to play dodgeball all day long with about 10 other non-Jewish kids, or kids from "mixed" families, at Braeside Elementary, at 150 Pierce Road. All our friends had those days off. We did miss them, but enjoyed our all-day recess-at-school. Still, I remember feeling left out and jealous we weren't Jewish. To this day, my frame of reference for looking at the world is broader, richer and better due to my family's Chicago episodes. It stretched us and me.
In the next four weeks I'll be working in Los Angeles, D.C., and Pittsburgh, and maybe NYC--with detours for Christmas in Ohio, and New Years in South Carolina. And back to San Diego, then Nashville. But Chicago will be first, starting later next week. I am going back for a week to work downtown--and excited about being again in the most vibrant American city between the coasts, hands down, and amongst lawyers who get it.
Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys...
Chicago, Carl Sandburg, Poetry magazine, 1914.
Shocking, breaking news--like Keith Richards likes drugs.
December 04, 2006
Canada: Management-side Employment Law Blog
Note that one of the better Canadian blawgs is Thoughts from a Management Lawyer, by Michael Fitzgibbon, with one of Canada's largest and best known law firms. Michael follows labor and employment law in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere.
France's 24-hour news "through French eyes" to debut.
WAC? is pleased. Here comes France 24, the French CNN or BBC, which will include an English version, first on cable in NYC and DC. About time. Like it/them or not, France is most consistently civilized and enlightened Western nation, and save a few notable detours, that's been true for centuries. The West needs a French lens.
December 03, 2006
Coming soon: 20 new blawgs to be added to WAC? non-US directory.
December 02, 2006
Jack Welch on getting China-ready, and good China IP news.
December 01, 2006
EU: In 2005, nearly 30% of Euro-US trade was in services.
Increasingly in global markets, goods (i.e., products and tangible things you can see and touch) are just part of the bundles of solutions our clients and we sell globally. As WAC? has ranted about previously, services are becoming the main event. From the Berlin-based Atlantic Review, a news digest by three German Fulbright alumni, here's "Strong EU-U.S. Trade". Note that, according to the European Commission, in 2005 about 30% of the trade dollars in both directions were in services, as opposed to goods:
The EU and US are responsible together for about two fifths of world trade. Trade flows across the Atlantic are running at around €1.7 billion a day.... In the year 2005, exports of EU goods to the US amounted to €250 billion, while imports from the US amounted to €234 billion. Concerning trade in services, EU exports to the US amounted to €108.6 billion in 2004 while EU imports from the US amounted to €93.0 billion.
November 29, 2006
New U.S. Congress and Global Eco-Policy
For years our firm has tackled environmental issues for clients which produce, use, transport, process or handle fossil fuels. Forget your stereotypes. These companies are a lot "greener" and more progressive than you might think; they do some fine things for the environment and workers, whether or not asked or good press is involved. And for some time I've liked Australian lawyer David Jeffery's Oikos blog, which reviews environmental and related economics issues through an international lens. On the recent American midterm elections see, for example, David's post "Political climate change in the United States" on his hopes for a shift in climate-change politics in the U.S.
November 28, 2006
Australian Blawg Review #85 covers the globe.
GeekLawyer: Ruthie's Podcast
Ruthie, GL's co-blogger, and of "Humble Stock", according to his intro (we can now safely assume from that remark that GeekLawyer is from southern England, likely London-bred) just may have hit a home run. Nice voice, too, very British, and slightly "the bird next door". Yanks will want more Ruthie--allegedly not GL's bird.
November 26, 2006
Backlash on Borat?
From Peter Black, suggesting a growing different take on the film, at his Freedom to Differ, in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, see "Is the tide turning on Borat?" Peter hosts Blawg Review #85, out tomorrow. Freedom to Differ "speaks freely about legal issues facing the media and the internet".
November 23, 2006
The First Company: Massachusetts Bay Colony (1630-1691)
Or, more precisely, the Massachusetts Bay Company, which founded the Colony. Wikipedia, which I distrusted at first but now increasingly rely upon, does a nice job with the story of the "first" American company and company town.
November 17, 2006
In search of: French legal weblogs in English.
Law is the ultimate backstage pass. There are more students in law schools than there are lawyers walking the Earth.
--John Milton/Satan (L’Associé du Diable)
French blawgers: Dites-le en anglais, s'il vous plait. Because WAC?'s and other U.S. lawyers' French is rusty, and maybe dying. We all promise to get it back--but in recent years, the French language has waned as an international language. Tragically, English, German, Japanese and Chinese are becoming bigger deals. So does anyone know of French blawgs in English or with English translations? Are you out there--especially anything on French employment law?
November 16, 2006
KFB sounds off on U.S. Mideast foreign policy, terrorism.
November 15, 2006
China and the new U.S. Congress.
November 10, 2006
Four New IBLC Firms
Our firm's longstanding international business law group, the IBLC, has four new members. In Algiers, Algeria: Bouchaib Law Firm; in Belize City, Belize: Glenn D. Godfrey & Company LLP; in Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands: McW. Todman & Co; and in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: Pellerano & Herrera.
Getting Judgments in China.
November 07, 2006
Delia Venables: UK and Ireland
If you haven't seen it before, see Legal Resources in the UK and Ireland, by Delia Venables. This is a mainstay and well-regarded UK-Ireland law site. Law practice management, client service ideas, tech developments, other links, everything.
November 05, 2006
A penny for the old Guy.
Charon QC, who like WAC? is un-PC and risks becoming an 'R', has reminded us that tonight is Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night. On this date in 1605, Fawkes tried to blow up King James I, Parliament, all its members and Westminster Palace in the Gunpowder Plot. Talk about thinking outside the box. The English, who for all their good manners share with Americans a picaresque, stick-it-to-The-Man sensibility about, well, The Man, have an affection for Fawkes.
So Fawkes appears in nursery rhymes, songs and poems. John Lennon sang about Guy's plot. Even T.S. Eliot, a naturalized Brit born in the U.S., gave the old guy a couple of nods in "The Hollow Men." Fawkes was the model for the "hero" in the 2005 Larry and David Wachowski movie V For Vendetta, starring Natalie Portman and John Hurt.
November 03, 2006
Happy Birthday to Justin Patten's Human Law
One of my favorite sites in any jurisdiction is Human Law, by English lawyer-consulant Justin Patten. HL turned one this week. Justin doesn't know yet, but I may finally get to meet him in person, on his own turf, in Hertfordshire, north of London, early next year. Justin, client-focused and an expert in employment, defamation and copyright/IP law, is the only British affiliate at Law.com's Legal Blog Watch. Quite an honor. Cheers, and our compliments, sir.
November 02, 2006
Moving South: Kitzbühel, Austria
Kitzbühel, even older than Mainz, is a medieval city in the province of Tyrol, Austria, near the river Kitzbühler Ache. The Illyrians, a war-like lot originally from the Balkans, mined copper around here starting between 1100 BC and 800 BC. Around 15 BC the Roman Emperor Augustus occupied and claimed this area--by that time the old Celtic province of Noricum--which included the Austrian Alps. After the fall of the western Roman Empire, the Bavarii tribe settled in the Kitzbühel region (around 800). So Kitzbühel is old, with a 12th century wall around much of it, small, beautiful, historical, and a bit slow--and loads of fun for those with pluck.
Traditionally, before non-Austrians and Yanks found it, the region was like The Hamptons or a resort for wealthy and proper Austrians, who detest all forms of anarchy, even jaywalking, especially in the larger towns like Vienna. But Kitzbühel has loosened up a bit. Well, a lot. It even has decent jazz. Drinking happens. You can stay in a small castle which is now a small hotel. If my crack law firm can make a couple of ultra-goofy matters we are defending for corporate America go away, and I can get my alleged girlfriend to come with me, I will pass through here again around St. Patrick's Day to see a client rep and to attend meetings of the IBLC. Clients love the alleged girlfriend--and she can sell. And in Kitzbühel, she can ski, which for many is the point of the region.
View from Germany: Daimler To Dump Chrysler?
[A]s long as Chrysler is still showing billions in losses, the company will be hard-pressed to attract the interest of any other automaker. This means that DaimlerChrysler must first make its US subsidiary profitable again before it can even consider selling off even part of the company.
With a strong mix of Celtic, Roman, Frankish and Jewish roots, Mainz is very old (founded by Roman General Drusus in 13 BC), and built on the Rhine. About 190,000 people live here. Near Frankfurt, and to many a part of Frankfurt's western edge, Mainz is Johann Gutenberg's town. For years, our firm has acted for a manufacturing client just north, and another client with a plant just south, of Mainz--but I'd go out of my way to stay here. For me, this is where the Rhineland begins.
October 24, 2006
Points east, and Hermann the German.
Apart from items required for a few bad habits, I like very old paintings, sketches and maps. Especially old maps (more affordable)--so I buy them.....This, to the southeast, is Berlin. And this is Berlin-based Hermann the German and UPI International, both worrying about the exodus of educated and young Germans to other lands.
October 22, 2006
Amsterdam, languages and fun facts.
On a book/film project, and as a respite from contentious IP and environmental disputes back East, I'm likely headed to Amsterdam, a favorite European city. Amsterdam is poorly understood by Americans, with our oftimes Victorian and morally pretentious view of real life. This city is about beauty, great art, great food, healthy free-thinking people, and genuine class--not just the Sex Museum, social welfare, cathouses along canals in the de Wallen or smoking hash at the Betty Boop coffeehouse. Cosmopolitan, the Dutch like other languages. In the Netherlands, the official ones are Dutch and, in the north, Frisian (which many believe is the closest thing to Old English still spoken). But about 85% of the total population has basic knowledge of modern English. German and French spoken here, too.
