Arthur F. Licata became interested in the "international arena" when he was a college student. He has since been able to achieve what so many people find difficult to do: turn an avocation into a profession. As an international business attorney with ties in Estonia and the Czech Republic, Licata has the unique opportunity to see not only a part of the world going through an historical transition but also how that reflects upon this country. President Clinton invited Licata to the White House Conference on Trade and Investment in Central and Eastern Europe on Jan. 12 and 13. Licata spoke to Lawyers Weekly's Dale Seamans about that conference and the business of doing business in that part of the world.
Born: June 16, 1947, New York City
Education: LeMoyne College, 1969; post graduate work in political science at SUNY, Binghamton, 1969-1971; Suffolk University Law School, 1976
Experience: Associate at Parker, Coulter, Daley & White, 1976- 1982; sole practitioner in Boston, 1982-
Interests: The international arena, particularly the social and political conditions of countries emerging from the Soviet regime
Q. How is it that your practice enables you to conduct business in what we have traditionally called the Eastern Bloc countries?
A. I really wear two hats in my career. For 18 years, I have been a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury. Five years ago I put on a second hat as international business man. ... I have a strategy of seeking out foreign companies recently privatized in the newly independent states and match them with U.S. companies which want to expand their international business capacities.
Q. How did you go about establishing this business/law relationship with these countries?
A. It wasn't easy to do. One can desire something but then has to figure out how to do it. Strictly by the experience of going there, meeting the people and understanding the business environment. To do business effectively in these countries which are converting to free enterprise, one must know the political, social, cultural, psychological condition of the people in addition to the business environment. That's the added ingredient I bring to a business venture. I can interpret for U.S. businesses the environment they will be entering and the sense of the people they will be dealing with. Conversely, I can convey the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. business community as it relates to the international arena.
Q. What was the purpose of the conference, and how is it that you were invited?
A. As a result of my business activities in Estonia and the Czech Republic, I received a letter from the president extending an invitation to this conference. This was the first conference of its kind. We were to discuss and find ways to develop increased trade and investment between the U.S. and the 14 Central European countries represented [at the conference] by business leaders as well as government officials. Because it had the seal of the White House - and the excellent 45-minute speech the president gave - there was a strong signal to politicians and business leaders that the U.S. government and U.S. business people are committed to supporting those countries in their democratic processes and to become partners with them.
It was a two-day conference. The first part of each day was presentations by business leaders, and then each afternoon there was a series of workshops. In the evenings, countries set up individual booths for people to interact on an individual basis. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner together so we really got to know one another.
Q. How do people from these countries find out about your business?
A. I am listed in all of the international directories such as Who's Who In America. But more to the point, the reason I have spent so much time going back and forth is that the best proof for establishing a long-term relationship is to go there and listen and learn. I invest the time and effort. These people are smart, curious and they look to the U.S. as a model of democracy. It's a privilege to work with them. Every time I come back, I better understand all that we have here in the U.S.
For example, I went to a city that manufactured cement. It was way off in the countryside, and as you got closer, it looked as though snow was falling. It got thicker and thicker. It was on the rooftops, on the clothes hanging out on lines. It turned out to be air pollution from the cement plant. Do we have the ability and political will [to keep moving forward]? I'm encouraged if we act in the interest of the common wealth and health that we'll have another 250 more years of progress in this country.
Q. What unique situations or impressions do you run into conducting business in that part of the world?
A. When I was first in Estonia, it was during the period of change from communist leaders to democratic leaders starting to seize power. In December of 1991, on the way from the airport to the hotel, we drove through the city - Tallinn which is the capital - and there was absolutely no neon signage. It was like taking a color TV and turning it to black and white. Virtually no color. Now it is a wonderful 14th-century city of old feudal walls with businesses with new glass fronts, boutiques, book shops, restaurants, theaters. It's one of the most beautiful cities you can visit. The more I go back the more I realize there's more to learn. That's the fun of it.
The Boston, Massachusetts Personal Injury Law firm of Arthur F. Licata, P.C. handles Lawyers Weekly Press for clients throughout Massachusetts
including Suffolk County, Norfolk County, Plymouth County, Middlesex County, Worcester County, and Essex County, and cities such
as Worcester, Springfield, Lowell, Cambridge, Brockton, New Bedford, Fall River, Lynn, and Quincy. Mr. Licata is also admitted to
practice in the state of New York. He routinely takes cases by referral from other attorneys located throughout the New England
region and the United States.
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