The Importance of Training Cross-Cultural Practice Skills

The Best Practices book suggests that a law school curriculum should focus on knowlege, skills and values that are relevant to the practice of law.  I believe that cross-cultural knowledge, intercultural communication and self-awareness are very important to the effective practice of law and will become even more important as our world continues to shrink. The following is a little excerpt from an email Professor Joe Harbaugh sent me about my article Making and Breaking Habits:

I was amused by the “political correctness”/faculty agenda reactions of some of your students; in the field of business, the experiential and survey research on negotiation over the last decade is dominated by cross-cultural studies.  For many lawyers, these aren’t “soft” issues; they’re about as tough as they get!  Today’s lawyers must be conscious of and astute about the questions you address if they are to adequately represent their clients.  Indeed, many of them also may be required to “teach” their clients about the importance of being culturally conscious to successfully conclude a transaction or resolve a dispute.

I love getting support for teaching about these issues! Thanks Joe!

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Cultural Knowledge, Intercultural Communication and Self Awareness

I have posted several blogs about ideas involving intercultural communication, cultural knowlege and self awareness.    At the risk of engaging in shameless self-promotion, I would like to announce that my article on these issues just came out as part of the Wash U. Symposium on “Emerging Directions in Clinical Legal Education” ( I know many call these ideas “cultural competence”, but if you read my article you will know why I eschew that terminology…) Continue reading

More on Cultural Knowledge, Self-awareness and Intercultural Communication

Over the last 18 years I have come to the beautiful, Spanish colonial town of  Guanajuato, Mexico to teach in the Guanajuato Summer Law Institute fairly regularly.  For the last three years, I have directed the program.  Each time I come, I make more Mexican friends and I learn more about the Mexican culture (both in the anthropological sense and in the “difference” sense).  Many people assume because I am a Latina and speak Spanish that I am familiar with the culture and can communicate effectively.  While I agree that is it a tremendous advantage to speak Spanish, it is certainly not all you need to be effective in communicating and understanding Mexican people in their cultural context.  And, as a Latina raised in the United States whose family roots go back to the Tome Spanish land grant in New Mexico, I certainly have had a great deal to learn about Mexican people and their culture!  In my last post on this issue, I talked about using insights from best practices to develop teaching objectives in cultural knowledge, self awareness and intercultural communication.  Today, my post will focus on cultural knowledge and self awareness using insights from living in Mexico. Continue reading

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