Attorneys Representing
Foreign Nationals

Uncover Your Foreign Client's
Cultural Baggage

Why Working with Foreign Clients Presents a Unique Opportunity to Educate Them

Of course, you want to reach out to your non-English-speaking client in his language. To educate him about the issues, which can be relevant to his case. You’re just trying to help, to offer legal advice to best meet your foreign client‘s needs. So why is he second-guessing you? Why does he seem so distrustful?

Remember that many foreign clients have never been in contact with lawyers, and are not familiar with our legal system. They perceive crimes and conflicts differently than American-born citizens, based on their own cultural experiences, or their “cultural baggage”.

Consider a client from Bosnia who refuses to comprehend the legal fiction behind plea bargaining to a lesser charge. He not only has nothing in his frame of cultural reference to compare this concept to, but suspiciously asks you, if a thing like that could be legal.

Consider also a male native of Russia, who seems uncooperative to the attorney who’s trying to defend him against an assault charge. But fistfights are an accepted form of dispute resolution in Russia and some other countries, and the client asked to show remorse may refuse to do so due to the lack of understanding.

To effectively represent clients from other cultures, prepare to play a detective to uncover their cultural baggage and prerogatives. Ask questions about their values and expectations; about how things are done in their culture.

Only then will you be able to offer the best solution to their legal problem, and frame it in such a way, that they will get it. Only then will you be able to reach out to them in their languages with the help of the legal translation service that attorneys trust, and educate them about the issues, which are relevant to foreigners.

Up Next: What Foreign Clients Want from Their Lawyers