Introduction: Now I am working at “Beijing Sino Lawyers’ Firm”. My duty is to assist lawyer Tao Feng in dealing with the paperworks and clients. To be specific, my job is to act as an information collector, a law documents writer, a cases assistance, a data organizer, and a clients communicator. Our firm consist of several senior partners, normal lawyers, and many assistances. In order to work more conveniently and effectively, every lawyer has a team that includes one to two assistances.
Due to the fact that it is a law firm and it is a partnership business, it has developed special cultural tendencies, which have been lasting for many years in the company. So, just like Varner and Beamer(2011) stated, “ … understanding a culture opens the door to understanding how people see and make sense of their world. ”,(p. 94) identifying the exclusive culture here is a good way to understand the firm better. Besides, in order to avoid necessary mistakes and conflicts, it is also critical to understand the Chinese cultural tendencies.
Firstly, the same as the entire Chinese cultural tendencies, collectivism plays an important role in our firm. It means that our culture emphasizes the needs, goals, and views of the team over the individual and includes shared beliefs rather than individual beliefs. In our firm, credit or blame is placed on the organization as a whole instead of any individual. Another core value of collectivist culture is that of “saving face”, especially, in China. Ting-Toomey and Kurogi (1998) explained face as “the claimed sense of favorable social self-worth and the estimated other-worth in an interpersonal situation (p. 88).
And Ting-Toomey and Oetzel (2002) pointed out that face is related to “identity respect, disrespect, dignity, honor, shame, guilt, status, and competence issues”(p. 145). For instance, as a law firm, the most important thing is to fulfill the clients’ benefits by winning cases. Imagine that if the firm did not have a certain percentage of winning, it would lose the potential clients. So, as a part of the firm, every lawyer and his/her team is responsible for the reputation and face of the whole company. Then, in the field of law, a certain hierarchy exists.
Such as their are premium courts and local courts that have different power and rights in applying the law. As Varner and Beamer(2011) illustrated, “In countries where power is concentrated at the top levels of organizations and is wielded according to personal favor, a healthy and strong relationship with the powerful ones is a primary goal of every endeavor. ”(p. 114) From what we can see that having a good relationship with the high position authority can help us to do our business, the higher the better. On the other hand, there is a low power distance environment in the firm.
Simply to say, “equalness” has been considered as the key element in our ingroup relationship. As well, a good relationship with clients is critical because your job is counting on their faith. Furthermore, high context communication is required in our team. It includes the detailed communication with clients, so that you can get enough information about the case; and discussion with other colleagues, especially when you are stocked, opinions from others could help a lot. In order to develop a good communication atmosphere, the firm has a weekly meeting to discuss some particular cases.
During the meeting, everyone’s voice can be heard and the senior lawyers are also happy to give their professional views. As a result, people like me, interns, got improved a lot. Since you are coming to join the team instead of me, I have some tips to help you to adapt yourself into the culture and be qualified for the job. First of all, always be prepared. Even Varner and Beamer(2011) said, “As anyone who has carefully laid plans knows, however, the unexpected has a way of ambushing you. ”(p. 116) which means that though you are well planned, unexpected is always exist. Then what if you are not prepared?
You don’t want to take the risk of losing cases by no preparation, which will eventually damage the benefits of your clients and the firm. Secondly, develop your own relationship with the authority and clients. Although you are a assistance, your job is to contact with courts, clients, etc. So if you build a good relationship with them, it will be easier for you to complete your job because lawyer Feng is not with you all the time after all. Sometimes you have to count on yourself. In addition, do not be stereotype. Working with lawyers means we are judging and being judged all the tome.
So it is easy to get into a phenomena of being stereotype. For example, you regard one judge in the Beijing HaiDian Local Court as an unfair person, you might consider that all judges in that court are unfair. As a result, you don’t want to deal with the cases from that court. So keep your professional view and be objective in your work in order to avoid this kind of mistakes. Last but not least, be ready to bear hardship and stand hard work. Undeniably, Chinese people are hard-working. Specially when you are working on a tough case, it costs time and energy.
Take myself as an example, once lawyer Feng and I were dealing with an intellectual property case, which was opening a court session on 1:00 PM, the hottest time of the summer in Beijing. The tougher situation was, in the same day morning, we had another case that was far away from the court. I could never forget that day because of the waiting time in the high temperature outside the court, no lunch, and the super long process of the trail. It was exhausting. At the end, I hope you can understand our cultural tendencies and enjoy your work in this firm, which will be very helpful for your future work.