Doing Business In China: The Basics.
October 21, 2006
The Kid From Brooklyn sounds off on 1st, 14th amendments.
It's here. See his website. Hear his other podcasts. Forget about his language. KFB, or Big Mike, provides a service. He is neither liberal nor conservative. He's just honest, and I wish lawyers all over the world had 1/3 of his courage rather than persisting in hiding behind our cocktail party civility and our prissy, overly-diplomatic facades. KFB may help not only to destroy the epidemic of political correctness--but also prompt lawyers to drop our weasel ways and just say it every once in a while.
Lawyers, as KFB has noted in other posts, need to get over themselves. In America, nearly anyone with a college degree can become a lawyer. And that has happened. Clients and juries are often way smarter than the attorneys involved. Which would be amusing--if it weren't for the fact that most of us aren't even that good at our practice areas, don't care about the profession, and never understood for longer than an hour that clients are the main event. It's all lip service and b.s. Clients and the general public notice it.
All over the world, lawyers have become an insular "club", diminishing in prestige, and with little interest in clients or the public good. The club for many lawyers has become a third-rate bowling alley with watered-down drinks, bad food and a lousy staff. None of us, including the inspiring exceptions, have ever been royalty. Now, it's getting worse. We are quite comfortable with mediocrity in lawyering, a stale and smug provincial culture, and a focus off our clients.
October 15, 2006
House of Lords Ruling Relaxes Brit Libel Laws.
Before lawyering got in the way, WAC? intended to write about an October 11 House of Lords decision which brings UK libel law--in which for centuries the burden has been on the defendant to prove the truth of a defamatory statement--closer to the U.S. actual malice standard. But Bob Ambrogi, collecting other good posts and articles, covered this wonderfully in "U.K. Libel Ruling a 'Resounding Victory'" at Law.com's Legal Blog Watch. The new British standard will protect defendant-journalists in libel cases provided that defamatory items are reported responsibly and in the public interest.
Germans fight creeping Anglo terms.
Can you blame them? From Berlin-based Hermann the German.
October 13, 2006
"China's Leading Global Brands -- Are You Serious?"
October 09, 2006
Blawg Review #78: Justin Patten's Human Law
British solicitor, blogger and tech consultant Justin Patten at Human Law is one of the consistently strongest voices in the blawgosphere. Justin, who "gets it", is a lawyer who my law firm and I have come to greatly respect. He's this week's host of Blawg Review with Blawg Review #78. Human Law is subtitled "Law, Technology and People". Don't miss this.
October 04, 2006
"Germans Mishandled Me".
True client service is a challenge everywhere WAC? goes, in every context. See Berlin-based Observing Hermann.
September 30, 2006
4th Carnival of German-American Relations.
Yes, that exists.
And if you think that Europe likes America again, think again. Animosity toward and distrust of the U.S. is worse than ever, and pretty much a constant since the spring of 2003. But this carnival may help matters.
For the 4th Carnival of German-American relations on September 24, bloggers on both sides of the Atlantic submitted over 20 blog articles on German-American Relations, including these topics: Anti-Americanism, Pro-Americanism, free speech, cultural diplomacy, John F. Kennedy, Old Europe, NATO, the Geneva Conventions, Berlin, and patriotic Muslims. There are posts of both German and English language articles from two blogs--see here and here--for each carnival.
The next one is December 11. See The Atlantic Review, a press digest on transatlantic affairs edited by three German Fulbright alumni, who created this carnival.
September 29, 2006
More HP: Dunn and Hurd Before the Committee.
Here's an Associated Press article, "HP Whistleblower’s E-mail Issued Blunt Warning", on hearings before before the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday on Hewlett-Packard's in-house investigation of boardroom leaks.
September 28, 2006
HP: GC Quits.
September 27, 2006
HP: Boardroom Leaks, Probes, Probes of Probes.
Whether you run large companies, advise them, or both, here's Hewlett-Packard: Oh My!" from Broc Romanek's CorporateCounsel.net Blog. On Thursday, as Romanek reminds us, the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce holds hearings on charges of Hewlett-Packard's recent "pretexting," a method of investigation of posing as someone to obtain their calling records: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, September 28, 2006, 2123 Rayburn House Office Building, 10:00 AM. And since we're on the subject see Carolyn Elefant's "What's A GC To Do?" at Law.com's Legal Blog Watch.
September 26, 2006
Real Brits Blog--Part II
See our recent post re: trainees at London law firm being required to blog and then see "Muttley Dastardly LLP - A Blog For The Modern Era" by Charon QC, the alter ego of Mike Semple Pigott, a London-based academic, writer and pundit who is regularly accused of having too much fun blogging.
Vietnam as "China Lite".
September 25, 2006
Does The Pope Need Jim Carville?
"The Pope Smokes Dope" after all? No, just playing with you. That's a David Peel song of 34 years ago, from my protracted youth, referring playfully to Pope Paul VI. Don't sweat it. Popes aren't toking up.
Do worry and be perplexed about this pope, a world leader. And about Mel Gibson, a powerful leader in a major world industry, too. Recently, starting with Gibson and then Pope Benedict XVI, high-profile Christians have been accused of trashing two different major world religious cultures. Gibson has apologized twice for making anti-Jewish remarks while drunk. The Pope has said he's sorry four times for besmirching Islam while cold sober. His remarks were taken out of context but, as in Mel's case, some people aren't buying it. Does The Pope need high-priced Beltway or Hollywood talent for damage control? Should someone just put in a call to James Carville? Or maybe Mel Gibson's PR person?
Hunter Thompson is no longer with us, and so we miss his gift of covering and explaining this age-old story: elite people with bad habits saying and doing dumb things because they are human, too. I won't try to explain, or judge, it. But when any of us violate something sacred, even inadvertantly, it hurts and divides. When leaders do it, hell comes and stays awhile.
So I had merely hoped that Pope Benedict XVI would be--to borrow from President Kennedy's quip about a certain Iranian Shah--my kind of pope. Every day, millions of Christians, Catholic or not, listen to The Pontiff. So what's up with this pope? Benedict explained that his September 12 speech in Regensburg, Germany--quoting a 14th century Christian emperor, Manuel III of Trezibond, who had said Islam was "evil and inhuman" and violent--did not reflect his own thinking, and that's certainly true. Benedict did nothing wrong, but he might have picked a different quote. He's apologized. Four times. Will that be enough? See from Reuters "Muslims want to know more on Pope's view of Islam".
September 22, 2006
Real Brits Blog.
September 18, 2006
England's Delia Venables
Her bi-monthly Internet Newsletter for Lawyers is here.
September 16, 2006
Is Milwaukee, Wisconsin international yet?
The answer is yes--or at least Milwaukee seems to be getting there very fast. It's a delightful surprise. On the eve of the annual International Bar Association's annual convention next week in Chicago, my partner Julie McGuire and I spent the last few days in Milwaukee with our firm's long-time international group, the Austria-based International Business Law Consortium, which meets a number of places around the globe each year. The host is Milwaukee-based IBLC member Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. Bravo, Milwaukee and Whyte Hirschboeck!
September 12, 2006
Human Law's Justin Patten Starts Up Consultancy.
London-based Justin Patten is a respected English blogger, lawyer and "WAC?" friend who publishes Human Law - Law, Technology and People. Justin is the only European who is an affiliate blogger Law.com's select Legal Blog Watch. In mid-August, he started a consulting firm which teaches new bloggers how to (1) get started, (2) be effective and (3) prosper. A very flexible menu of services is offered at several price ranges--and these terms should be very attractive on either side of the Atlantic. We'll post more about Justin's new consultancy soon. In the meantime, some details are right here.
September 11, 2006
9/11/06 Blawg Review #74
September 10, 2006
Outsourcing American legal work to Asia.
Well, that didn't take long--and it makes sense whether US and other western law and legal support firms like it or not. DuPont leads the way, according to "Let's Offshore the Lawyers" (clever literary yet gangster-hip title) from BusinessWeek Online. The article's subtitle: "DuPont Is Farming Out Legal Services to Asia — and Saving a Bundle". Lots of this is document "busy-work", but DuPont thinks it can save 3% on its annual $200 million legal bill. According to the article, Hildebrandt International, a leading consultant to law firms, thinks DuPont's experiment may be the start of a trend, with corporate clients slashing as much as 35% of annual legal bills by outsourcing work to Asia.
September 08, 2006
Tough client: Pluto weighs options, plots revenge.
Pluto's demotion is a story with legs. From The Economist.
September 07, 2006
EU to Europe: Where are the CIA prisons?
According to Reuters news service, "European lawmakers demanded on Thursday that their governments reveal the location of secret CIA prisons after President Bush admitted Washington held terror suspects in jails abroad". The article is here.
September 05, 2006
The Future of Law is International.
A new blog with an international scope is born. Just back from a trip to China, Christopher Cassidy and Travis Hodgkins, formerly with Asia Business Law, have launched Transnational Law Blog. TLB's first post yesterday was "The Future of Law is International".
September 01, 2006
Do Americans ever take a few days off?
