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During the 1990s, Peter Engstrom accepted a 1 1/2-year legal assignment that required frequent travel to Kazakhstan. “It was a rough place to be,” said Engstrom, the former North American managing partner of Baker & McKenzie, now a member of the firm’s civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution practices. “They didn’t have ATMs, the food was bad, you couldn’t get a fresh breath of air, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. If you have an opportunity like that, take it.” Being open to moving overseas is an important way for young attorneys to position themselves to succeed in the increasingly global legal market, Engstrom said. His advice was seconded by The Coca-Cola Co. General Counsel Geoffrey Kelly and Alcatel-Lucent U.S.A. Inc. General Counsel Steve Reynolds. The three shared their thoughts on globalization on Monday with more than 100 up-and-coming attorneys chosen for the Leadership Counsel on Legal Diversity‘s new Fellows Program — a mentorship effort intended to foster diversity by giving young attorneys the chance to learn directly from law firm leaders and general counsel. All three panelists agreed that clients increasingly are looking for counsel skilled at working internationally because the fastest-growing markets for most major companies are outside the United States. Coca-Cola earns about 70 percent its profits come abroad, Kelly said, and that figure would be closer to 90 percent had the company not recently acquired a large North American bottling enterprise, he added. Law firms must respond to that trend if they want to stay relevant, and young lawyers in particular should be thinking about how they will develop the skills and cultural knowledge to thrive in international situations, the panelists said. “If I were in your shoes, I’d do what I did,” Reynolds said. “I had a case when I was a young associate that brought me to France. After that, I told people, ‘Yeah, I litigated a case in France.’ It’s all about putting yourself in a position to have opportunities globally.” Still, attorneys should make sure that a stint abroad fits in with their skill set and their career goals, the panelists said. Moving overseas is not the only way attorneys can maintain global practices, although it is one of the fastest ways to learn how business and legal work are conducted in another country, they said. Simply opening up an office in a foreign market isn’t always a smart law firm strategy, however. “The problem with law firms setting up offices everywhere willy-nilly is that it’s extremely expensive and it’s hard to develop business,” Kelly said, noting that Coca-Cola uses few U.S.-based firms for its overseas legal work, preferring instead to hire local counsel. Baker & McKenzie has a program that moves select associates abroad for work stints, Engstrom said. There is hope for U.S. attorneys who simply aren’t interested in working on global matters, however. Americans will always sue each other and will need lawyers to take their cases, Kelly observed. Still, cross-border litigation will only grow, he said. Foreign investments in the United States — and U.S. investments in foreign companies — will also grow, as will demand for lawyers with experience in those transactions. “You really have to determine what you want to do,” Kelly said. “You’re the captain of your ship.”

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