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Lawyers based in Europe – second languages (Eastman Kodak)

In November 1998, the Eastman Kodak legal department in Western Europe, having then ten lawyers in four countries, introduced a new structure.  A three-page summary of the changes included such measures as creating “horizontal” teams by the six E-K business units, rather than continuing with national lawyers handling national legal work across business units.   Additionally, the combined department agreed a single European budget, decided to charge time back to clients (once the accounting system permitted tracking time), and committed to provide additional client training and information.

What caught my eye, however, was one statement:  “We now insist that all of our lawyers have or are actively learning a second language.  Any new lawyers taken on will have to be truly European lawyers, either qualified in or with experience in more than one jurisdiction…”  The bi-lingual goal makes complete sense, as does the desire to eschew expats from the US.  Most legal groups in Europe could consider adopting the same requirements.

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