In the grips of an achievement fever that we don't even fully understand ourselves, Americans don't have as great an appreciation for the holiday, summer respites or "quality of life" as do Europeans and other arguably sane modern cultures. But in the United States, Labor Day weekend, lasting a full 3 days, has been a good start. Yanks held their first Labor Day parade in New York City in 1882, and we got that idea from Canada. We at the hard-working but multi-cultural "What About Clients?" and Hull, McGuire & Bubba PC wish you a great Labor Day holiday. See you Tuesday morning, 8:00 AM sharp.
Geeklawyer on Privacy
From the south of England Geeklawyer's co-blogger Ruthie checks in with "Just Because You Are Paranoid, Doesn’t Mean They Aren’t Watching You". She begins: "Over the years a number of Ruthie’s clients have sagely informed her that they wear tin foil hats at home to stop the government reading their thoughts".
August 30, 2006
China: Thelen Reid Receives China License Today.
Today, in an development which Western law firms hope signifies a change in attitude by the Chinese government, the American firm Thelen Reid & Priest LLP, with about 400 lawyers, will receive a license to practice law in China, according to The Recorder in San Francisco. Thelen Reid applied for the license in September of 2005. In April of this year, as reported by Dan Harris at China Law Blog and others, the Shanghai Lawyers Association and some Chinese government agencies declared a crack-down on "illegal business activities" by foreign firms who had used local lawyers to practice law.
Thanks for the heads up to international tax lawyer Julie McGuire .
August 24, 2006
Will the U.S. president blog?
To return to Newsweek's report of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's new blog, there's more ink about "his excellency's" daily online journal from NBC news producer Robert Windrem at The Daily Nightly in his piece "Tehran In The Blogosphere". Windrem also asks David Almacy, the White House Internet Director: Will the American president be writing his own blog? "WAC?" asks: If the answer is yes, can we at least get these two into a cyber-brawl re: nuclear policy or Texas food?
August 23, 2006
China Law Blog: Lawyering Up, and Protecting Your Clients' IP.
An Associated Press article last week notes that Foreign Entrepreneurs Spice Up Argentina. Many are young Americans, Brits and other Europeans in sophisticated but cost-friendly Buenos Aires. Excerpt:
[W]ith startup costs and wages still low in post-crisis Argentina, entrepreneurs say their savings in dollars, euros and pounds go a lot further here — letting them chase entrepreneurial dreams while reveling in the nation's cosmopolitan blend of Latin America and Europe.
August 22, 2006
Coast to Coast Podcast: Westerners Lawyering in Asia.
In their most recent Coast to Coast internet radio show on Legal Talk Network, lawyer-bloggers J. Craig Williams and Bob Ambrogi do a fine job of exploring and explaining a hard if exciting topic: "Asia - The New Frontier for In-House Counsel". Craig, Bob and their two guests--an IP lawyer in LA and a business lawyer in Tokyo--cover business, legal, political and cultural aspects of lawyering in two contexts: (1) in Asia for western companies and (2) out of Asia for Asian companies. The show is here. Thanks to Blawg Review for the tip.
August 20, 2006
Iran's president starts Mother Of All Blogs.
According to Newsweek's International Edition, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, has begun his second year in office with a blog, launched last week. His site, www.ahmadinejad.ir, is political, religious and so far an enormous hit in the blogosphere. It's written in Farsi, but Arabic, English and French translations are available.
August 19, 2006
Visit the world's first directory of ADR blogs.
This week Boston-based Diane Levin, author of Online Guide to Mediation, launched the first World Directory of Alternative Dispute Resolution Blogs . Already Levin's international directory has attracted 60 ADR-friendly blogs. The guide is a valuble new tool for clients, GCs and trial people. ADR, which includes both mediation and arbitration, continues to pick up speed globally. Non-U.S. corporations in deals with American parties in particular are increasingly wary of the expense, delays and inefficiencies in obtaining results in U.S. state and federal court systems. And, along with many American companies, they are demanding arbitrations over traditional trial courts. ADR is finally on a roll everywhere. See the World Directory of ADR Blogs.
August 17, 2006
Go east, young dude: What's so special about China, anyway?
Possibly more so than ever, international law firms are targeting Asia, and especially Greater China. More and more newly-qualified lawyers are starting their careers with aspirations and intentions to work in Asia, and many are approaching the path as "Asia specialists" first, lawyers second.
Read these. "You bought the ticket, take the ride..."
Well, I think this is international legal news.
From Charon QC...the Blawg, our London pundit, spiritual leader and alter-ego of Mike Semple Piggot, here is "Bar in China Allows Customer to Beat Up Staff", based on a BBC report from earlier this month. Next week "WAC?" promises to give the correct explanation of "QC", or Queen's Counsel, a distinction given to barristers for over 400 years. And even more prestigious than Super-Lawyer.
August 10, 2006
"American Bloggers in Berlin."
Sounds like a good werewolf movie but this is more interesting and arguably just as gothic. Expat American bloggers now roaming Germany are highlighted in a recent post in Atlantic Review, the "digest on transatlantic affairs" edited by three German Fulbright alumni. See among others Radio Free Mike and Observing Hermann.... These are just two of the blogs in the AR article which soon will be added to "WAC?"'s links for Germany under "Non-U.S. Blogs" (on your lower left).
August 05, 2006
British And Irish Bloggers With Attitude--Redux
We've posted on this subject before, i.e. here and here, and we'll keep doing it. If you scroll down the left-hand side of this blog under Non-U.S. Blawgs, you'll find lots of great blogs/blawgs from the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and from the Republic of Ireland. One provocative, smart, well written and loads-of-fun blog is Charon QC...the Blawg, quickly becoming a WAC? favorite. As in trying to describe Geeklawyer, another wonderful English legal weblog, words fail me. You just have to visit CQC.
August 02, 2006
England and Wales Mull Competency Checks For Lawyers.
According to the Law Gazette, the London-based legal weekly, The Law Society of England and Wales is considering performing preventive competency checks on solicitors. Antony Townsend, the Law Society's first chief executive for regulation, noted that
the traditional assumption that once a member was admitted to a profession, that person would remain competent, and that the regulator’s role was to weed out ‘rogues and villains’ was changing. ‘Increasingly, the focus of consumer concern has been about continuing competence, not just character.’
The idea for the checks on UK lawyers derives from a similar UK program for monitoring physicians. The lawyer program would "spot emerging problems" and "remedy poor practice early", without the need for after-the-fact sanctions and discipline.
The Law Society is the regulatory and representative body for 116,000 solicitors in England and Wales.
July 26, 2006
Emerging Markets: Vietnam as the Next China.
July 19, 2006
Looking Southward: The Netherland Antilles
Surrounded much of the time by corporate tax people, I'm on the lookout for tax blawgs in US and abroad. And here's an active one that has interested me for a while. Karel's Legal Blog is published by Karel Frielink, a corporate tax and transactional lawyer in the Netherland Antilles, previously known as the West Indies, in the Caribbean. I haven't met Karel in person yet--but I'd like to. Educated in Amsterdam, Karel (a guy, by the way) is also an experienced litigator with the firm of Spigthoff Attorneys & Tax Advisers in Curacao, the main island in the Antilles. Karel's most recent post is old and new corporate tax regimes in the Antilles. His blog is in Dutch, Chinese, Japanese and English.
July 16, 2006
More International Weblogs Coming In Blawg Review #66
Blawg Review's global expansion of the digital conversation continues. And in a big way. The first non-US host of Blawg Review ever, David Jacobson, an Australian commercial lawyer and consultant, will be hosting Blawg Review #66, which springs forth on Monday, July 17. David will be posting from his site at External Insights in Brisbane, one of Australia's three biggest cities, in the southeast corner of the state of Queensland. Brisbane itself hosted the 1982 Commonwealth Games, a multi-sport gathering held every four years.
July 13, 2006
On Blawg Review #65: "International Edition"
Here are five nice follow-ups on Blawg Review #65 which echo the "hey, let's all get un-insular" point we at WAC? were trying to make: "The Future of Law is International" by Asia Business Law, "There's a Whole World Out There" by Colin Samuels at Infamy or Praise, a clever piece of writing by Robert Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch, "Blawg Review Salutes International Lawyers and the World Cup" by Boston's Diane Levin, and finally this one by Edge International principal Rob Millard at his fine and consistently interesting The Adventure of Strategy blog. Rob Millard is from and currently lives in South Africa, and we listed his The Adventure of Strategy blog is listed in the South Africa section of the WAC? directory to your left. Rob works, however, everywhere, and we're told he spends increasing amounts of time in North America.
July 10, 2006
Blawg Review # 65
We live in a world that never sleeps.
Most mornings, lawyers at my firm get e-mails from people in all manner of time zones: Hanjo in Bonn, Michael in London, Giulio in Rome, Paul in Cardiff, Angel in Madrid, Claudia in Pretoria, Ed in Beijing, Christian in Taipei, Greg in Sydney and finally Eric, a DC trial lawyer. Two or three times a year, I see Eric, a partner in an international litigation boutique of 35 lawyers. But I've never seen him in the US. Ever. In the eight years I've known him, Eric has had a plate full of international arbitrations. He could be anywhere when he e-mails--just probably not in this hemisphere. His client could be German with a claim against a Dutch company at a Brussels arbitration venue applying English or American law.
