Tips for Business Meetings with Americans: How to Prepare
Preparation is an important part of ensuring a successful meeting with American attorneys. Whether you need 15 minutes or 15 days to prepare, being prepared helps you feel confident and allows you to meet your client’s objectives. Here are a few suggestions on how to prepare for a meeting with a U.S. attorney:
Review the file.
Nothing is more important to your preparations than reviewing your legal file on the matter. Knowing the facts and your client’s needs in advance will help things go smoothly. It is extremely embarrassing and a poor representation of your client if you are not familiar with the client and the facts of the specific situation.
Submit a Request for Production.
If you need a witness or the other attorney to produce any documentation or photographs at the meeting, you should request the information prior to the meeting. For informal or transactional situations, use your best judgment on how far in advance you should request material. When the meeting is part of litigation, you must submit a Request for Production within the time frames designated by the appropriate Code of Civil Procedure. Without a formal request, you cannot require them to produce anything. Depending on the circumstances, you may submit this request yourself, or a paralegal may assist you. As the organizer of the meeting, it is your responsibility to ensure such requests are made in a timely manner.
Bring what you need.
Don’t assume that the other attorney will have documents you need or that you will have access to the Internet at the meeting location. Whenever possible, bring a hard copy of the necessary documents, or ensure that they are saved locally on your laptop or tablet computer.
In formal meetings, such as court appearances, depositions and mediations, suits are appropriate for both men and women. Generally speaking, the East Coast is more formal than the West Coast, but we encourage you to err on the side of being formal. After your first few meetings, you will have a better sense of the overall dress code at your locale and your specific practice area, and you will be able to modify your attire as necessary.
For more casual meetings, nice slacks with a dress shirt and sports coat are appropriate for men. A tie isn’t always necessary and certainly isn’t expected on the West Coast. For women, a nice blouse and slacks, a skirt or a dress. Make sure that the cut of all clothing is modest, particularly the neckline and the hem.
Footwear is important in both formal and informal meetings. Sandals are never acceptable for either gender in business meetings in the United States. For men, business shoes made of black or brown leather are universally acceptable choices. For women, it is important to make sure the heel height of the shoe is appropriate and the shoes are made out of darker materials. Heels over three inches, strappy sandals, or shoes made with plastic are not appropriate for business meetings.
Allow for the unexpected.
Leave for your meeting with enough time to account for traffic, security processes at the office building, or unexpected complications during travel. This is particularly important for formal meetings and court appearances. Judges do not wait for attorneys, and if you are habitually late, you may face court reprimand and your client may suffer.