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When Belgian lawyer Joost Hendrix completes his two-week stay at the Hartford, Conn., office of Day, Berry & Howard today, he should have a good grasp of what it’s like to practice at an American law firm. By the middle of last week, he was well on his way. But learning the differences between the Belgian and U.S. legal systems is only a secondary goal for Hendrix. His trip’s top priority, he said, is to build contacts and further expand the relationship between Day, Berry and Hoffmann & Partners, his firm back home in Brussels. Both are members of Globalaw, an international network of law firms. Joining just a year ago, Day, Berry is new to the group and invited Hendrix to Connecticut as a token of good will, said DBH partner Philip S. Walker, the firm’s Globalaw contact and Hendrix’s primary host. Walker said Hendrix’s visit is the first step toward what he hopes will become an active lawyer-exchange program between Day, Berry and other Globalaw members. But in the meantime, the firm expects to glean information during Hendrix’s stay about efforts to unify the European community into a single economy. NOTEWORTHY DISTINCTIONS By his first day and a half at the firm, Hendrix admitted he already had fielded many questions on the topic and was likely to field many more. Day, Berry’s antitrust partners, for one, were anxious to hear his insights on new European competition laws, Walker noted. Last Friday, Hendrix also was slated to speak on the subject at a luncheon of partners and associates. “It’s a very slow process,” Hendrix said, dispelling some of his American counterparts’ notions about the unification process. A unified civil code for the European continent, he added, isn’t supposed to take effect until 2020. Curiosity works both ways; Hendrix has more than his share of questions about the legal practice in the U.S. “There’s a huge difference [from] our system,” he maintained. Among the distinctions listed by Hendrix: law grads must serve three-year apprenticeships before they are able to become “collaborators,” the Belgian version of associates; jury trials are not permitted in civil cases; and judgeships are largely a separate career track for law grads, rather than a plateau for experienced lawyers to reach. Belgian firms, he added, also continue to rely heavily on law books, with little resources available to them on the Internet. Still, Walker said he wondered if Hendrix’s viewpoint was less a matter of culture shock than that of a lawyer used to practicing in a five-lawyer firm suddenly coming into a 220-attorney outfit. Indeed, similarities abound. Hendrix’s dress is no different than the rest of the suit-and-tie Day, Berry clan. And in spite of what some U.S. lawyers surely would hope to be a saner practice across the Atlantic, Hendrix still works the same long hours, generally hanging around the office until 7 or 8 p.m., he said. GLOBAL CONCERNS It seems more than a few Day, Berry associates are smitten with romantic ideas about life overseas. Walker said a good number of the firm’s rank and file already have asked him if there’s a sign-up list for lawyers interested in partaking in a firm-sponsored exchange program. But, though Hoffmann & Partners has extended an offer to play host to a Day, Berry attorney, there is currently no timetable for taking the Belgian firm up on the invitation, he conceded. Still, Walker noted the benefits that could be gained by helping the firm’s younger lawyers foster personal connections with their Globalaw cousins. DBH joined the roughly 70-firm network to ensure that its clients would have adequate legal representation around the globe. As an added benefit, the firm already has received more than enough referrals from the group’s members to cover the costs of belonging to the organization, Day, Berry partners have said. A common caveat of joining such networks, however, is that firms only get as much back as they put in. Walker, among other partners, maintained that, with the increasingly global nature of their clients’ businesses, it is imperative that Day, Berry has a tool like Globalaw at its disposal.

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