Lawyers sell services--and services are increasingly sold across international borders. In fact, services generally are becoming the new game. In 2004, services, sold alone or as support features to the sale of good and products, accounted for over 65% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the US, 50% of the United Kingdom's GDP and 90% of Hong Kong's. Our clients sell both goods and services. The growing "global economy", the expansion of the services sector, the Internet and the resulting ability to partner with people and entities all over the world permit our smallest clients to do business abroad. And lawyers in all jurisdictions can act for interests outside their borders. You, me, our clients and our partners are now international players. Every day we meet new ideas, new markets, new regulatory schemes, new traders and new customs. Our new world may not be exactly "flat" yet. But it's certainly become busier and smaller very quickly.
In Blawg Review #65, we'd like to introduce you to some people we've met. All of them are listed on the left-hand side of our site if you scroll down a bit on a directory we first published on our May 26 post The Legal World Outside America: Non-US Blawgs. The blogs on your left fall into 2 overall categories: (1) legal weblogs which originate outside of the United States and (2) blogs from all over which comment on international law generally, or on a particular subject matter, jurisdiction or region of the world. You can't meet all these people in one day. But here's a few:
Meet first Delia Venables, a well-known consultant in East Sussex, in the southeastern corner of England. "Delia central" is Legal Resources in the UK and Ireland. Our favorite is Blogs, News Feeds, Podcasts, Video Blogs and Wikis with UK and Irish Content. Delia also offers an Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. My friend Justin Patten at Human Law, subtitled "Law, Technology and People" combines, in a novel and interesting way, IP and Employment Law. This is an active, well-written and often provocative blog by a lawyer in Hertfordshire, just north of Greater London. Justin is one of the few non-American members of Law.com's Legal Blog Watch. See his recent post "How Interactive Do You Want to Go?", musing whether blogging lawyers can help create new terms, conditions and billing policies in the legal services market by using the blogosphere to assess and scrutinize them. And Nick Holmes's Binary Law, previously "What’s New on the UK Legal Web?", is consistently excellent and alert to new developments. See Nick's post "Sincere flattery or blatant affrontery?" on copy theft. For fun, charm and wit, also see Charon QC...the Blawg, who is the product of the imagination of Mike Semple Piggot.
Brits Who Love Tech. How can you not love a people who prize eccentricity, love poetry and words and still--judging from their number of Nobel Prize winners over the past 50 years--excel at science and technology? Meet Geeklawyer, an IP lawyer who once did R&D in the US for a company in the "evil American empire" and who blogs about IP, civil liberties, the UK legal system, and "angry liberal" things. He's got a motorcycle called The Terrible and Inexorable Wrath of God, a co-writer named "Ruthie" and--well, just go his site. Words fail me--but never Geeklawyer. A wonderful combination of the substantive and the absurd. See especially his and/or "Ruthie's" recent posts "Darling we're all working class now" or "You Cannot Fucking Swear in Dover". And TechnoLlama, published by Andres Guadamuz in Edinburgh, Scotland, will be blogging this week from Australia, where Andres is attending a conference on "Unlocking IP". Department of I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke--or a Pepsi--Whatever: British blogger Jeremy Phillips, who is popular on more than one continent, turns his eye toward Atlanta and weighs in on the Great Coke Heist in last week's last news at his IPKat-fishing for IP stories for YOU. His post is It's Not The Secret, Silly!
France, my second favorite country, and which in my view has more in common with the US than any other nation, had a bad day yesterday at the World Cup in Berlin at the hands of Italy. We'll start by going to straight to Ca’Paxatagore, with its permanent home-page and truly spectacular view of...the Grand Canal in Venice, of all places. So beautiful though that it's got to cheer anyone up. But blog-wise, the French have lots to be happy about other than the fact that all of the French blogs we've listed to your left are beautiful to look at even though you don't read French anymore. The French still have attitude, too. They wait patiently while we Yanks and Brits either learn or re-learn our French, which is still an official United Nations language. We, for our part, wait patiently while they translate more things into English. In the meantime, we must be happy with Droit en Enfer, with another great title page, and the quote:
God Bless Law
“Law is the ultimate backstage pass. There are more students in law schools than there are lawyers walking the Earth.”
– John Milton/Satan (L’Associé du Diable)
Three German Fulbright Scholarship alums in Hamburg, Berlin and Seattle publish the Atlantic Review, a press digest on trans-Atlantic affairs which won the 2006 award for the Best German Blog in the 2nd Annual European Weblogs Awards sponsored by none other than A Fistful of Euros. AR was founded in July 2003 out of a concern for the deterioration of the US-German relationship. Note the last two posts: German-American Relations on the Eve of President Bush's Visit and What? Germans Sing Nazi Anthem in World Cup Stadium?. There are other fine German blogs, many available in English. One favorite is Transblawg, by Margaret Marks, a British solicitor and translator who lives in Bavaria. Another is the German-American Law Journal, published by a consortium of mainly German lawyer-writers. See last month's post "Forum Shopping in Germany", which in discussing "Internet torts" likens the issue to the one faced by American courts. Nanotechnology Law, by Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani, in Goettingen, assesses "legal implications of nanoscale technologies and the emerging molecular nanotechnology". Hey, no problem.
Bellissimo! Nice going in Berlin! Italy wins the World Cup: Italy Beats France for Title on Penalty Kicks. Enough said. Harvard publishes the Harvard International Review, which for its 100th post ever brings us Why the FIFA World Cup Is and Should Be a Big Deal. It begins:
In an increasingly integrated world with few platforms for international engagement other than war, trade, tourism and sterile political unions, it is understandable that the quadrennial FIFA World Cup has become a major avenue for countries to display their national pride, project their “national character” if there is such a thing, and to unify their diverse populations around a cause.
There are several sites, some listed on your left, which cover the European Union and European law and politics generally. The TransAtlantic Assembly covers an interesting mix of European and American international and constitutional law subjects, with an emphasis on the new European constitution. Recently TAA opined a little on "Election Year Politics, American Style", which is an interesting read. Also worth visiting is ECJBlog, by Allard Knook in the Netherlands, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Utrecht who covers the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
We've tried to find Iraqi law sites--even American military justice or State Department ones. No luck. The University of Pittsburgh School of Law's Jurist Legal News and Research did post "Senior US Iraq general finds Marine commanders at fault in Haditha probe". And then there's Baghdad's Salam Pax, of The Daily Absurdity Report (previously, "Shut Up You Fat Whiner"). Salam Pax has had several blogs since 2002. See his "Democracy Day" post earlier this year on the anniversary of Iraq's first voting experience on January 31, 2005. See his latest post in early June. He says he's working on two video blogs, trying to blog about what's going on in Iraq these days. Excerpts:
A friend of mine, after seeing how desperate and frustrated I was getting trying to get someone to talk on camera, said that I should go to the Kadhimiya district. People will talk there he said. Right. I haven’t been there for ages and I had no reason to believe that it will be different there, but I was getting desperate. I decided to go there the day after a bomb exploded by a bus in that neighbourhood and killed 13 people.
In case you didn’t know Kadhimiya is a Shia district, I have a Sunni family name. The knot in my stomach was getting tighter the closer we got to the check point through which we get into the market area near the Kadhimiya Shrine. What if they ask me for my Iraqi ID? They had an explosion here yesterday and I have a Sunni family name? No this is not paranoia. I have the wrong name and I need to get myself a new forged ID with a Shia name. Anyway, I was lucky they were happy with my NUJ card (the first time I was really happy I had it on me, I usually fear that if people see it they think I’m a foreign journalist).
Once inside I had the biggest eye opener. I saw the future of Iraq, or at least Baghdad. Inside the barricade and past the checkpoint was a piece of the old Baghdad. Shops full of people, all relaxed and smiling. Everybody wants to talk and tell me how their lives are and I even got invited to have tea and accepted the invitation without thinking that this man saw my camera and he is just delaying me until the kidnappers arrive.
Just for fun, try e-mailing Salam Pax like we did and see if afterwards you get funny little clicks on your phone every time you talk to your Mom in Cincinnati.
Visit Seattle-based Dan Harris's China Law Blog--China Law for Business. Just do it. Dan's already an old China hand--and no one does a better job of day-in day-out reporting and commenting about business, government and culture in this incredibly powerful, important and exceedingly complex part of the world. And see Rich Kuslan's Asia Business Intelligence. The focus here is on China, but Rich covers most of Asia. For an interesting primer on multi-cultural manners and a clue why you need real experts in Asia, see Rich's post Sino-British Joint-Venture Dissolved for Rudeness? Similarly, Asia Business Law, based in San Francisco, is another fine resource, which featured on July 4 the post North Korea Intentionally Provokes USA While Iran is Waiting in the Wings--What is China's Role? and a follow-up on July 6 Prognosticating About The North Korean Missile Situation. For some time now, this blog has linked to another fine resource, Chinese Law Prof Blog, edited by GW Law professor Donald Clarke.
We can find just one, Singapore Law Blog, but it's very nicely done. Frequent and to-the-point coverage of legal news and developments in this very old center of trade. Note the recent posts on a free trade agreement with Korea and proposed rules addressing lawyers who defraud clients.
