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Global Adapt: Cross-Cultural Awareness

By Rebecca Barns

Steve Snyder'88
Steve Snyder ’88 grew up all over the world. He spent much of his childhood in Liberia, West Africa, before living in the Caribbean during his teen years. Before his missionary family settled in South Carolina, Snyder had attended 10 schools and lived in six U.S. states. He appreciates better than most the challenges and rewards of growing up in more than one culture.

Nine years ago he was invited to speak at an event in Europe on the topic of transitioning through multiple cultures. That successful experience has led to many engagements at retreats, conferences, and other events on five continents, and led him to found a nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status called Global Adapt.

Snyder spends five or six weeks a year speaking to students, educators, and international business personnel at far-flung sites about cross-cultural issues. He also makes presentations on effective communication and the human relational aspects of a successful law practice, often talking about lawyer-client relationships. “People on all sides can be abusive,” he says. “When you confront an issue or a person firmly and leave room enough for the person to keep his dignity intact, then you have a chance to correct the problem and at the same time win a friend and ally. You can win and still treat the opposing side with respect. Let them save face.”

This past spring Snyder spoke to more than 4,500 students on all four campuses of the Nigerian Law School—Abuja, Lagos, Kano, and Enugu. All lawyers admitted to practice in Nigeria must graduate from the school. In a country known for widespread corruption, many citizens strive for change. The young law students paid attention as Snyder delivered a message about practicing law with honor and integrity.

“If a judge finds out that you lied about something,” he tells them, “the word will get out and you will lose respect.” Doing the right thing has real rewards, too, he says. “Treat the small clients well, and the word will get around. They’ll bring other clients to you.”

In Lagos, one law student raised a question that involved trained physicians and African witch doctors. Some of the students seemed embarrassed that the question had been asked, and others seemed to doubt that a foreigner could handle it. The response afterward was that Snyder had handled the question well, probably because he grew up in West Africa. He has been invited to return to all four campuses next year.

Steve Snyder practices law full-time with Davis & Snyder in Greenville, S.C., where he represents physicians and hospitals in medical malpractice litigation and matters involving hospital risk management.