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Tips for Business Meetings with Americans: How to Conduct Yourself

Every culture has its own set of social norms for personal interaction, and while this is not an exhaustive list, we think these are some of the most important tips for conducting yourself during a business meeting with American attorneys:

Be punctual.

If you are traveling for a meeting, plan to arrive at least 10 minutes early so that you will have ample time to find parking and compose yourself before the meeting starts. Make sure you have identification with you as many U.S. office buildings have security procedures. Punctuality is extremely important in American business culture. It is generally expected that the meeting will start on time and that all attendees will be present before the meeting’s designated start time. It is not unusual to see a number of attorneys waiting in the reception area before a meeting is scheduled to start.

Be prepared.

Make sure you have reviewed your file and are familiar with your client’s objectives. If you have received a Request for Production, make sure you have copies of the requested documents ready when the other attorneys arrive.

If you are attending a meeting at your client’s office, make sure you have everything you need with you. Do not assume you will have access to the Internet. If you need a document, make sure you have a hard copy or the file saved on your computer’s hard drive. If you are hosting a meeting at your office, it is expected that refreshments such as water and soda will be available.

Turn off electronics.

Cell phones and other personal electronic devices should be turned off or put in silent mode. The vibrate setting on a cell phone is audible and not acceptable for any business meeting. This is particularly important during court appearances or depositions. Your ringing cell phone can be an embarrassing distraction.

Unless it is an emergency, do not check your phone after a meeting has started. Responding to emails or text messages during a meeting is considered extremely rude and should not be done. If you are expecting a call or email that you must respond to during the meeting, notify the other attendees at the beginning of the meeting and handle it discretely in the hallway or another room so as not to disrupt the meeting.

Maintain eye contact.

Maintaining eye contact in American business culture is an important sign of respect. People who do not maintain eye contact are often perceived as rude and dishonest. If maintaining eye contact is not something that comes naturally to you, practice and make a conscious effort during the meeting.

Stay focused.

The attorneys you are meeting with deserve your undivided attention. Eliminate distractions whenever possible, and stay on topic. Staying focused allows you to work within the goals of the meeting and finish the meeting on time.

Be friendly.

Although you may be meeting under adversarial circumstances, it is important to be respectful and civil to the other attorneys. It is not uncommon for attorneys who regularly represent clients on opposing sides  to maintain friendships outside of the office.

We understand that scheduling, preparing for and attending business meetings with American attorneys may be very different than meetings with lawyers from your home country. We encourage you to share your thoughts in this forum on the differences between what you are familiar with and what you experience in the United States.