Australia and New Zealand
Next week's Blawg Review host, David Jacobson, is an experienced Australian commercial lawyer who founded Jacobson Consulting. David now publishes David Jacobson's External Insights, which focuses on helping businesses plan and develop policies and tackle complex projects, with a special emphasis on dealing with the ever-expanding maze of government regulations with which all businesses in developed nations must deal. This is a first-rate site from a broad-gauged lawyer. He writes on everything from customer service subjects to the risk of bad publicity in litigation and venture capital models. Oikos, by David Jeffreys, an environmental lawyer, is a blog about ecology, environmental law and related economic issues. If you are interested in fossil fuels, greenhouse gases and in the global warming "hoax", do see Climate Change Litigation in Australia. On client service and relations, Liz Harris has a new blog called Allocatur. In "Are You Defaming Your Client?", she points out that's it's bad enough to have an adversary relationship with your client--and even worse when that comes out in litigation during e-discovery. Finally, Wellington, New Zealand's Geoff Sharp has a blog you'll just have to experience yourself. It's called mediator blah..blah. Great graphics, too. See Geoff's post last month "Meet the Fockers".
One of the most comprehensive resources for client service ideas and education anywhere in the world can be found at the Canadian Bar Association’s CBA Practice Link. And American-lawyer bloggers are familiar with Gerry Riskin's well-known Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices and Toronto-based technology lawyer Rob Hyndman technology. Rob has a terrific recent post entitled Now Bloggers Really Can Be Journalists. Academic blogging is also strong in Canada, too. The University of Toronto Law Faculty Blog is an active and often provocative one. Recently, three UT professors wrote three different commentaries in three different newspapers on a recent Canadian "spousal misconduct" decision you can pick up on here. And Canadian lawyers are batting around the same issues which occupy American legal debate--see "Too Much 'Truthiness' in Judicial Activism Debate". Blawg Review's precocious editors also have introduced us to Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, who focuses almost entirely on IT privacy issues, such as monitoring by ISPs of customer communications. There are quite a few substantive specialty blogs, for example, Michael Fitzgibbon's Thoughts From a Management Lawyer, David Fraser's Canadian Privacy Law Blog, Simon Fodden's popular Slaw, "a co-operative weblog about Canadian legal research and IT" and Christine Mingie's interesting Gaming Law International, a subject which has received increasing coverage at International Bar Association meetings over the past three years.
Other Resources: International Law, Economics and Policy
The American Society of International Law has publishes the "ERG", known formally as the ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law. Around since 1997, ASIL's "ERG" is a fabulous site which escaped us--thanks to the Blawg Review editors for pointing it out.
Independence Day in the US last week prompted the usual range of commentary from patriotic to highly critical of American policies here and abroad. On balance, we are happy with and therefore reprise here last year's highly respected July 4th Jeffersonian Blawg Review (#13), by the Editor of Blawg Review. This year, on July 5th, ex-Enron chief Ken Lay died. No shortage of commentary here either, but some of the best was in Peter Lattman's WSJ Law Blog in Lay's Death: Questions and Answers and a later collection of reactions to Lay's demise and its effect on Enron litigation. Another very fine and thoughtful post belonged to Tom Kirkendall at Houston's Clear Thinkers entitled Ken Lay and the Enron Myth. Peter Henning, at his well-respected White Collar Crime Prof Blog, explained the quite-dispositive legal effect of Lay's passing on the criminal proceedings against him in Ken Lay Dies of a Heart Attack, also referred to in Lattman's posts. Larry Ribstein, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, at Ideoblog, prompted a stir by treating Lay insightfully but somewhat sympathetically, as reflected here and here. Do crimes in the "foolish" category really support, in Lay's case, a life sentence in prison? Dave Hoffman at Concurring Opinions came to Ribstein's defense in The Academic Business Judgment Rule. And last week another interesting "event" occurred--it went unnoticed by nearly everyone but the Secrecy News from the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the US statute presumptively requiring release of public record to petitioning citizens, turned 40 on July 4. FOIA is still about as "American" as a statute can get--and it has been replicated by nations all over the globe since Lyndon Johnson signed it into law on July 4, 1966.
"International" Lawyers? Say what?
What's an international lawyer, anyway? A lawyer who knows certain aspects of international law? Or a lawyer, as one joke used to go, "who is just an international kind of person"? Well, maybe both definitions apply these days. It's changing. In America, there's still a longstanding, relatively small, elite and irreplaceable bar of "real" international lawyers. These are your partners down the hall who represent domestic and foreign interests before several US agencies and forums responsible for tariff, trade and customs laws: the Department of Commerce, the International Trade Commission, the Trade Representative's Office, the Court of International Trade, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Customs Service. You may hear them talking about antidumping and countervailing duty law, export controls and unfair trade practices. Another segment of this group does complex transactions involving treaties and laws of jurisdictions abroad. Some have always worked abroad. Others somehow mix diplomacy and business. More recently, many lobby before and/or litigate against foreign governments, and some do commercial arbitrations. Todd Weiler, historically one of the real deals, asks "Am I Still An International Trade Lawyer?" one week ago in International Law and Economic Policy Blog. Excerpt: "I run in two circles: (1) historically and academically, I know a lot of trade law types (trade remedy lawyers, WTO scholars and enthusiasts, etc.); but (2) currently I spend my time with international commercial arbitration lawyers." Todd, to answer your question, your hybrid status in the future may be the rule.
Final Notes and Blawg Review #66.
We hope Blawg Review #65 was interesting--or at least gave you an idea or two. In recent years, "international law" has become a fluid concept that changes even as we were writing this. There are lots of ways to learn more. For starters, the London-based International Bar Association's annual meeting this year will be held 17-22 September 2006 in Chicago, USA. Details are here.
At this blog, we'd like to help "expand the digital conversation" afforded by the blogosphere and keep it full, fresh, inclusive, useful and reflective of our new world. Right now, though, the conversation remains lopsided. Not enough people in the conversation. What About Clients? would love to hear about legal or "international" (you decide) weblogs you can recommend in any language from or about Latin American, eastern European, Africa and Mideastern jurisdictions, and Russia. And we claim no turf here. So start including your own favorite non-US blawgs or blogs about non-US subjects on your blogrolls. Spread the word a little.
With that important request, we conclude Blawg Review #65. We thank the editors of Blawg Review and the creative if mysterious anonymous Editor 'n' Chef for asking us to do this, even if at the last minute. It was an honor. All errors or omissions are due to this hosting blog alone. If you have a site or post you recommend, e-mail us at email@example.com and we'll attend to it as quickly as we can.
Blawg Review has information about next week's host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.
July 04, 2006
Patriotism, Liberty and Learning.
Happy Birthday, America.
Yesterday my British friend Justin Patten at Human Law posted Britain falls out of love with America - Is this the death of the special relationship? I spent a good chunk of early 2003 through late 2004 in England, Wales, France, Germany and eastern Europe. I paid dues explaining and often defending the US decision to invade Iraq to European friends and business people who deeply cared about America and its role in the world. They thought America had gone nuts. I reminded them America's geographic isolation from the rest of the world, past successes, free-for-all mentality and unfortunate histories of violence and land acquisition were part of the reason. But Europeans seem to understand our history, traditions and culture much better than we understand theirs. Now, they are just as concerned and appalled as three years ago. The point is no longer Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, or Wherever. It's the fear that America has become so isolated, ignorant and dismissive of non-American cultures that we are now permanently out-to-lunch. It's no longer about US tourist run-ins with feisty French hotel clerks over room sizes or with London cabbies over fares to Heathrow. It's serious.
Americans are the new Romans. Looked-up to but feared. To be fair, ancient Rome made studied efforts to understand the new terrains and cultures in their path. We don't, and we don't care. We never have. Remember the JFK saying? "Liberty without learning is always in peril." Well, here's a better quote, from a dead-serious Hunter Thompson in 1972 during a different war: "This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it--that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesman with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms about killing anyone who tries to make us uncomfortable." You don't have to be a liberal, conservative, libertarian or even a-political American these days to find something true in those words. Everyone should be concerned. Our British, French, German and other friends abroad still love us. They just want us to snap out of it. They want Americans to understand and embrace the non-American world.
June 28, 2006
Shameless Plug: Doing Business In North America (2006 edition)
Yorkhill Law Publishing, an arm of the respected Center for International Legal Studies in Salzburg, Austria, recently released the 2006 update of Legal Aspects of Doing Business in North America, edited by Christian Campbell. First published in 1988, the three-volume set focuses on the needs of non-North American businesses. It spells out requirements for doing business and investing in Canada and the United States, including state-by-state and province-by-province analyses. Chapters are prepared by local practitioners and offer practical insights into issues relating to choice of entity, securities, environmental, taxation, labor law and dispute resolution. The new Pennsylvania chapter was authored by my firm, Hull McGuire PC. Other contributors include Clifford Chance (New York chapter), Baker & McKenzie (Texas) and Barnes & Thornburg (Indiana). Doing Business is available in print, CD or online. To find out more, or to order, go here.
Here's a first-rate primer on international arbitration by lawyers from DLA Piper's London and New York offices. It appeared June 26 in Law.Com's In-House Counsel, reprinted from the New York Law Journal.
June 22, 2006
The New Constant: European Hostility Toward U.S.
This column by Newsweek's Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey appeared yesterday in Newsweek online. My two cents is that the column understates European disapproval of the U.S. government. And the more educated the speaker, the more intense the hostility. You need to know about it if you or yours do business in any part of Europe. It is a fact which colors the most pedestrian Euro-American relationship. It's more on peoples' minds and a more popular small talk or dinner conversation subject than the weather, the European Union or World Cup soccer. Since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, it has not let up.
Latin American Legal Weblogs?
To follow up on earlier posts over the past few months, WAC? is calling for suggestions of active legal weblogs from or about jurisdictions in Latin America to link to the left-hand side of this blog. Any language is fine. So far we have 125 active blawgs from 24 countries, jurisdictions or intergovernmental bodies (i.e., European Union)
June 20, 2006
The Manchester School, Free Trade and Starbucks...
At times, but rarely, I have mixed emotions about Letting Markets Solve Everything. I used to joke that I would return to Cincinnati some day to find that Starbucks had opened up a branch in my parents' living room. Starbucks is indeed everywhere, and installed so uniformly and and evenly all over Europe that you can forget where you really are. There's one in Madrid I was in a lot 3 years ago that is a spitting image of one near my house in California--right down to the bright shiny employees who pretend to be your buddy (and say your name about 5 times, which is why I am known as "Jack"), the location of the bathrooms and those 3 people/fixtures on their laptops. And there's McDonald's, of course, and Subway, Burger King. Americanization--from slang you hear on the streets and TV commercials to clothing and truly stunning cosmetic surgery--is nothing to fear anymore. It's an established fact of life. Here's a kicker: today in Manchester near Granada Television Studios on Water Street I saw a huge sign that says for about USD $700 you can get a direct flight from Manchester, England, first city of the industrial revolution, to Las Vegas, Nevada.
June 18, 2006
Troutbeck, Windermere, Cumbria, England
We live in a world that never sleeps, and now it combines the ancient with the digital. I left Manchester three days ago to attend the wedding of a London lawyer up here in the Lake District. My hotel for the first night, the Queen’s Head, in Troutbeck, near Windermere, is about 400 years old and looks out over a very narrow winding road, green valleys, daffodils, sheep, cattle, the ruins of old stone houses and hundreds of miles of grey stone fences in the shadows of fells (mountains). All of the fences--and some of the older houses--are done by dry stone. No mortar at all, and they meander up and down the fells and the valleys and around the lakes for hundreds of miles, like multiple Hadrian's walls stitching everything together. These are the same fences the Lake poets like Wordsworth walked along 200 years ago. Prince Charles has declared dry stone a lost art, and he wants people to re-learn it to keep the fences in repair.
There is no telephone in any room at the Queen’s Head, a rustic inn even around here, in the quiet Troutbeck Valley, not far from the old Roman Road. No internet connections. Just one pay phone near the dining room off the pub, and also a fax, they claim. But it doesn't matter--a Sony Ericsson cell phone and the T-Mobile service allow better wireless connections to talk to clients and my office than I get in the U.S. A Treo or a BlackBerry work just fine here. Clients have no idea where I am unless I tell them. In a way, it's a shame. This morning I saw a farmer in one of the rolling fields way down below me in a scene of timeless pastoral beauty and, yes, he had to his ear a silvery cell phone as he paced around between the sheep, their still-nursing lambs and the old stone walls designed to keep them from getting lost or hurt on his neighbor's property. Otherwise, the year was 1730, or earlier.
One great thing if you need to keep working while you travel out here is this: in Europe, I am always at least 5 or 6 hours ahead of North America, which means that I can do "immovable" weekly conferences on ongoing projects in the early afternoon rather than 5:30 to 8:30 AM. I am ahead of the game--that's never true when I am in, say, California. In the western U.S., when I call it a day and go to sleep, workers in the UK, Germany and the rest of Europe are checking their e-mail accounts and just starting their day.
June 13, 2006
Later today I leave for Chicago, then to Manchester, England for a couple of days, and finally for points further north and more rural. Manchester is the UK's second city--like Chicago, but with a bit less glitz. Hardworking, industrial, and "northern" in both geography and character, Manchester, with its Roman origins, is a place to get things done. With a population of over 2 million, it is home to the newspaper The Guardian, two major football clubs, Granada Television Studios, The Royal Bank of Scotland, the Hollies (that's Graham Nash's first band if you're under 40) and even Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders. Manchester folks are indeed British--but they’re not the tweed-clad, class-conscious proper chaps and ladies of southern England in our unfortunate American stereotype of what is English. Northerners, even in the cities, are in fact a little friendlier and more down-to-earth than southerners. Mixing travel with business is an education and great fun--but you've got to know where you are, and who you are with. Chicago is not New York. Manchester is not London. England isn't the U.S. Even though the Brits' style of doing business is closer to the Americans' than that of any other nationality, we are still very different. So what happens when Americans do business with the English? And which English? English trading with Germans? Or Germans with Japanese? For more on doing business abroad, see Richard Lewis's book When Cultures Collide: Managing Successfully Across Cultures.
June 08, 2006
Dan Harris, China Law Blog and China Business.
For years our firm has acted for clients in the Americas and Europe--but only recently in Asian markets and China, where we have our own "trusted advisors". We are not experts yet. If you are new to the brave new world of China, and want to get a good feel for doing business there, along with some very interesting news and insights, see China Law Blog by Seattle-based Dan Harris. This is a business lawyer's blog by a business lawyer with strong ties to China and an active office there. Western newcomers to China business are made quite welcome at Dan's site. And check out his "Favorite Blogs" on China law and business on the lower right hand of China Law Blog. WAC? will add quite a few of these to our catalogue of non-U.S. blogs.
June 03, 2006
...and the Times of London has a legal weblog.
We learn from Point of Law and Robert Ambrogi that the Times of London--the Murdoch publication which announced plans to enter the U.S. market--has been publishing Law Weblog since February. It may be just WAC? but The Times' new blog looks and feels a bit like Peter Lattman's Law Blog launched in January at The Wall Street Journal.
Special Saturday Glimpse into the Eternally Serious Swiss...
Click here. Since we are talking in European stereotypes here, note that this tragedy occurred in traditional, old-fashioned Vienna, Austria. Our thanks to YouTube, Margaret Marks at Transblawg and one of the editors at the International Desk of Blawg Review.
June 02, 2006
South African Legal Weblogs?
And we know you are out there. A South African commercial litigator, Paul Jacobson, just let us know about his blog. If you publish or know about other active blawgs originating in or about South Africa, please let us know so we can add it to the growing list on your bottom left of non-U.S. blawgs. Thanks to some excellent blawgs here and abroad and a few of our betters like Blawg Review there's increasing interest in the WAC? effort to expand the digital conversation with the rest of the world by creating a solid catalogue of non-U.S. legal weblogs. In the next few days, we--well, a hard working guy in Pennsylvania named Tom who started out as a corporate tax lawyer but now is headed for more fun if contentious projects--will add here links of recently-submitted non-U.S. blawgs. We'd do it sooner but at WAC? we don't just talk about the mysteries of high-end global clients who trade everywhere. We have to work for them, too.
May 29, 2006
More Non-U.S. Blawgs
Since the post immediately below, we've received suggestions for about 10 more non-U.S. legal weblogs from or about the jurisdictions of Canada, Germany, Netherlands Antilles and New Zealand to add to the catalogue. If you publish or know about an active blawg you'd like to recommend, please send the site by comment or e-mail.
May 26, 2006
The Legal World Outside America: Non-U. S. Blawgs
If you scroll down a little on your left, you'll see our first edition of a catalogue of non-U.S. legal weblogs from or about (I) The West and (II) Asia. Latin America, Africa and the Middle East are next. We'll keep building on this--just as my own firm has built an international practice over the past 10 years. The idea here is to catalogue active quality "foreign" blawgs so we can all expand the digital conversation into the non-U.S. legal community and make a few new friends and contacts. WAC? has worked on this project for a while--see e.g., here, here, here and here--and commentators or bloggers like Rupert White of the UK Law Gazette, England’s Justin Patten, Nick Holmes and Delia Venables and the United States' Bob Ambrogi have mentioned or weighed in on this effort.
Suggestions for additional non-U.S. blogs are welcome. They should be active legal weblogs. Blogs without English language versions are fine, as many lawyers and business people--especially outside America--are multilingual.
Why do this? Where or what does it get American attorneys?
First, many jurisdictions around the world--especially in Europe and Latin America--have legal systems remarkably similar to America’s for historical and cultural reasons. Some don't. But as many more of us and our clients dive into the new international mix, it's good to know something about these jurisdictions legally and especially culturally. Many of these blogs are excellent, like China Law Blog, The Canadian Privacy Law Blog and TechnoLlama, to name just a few. Some cover developments in the European Union, and other focus on one practice area in several countries or regions.
Second, American lawyers with corporate and high-end practices in solo shops, boutiques and firms under, say, 300 lawyers should be especially interested in "meeting" lawyers and businesses headquartered outside of the U.S. There are opportunities to do U.S. work domestically on behalf of these entities. You don't need offices in London, Brussels or Beijing to obtain or do that work.
Finally, this could be great fun.
May 20, 2006
Blawgs Abroad: WAC? Catalogue of The West and Asia Nearing Completion.
I The West
May 12, 2006
China, California, and "Foreign" Influences In Both.
See the post, China's Foreign Law Firms Under Seige?, by Dan Harris at China Law Blog. It's about a Chinese government memorandum discussing a crackdown on "foreign" lawyers engaging in a range of "illegal" practices in China, including what amounts to unauthorized practice of law. As Dan notes, this may be part of a greater movement by Chinese authorities to combat foreign influences. This is unfortunate, as Westerners try to mix in the new Chinese markets. However, I agree with Dan that it's not all that remarkable. China is no more insular, territorial and medieval toward "foreign" business lawyers than the 50 states are toward China lawyers. Moreover, several American states in particular are arguably more backward and restrictive than China. For example, California, one of four jurisdictions where I am licensed, is supposedly a progressive state with a huge and vibrant economy. But it still has a non-reciprocity bar admission policy with respect to licensing out-of-state lawyers--as if it refuses to recognize that business is done across both state and international borders. Massachusetts' Alan Dershowitz would have to take the 2-day "lawyers" California bar exam--a world-class waste of time and money--along side hundreds of 25-year-olds named Justin, Brandon and Brittany to argue more than one appellate case a year here. So would Florida's Roy Black and New York's David Boies in the trial courts. So China and California (and other non-reciprocity states) are about even on the anti-business and general madness meters.
May 09, 2006
Delia Venables' UK and Irish Sites.
Delia Venables, a consultant in the county of East Sussex, in the southeastern corner of England, is my new friend. From across the big pond comes Delia's great sites and "Delia Central" is Legal Resources in the UK and Ireland. Do see our favorite Blogs, News Feeds, Podcasts, Video Blogs and Wikis with UK and Irish Content. Delia also offers an Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. These are are comprehensive and interesting resources for the legal on-line coummunity in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Yanks, of course, are always welcome and encouraged to point, click and join in. Most Brits still like most of us most of the time. And the UK and Irish legal systems still bear amazing similarities to our own. Also, Delia is starting to link to and discuss in detail some U.S. blawgs.
April 27, 2006
Department of Legal Life Outside America: Last Call for Australian and NZ Legal Weblogs.
A little help? We're still looking for recommendations of any good Australian and New Zealand blawgs as part of the continuing effort to collect good and active "foreign" or non-U.S. blawgs. The response on this round (Round III) has been disappointing. Two earlier rounds gathering sites from Europe (I) and Asia (II) went well. We all know good Australian/NZ blawgs are out there. Just who are you/they?
April 08, 2006
France: Civilized, Educated, Talented, Proud - But Not Like Us?
As modes of work and workplace, including their definitions, keep changing, "work ethic" is never an easy subject. And France is my second favorite country. Justin Patten Human Law, in his very fine UK blawg, comments on a recent cover story on the future of France in The Economist. Recently, business-friendly French labor legislation, which lets employers to fire workers under 26-years-old without cause for the first two years of their tenure, has triggered demonstrations throughout France. The French have a 10% unemployment rate. Here is just one interesting excerpt from Justin's post about the article in The Economist:
1. According to the Economist, in a new poll whereas 71% of Americans, 66% of the British and 65% of Germans agreed that the free market was the best system of all, only 36% of the French believed this.
2. The Economist also cites that in one poll 3/4 of young French people would like to be a civil servant, mostly because it would mean a "job for life".
Amazing statistics--and had it not come from The Economist, I would not have believed them. But the French, like Americans, have a little of everything and everyone, do fight among themselves about ideas, and have a history of getting to the right answer in time. Still, these are disturbing numbers. How many of your clients so far this year asked you to help establish a sales or distribution office or light manufacturing plant in France with 20 to 30 employees?
March 27, 2006
At the Canadian Bar Association, Client Service Merits Full-Time Emphasis.
I've noted that, on the subject of clients, the Oklahoma Bar Association's Jim Calloway "gets it". The Canadian bar people seems to get it, too. For months now I've included as a link to this site the Canadian Bar Association's CBA PracticeLink (scroll down bottom right). PracticeLink--which I've also discussed before because it actively advocates sane lawyer writing--even includes a special page for clients called Client Services. Lots of solid resources here. Just one of them is the
Client Care Handbook, originally entitled 30 Best Practices - Strategies for Law Firm Management. The CBA PracticeLink, including that 58-page booklet, is also translated into French. Clients need a few heroes, and here is one more.
J. Daniel Hull
March 23, 2006
Round III of It's All Happening At the Zoo: Australian/New Zealand Blawgs?
Any good and active Australian or New Zealand blawgs out there? Australia is now a "player" and, hey, these folks like to trade, fight, talk and hold forth, too. For background, see this February post on the attempt to put together a list of good non-US blogs in English. So far we've done western European and China blogs. Bill Gratsch's well-known and much visited Blawg.org has collected quite a few blawgs for a number of foreign jurisdictions, including Australia--but I'd like to know what you and the Australian/NZ blawgers think. So pitch us. Courting Disaster, by a Melbourne lawyer now in Cambridge seems like a lively one. So does Australian Legal Eye, which also covers New Zealand and Asia Pacific markets. Any others?
J. Daniel Hull
March 20, 2006
Last Call: Asia Law Weblogs, Anyone?
Note the March 2 post here, which shows we still need more Asia law blogs (English versions) regardless of where they originate. So far we have only three--two China and one India--all linked to this blog if you scroll down to the right. We seek good active ones you recommend. Round I was western European blawgs and Round II Asia. Round III will be Australia.
March 15, 2006
China Law Blog Has Made Some Great Posts Lately.
China Law Blog, a site based in both the U.S and China, has made some great posts lately commenting on China business news and regulatory developments, including reports on the slow but positive changes in Chinese IP enforcement policy. But for people just getting interested in doing business in China there's another interesting and practical CLB March 9 post called "Doing Business in China - A Good List of the Basics", by Dan Harris of Harris & Moure, which runs this great new site. Caution: Don't try to do business or law things in China without experienced "China hands".
March 10, 2006
The Return of Geeklawyer
Human and Naked: Brits Who Blawg--Part 2
Interesting statistics from The Economist: In 2000, the United Kingdom had a population of about 60 million, and the US had 285 million, or close to 5 times as many people as the UK. Yet in 100 years between 1901 and 2001 the UK boasted 88 Nobel Prize winners (most of them English) and the US 179. So the UK hatches 50% as many Nobel Laureates as the US with an overall talent pool one-fifth the size.
Moreover, 60 of the 88 UK Nobel prizes were in Chemistry, Physics or Medicine. So Brits [heart] science and "tech", too--and they are obviously very good at it. In legal tech and IP, here are two more Brits who blawg with great sites:
1. Justin Patten at Human Law, subtitled "Law, Technology and People" combines, in a novel and interesting way, IP and Employment Law. This is an active blog by a guy in Hertfordshire, just north of Greater London, who can both write and cover the issues even-handedly.
2. Naked Law, "UK Technology Law Laid Bare by Cambridge Lawyers" is written by the Cambridge office of London-based Mills & Reeve, a relatively large UK firm. It focuses on legal and regulatory developments affecting IT and technology in the UK. I'm going to monitor this one as well--lots of talented people in this key UK firm.
March 07, 2006
Brits Who Blawg with Attitude.
Our firm's practice has taken us to the southern UK quite a bit: London, Suffolk, Kent, and Cardiff, Wales. During one of those trips I detoured to Lindsey, in Suffolk, a still tiny village where my mother's side of the family left in 1632 via Ipswich, England to go to a place called Groton, Massachusetts, named for another tiny village near Lindsey. I got hooked on the countryside, and on the people, too. So I like the English. Not because I "claim" them, or even that they claim me. Indeed, English clients and lawyer friends alike used to openly worry that socially I'm too outgoing and "American friendly" for tea time.
It's true that the English are wordier than Yanks; it's also true that they are about 10 times more careful than Americans are about what actually comes out of their mouths. Socially, an American is always an embarrassing accident waiting to happen. Brits assess the terrain.
But whether they admit it or not--and they generally won't--Brits are very much like Americans, and in ways other than government, law and a shared language base. They mix humor with business, they are driven, they address personal and professional difficulties with optimism, self-deprecation and grit. And they vent, rant and even attack like us. In this sense, two of the English legal weblogs I discovered in our search for good non-U.S. blawgs are operated by true American cousins:
1. Diary of a Criminal Solicitor by "Gavin", who gives you detailed and funny blow-by-blow tours of his often frustrating days through Legal London, along with sounding off about "anything and everything" that gets up his nose; and
2. Geeklawyer, by an IP lawyer who once did R&D in the U.S. for the "evil American empire" and who blogs about IP, civil liberties, the legal system, and "angry liberal" things. He's got a motorcycle named "Ruthie", too.
Both of these are worthy reads-- besides, these guys are fun.
March 06, 2006
Calling All "Foreign" Blawgs: "Amazing Countries, Amazing Practices!"
And often with legal systems amazingly similar to our own--apologies to Gerry Riskin but I love his blog and its name.
Any more re: western Europe or Asia blawgs out here?...Rupert White at the UK's Law Gazette--a magazine with circulation of 110,000 published by The Law Society of England and Wales, the regulatory and representative body for 116,000 solicitors--was kind enough to do an article about our efforts at What About Clients? to identify, link with and learn from non-U.S. blawgs. The article is "US Litigator Reaches Out To Euro Blogs". In the interest of disclosure, the bracketed expression "[an exercise in navel-gazing]" in the article's quote of me was a prudent and kind substitution by Rupert of my characterization of the sometimes insular nature of American blawging. (I had used the term "wankfest".) Anyway, to break that pattern, a few weeks ago we started asking for recommendations on active but good western European blawgs and Asia blawgs. The idea is at the February 23 post in "It's All Happening At The Zoo". The results so far are in the comments and linked to this site.
March 02, 2006
Once Again: Asia Law Blawgs, Anyone?
So far Tom Welshonce and I have located (and listed on this site) U.S./China-based China Law Blog by Seattle's Harris & Moure and ChinaBlawger by Beijing's well-known IP and business firm Lehman, Lee & Xu, founded years ago by my visionary IBLC friend Ed Lehman. Any other active and worthwhile English versions ones out there?
February 23, 2006
Last Call: Western European Legal Weblogs? Or... It's All Happening at the Zoo.
So far I received--mainly from English, Scottish and Swedish lawyers--about 15 names of English-version western European blawgs in response to my posts over the last week. You can see them in the comments here. Any others? The short-term goal is to compile a list of active high quality (even profane and strident is okay--i.e., Brits value oddity now and then) western European blawgs. Next, we'll put calls out for blawgs in Australia/New Zealand, China, Japan, Eastern Europe, South Africa, Russia, the Middle East, Latin America, etc. A few points on all this:
1. The long-term goal is to expand and deepen our running "conversation"--and help link American legal bloggers to lawyers and resources (both "legal" and non-legal) in other countries, other spheres and other on-line communities. Just as many of us would like to know what non-lawyer American bloggers are thinking and doing about the law, business, marketing and the world in general, some of us would also like to know what "foreign" lawyers are thinking and doing.
2. The Problem. American lawyers who blog--and bloggers everywhere for that matter--limit themselves in geography and audience. We tend to "talk to ourselves". That's ironic. Even though we are all in the ideas business--and even though we have this wonderful ability to reach people everywhere in a matter of seconds--we often limit ourselves to insular conversations in this discipline or that one, engaging primarily people "just like us". Well-educated Americans are guilty of this in and out of blogging.
3. Clients. If you have business clients--and even if you have mom-and-pop clients or solely clients which are individuals--you and your clients are likely very soon to be doing business abroad or for interests abroad if you are not already. It's all happening now--even for American litigators. Contact me and I'll give you examples of German and UK clients in our own practice.
4. Language barriers? This is primarily a North American problem. Foreign professionals--German, French, Spanish, Scandinavian and Latin American--are fluently speaking, writing and doing business in American English and "English" English with great skill. They have been for years. And many, many foreign sites now offer English versions as well. We don't need to master new languages.
February 21, 2006
Revisited: European blawgs anyone?
I'm still compiling a list of active worthwhile European legal blogs--especially those originating from or about the UK, Germany and France (English versions if possible), western Europe generally and the European Union. I've received some good responses (in comments to February 16 post) If anyone else of any nationality can recommend European sites they like and visit frequently, I would appreciate it.
February 16, 2006
European blawgs anyone?
I'm compiling a list of active worthwhile European legal blogs--especially those originating from or about the UK, Germany and France (English versions if possible), western Europe generally and the European Union. If anyone of any nationality can recommend European sites they like and visit frequently, I would appreciate it.
February 08, 2006
Yanks Abroad Gone Wild--Part 2
Lots of us are interested in geographic growth strategies--for our clients and for our firms. Particularly interesting to me (see recent post) are instincts like "growth for growth's sake" and "if it's there, we must conquer it". In that discussion, the WSJ Law Blog has also picked up on Bruce MacEwen's fine recent post in Adam Smith, Esq on the competency of U.S. law firm global expansion. David Maister noticed the post, too, and left a comment to Bruce's post referring to an article he wrote called Geographic Expansion Strategies which appeared a couple of years ago in some European and Australian papers. These are two fine articles. One notion common to both is the importance of deciding whether expansion even makes sense (at what price glory?) and--if so--devising a winning strategy you can really implement. Or, as David puts it, have you really "made yourself ready to win?"
Geographic expansion of a law firm is really an issue of geographic "coverage" of your clients' needs and activities. Whether your clients' activities are regional, national, global, or one square mile, can you get the work done? Expertly? Efficiently? It's not a matter of your firm's geographic "location", your brick and mortar offices. Location is less and less important. No, I don't think (yet) that that good business clients these days are ready for virtual law firms, or that so-called "flattening" dynamics offered by technology will allow a solo or boutique firm to be competitive with Jones Day or or Clifford Chance in any given niche practice area. Most clients still expect brick and mortar locations, and will use 1000+ lawyer law firms when that makes sense. But the dust has settled enough in the evolving global economy that we can all start asking questions about future geographic expansion in terms of "geographic coverage" and not "law offices locations" to service clients in whatever locations the clients are active. For starters, in a given law practice area for a discrete industry, (1) how big/small and (2) where (brick and mortar) do you have to be to service good business clients no matter where they are active? And (3) what level (if any) of outsourcing will be acceptable to the client?
February 03, 2006
Yanks Abroad: Too Far, Too Fast the Wrong Way?
I was very interested to read a sober but wonderful post by Adam Smith (Bruce MacEwen) on global expansion by U.S. law firms abroad, especially in Europe, where my boutique firm is increasingly active but careful. It's called New Market Entry and the Cognitive Bias Minefield and worth reading. The post starts out "Global Expansion Junkies: I have bad news." Years ago, as young lawyers, a number of my friends and I in Washington, D.C. labored through "strategic" law firm mergers--all domestic and a couple of them pretty large for back then--which failed to bear lasting fruit. When things fell apart, as they often did, naturally clients and their lawyers alike were put at various types of risk. These were tough times to be service-oriented, and only the best lawyers could prevent the low morale from affecting their work for clients. In the mergers, "culture clash" was one problem, even between U.S. offices only 300 miles a part. The wrong mix of practice areas, inadequate due diligence and failure to analyze markets correctly were others. Lots of firms made mistakes. But the biggest overall problem was the pumping-iron kind of "let's get big--let's get really big!" ethos which is only human and was very 1980's. Lots of yellow ties, Hugo Boss suits and suspenders to go along with the bravado and hubris.
January 26, 2006
Will We All Be International Lawyers? Are We Already?
One of the things I've been trying to tell you all--like here in a September 30, 2005 post about the International Bar Association's meeting last year in Prague and the International Business Law Consortium my firm joined in 1998--is that law practice is changing. I am still not sure exactly why, how and how fast. But I am sure that the global economy's impact on competition in even the most basic and rudimentary service businesses is no New Age b.s.
Before law school I majored in History (not Economics) and wrote my honors thesis on something like "How the [Japanese] Shishi Got the Chutzpah to Overthrow the Bakafu". And, rather than Paul Samuelson, I read Chaucer, Melville and Hunter Thompson. So with these macro issues, I struggle. I speculate. I get comments and mail from people who imply I'm out of my area--and they are probably right.
So I'll stick to federal courts, the Clean Water Act Title VI appropriations for FY 2007, selling my firm's corporate tax and international practices, and making our clients happy. Besides, Adam Smith, Esq. (New Yorker Bruce MacEwen) discusses it a lot better in this recent post "Where Will Your Firm Be in 2015?" than I can, have thus far or likely ever could.
September 30, 2005
Think Globally, Act Globally?--It's a New World for Lawyers, Ready or Not...
Law practices with clients who trade across borders are becoming the norm.
This week about 3000 lawyers are meeting in Prague in the Czech Republic at the annual convention of the International Bar Association. The IBA has members ranging from solos to some of the largest firms in the world. If you have never been to a meeting of lawyers from jurisdictions all over the world, you should do it. The programs (about 260 in Prague this week!) are generally excellent and the contacts attractive. And whether you are already a full-time, experienced international customs and trade lawyer or are a state court litigator who rarely handles matters involving events outside your county, it's time to join an international group. Potential clients from outside the U.S. are all around you. And your U.S. clients may venture into Europe or Asia any day now.
Seven years ago my firm became the Pittsburgh member of the International Business Law Consortium and it forever changed the way we thought about clients, practicing law and marketing. Smaller than the IBA, the IBLC is an alliance of about 70 law and accounting firms, generally under 100 lawyers, in strategically located cities around the world. The firms meet 2 to 3 times a year in member cities -- generally western Europe and North and Latin America. (We just concluded a 3-day meeting in Dresden, Germany.) When and where appropriate, we use the lawyers of other member firms on client projects or outright refer work to other member firms.
If you aren't Baker & McKenzie or Freshfields, it's a good way to have "branch offices" without the liability issues faced by a large firm with branch offices. There are scores of lawyers groups like this worldwide. The trick is (1) to join one with first-rate firms and (2) to have some say as to recruitment of new members.
Why did we join the IBLC group in 1998? Just what did we gain?
(1) Outgoing work: the ability to get things done for our North American clients abroad. A number of our clients, traditionally served by much larger firms, like the idea of our being able to find lawyers who we say we know and trust in major commercial capitals of the world. Because the group is small and increasingly intimate, firms getting work from other member firms tend to make the work referred to them a priority and do their best work. There are unspoken but powerful group "sanctions" for mediocre service or dropping the ball in any way.
(2) Incoming work: foreign clients doing business or litigating here in the U.S. The group lets us meet new clients from abroad who don't need or want to use a 300+ lawyer U.S. or international firm to do its U.S. work. If we meet them through our IBLC members, we may become one of a handful of U.S. firms the foreign client even knows about or meets. That's positioning at its best.
(3) "A New Frame of Reference": We have picked up on some differences in folkways -- both major and subtle -- between parties and litigants in deals and ADR forums around the world which, frankly, I am embarrassed we were not adequately attuned to previously. We are learning new things.