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Profile: Craig Giesze

Lisa Mauch

What do you do with an economics degree, skills in four languages, proficiency with technology and “a crazy ability to combine it all?” If you’re like Craig Giesze, you earn a law degree and open the first full-service, virtual law firm specializing in providing services to U.S. companies doing business in the booming Latin American market.

Giesze actually formed four firms in 1995—CRG Enterprises, CRG Consulting, CRG Chile and CRG Mexico—that help U.S. companies bridge the cultural differences, commercial practices, language barriers and unfamiliar legal requirements of Latin American commerce. Giesze coordinates a cadre of more than 30 American and Latin American attorneys, accountants and economists.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but it had to be international,” he says. He speaks fluent English and Spanish and is conversational in French and Portuguese. A native of Cleveland, he got his first taste of international life through Xavier’s Fredin memorial scholarship to study at La Sorbonne in Paris, France.

“When I came back from France, I looked at a map of the world and decided the best language to learn would be Spanish,” he says. “There were already lots of business opportunities in Latin America.” Giesze completed a Spanish studies program at Javeriana University in Bogota, Colombia, then went to Georgetown University, earning degrees in international law and foreign service.

He started thinking about his own firm in 1994 while working for the Mexican Congress on a Fulbright Scholarship. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect and, “I looked at where the world was going, and saw it going international,” he says. “I saw the Mexican middle class getting more money so companies like Wal-Mart could sell there. I think NAFTA got business people looking south for the first time.”

Giesze observed the differences in the legal systems; the United States uses the common law system from England and Latin America uses the civil system from Roman law. “The way they analyze and come to conclusions is radically different,” he says. “An Amer-ican judge and a Latin American judge could look at the same law and come up with two different answers. Few lawyers can analyze international law in both systems.”

He also noticed another phenomenon: the Internet. It effortlessly crosses borders, eliminating many international barriers. “I can have people in America, Chile and Mexico working on the same project because we can research on the Internet and communicate through e-mail. And we can do it faster. The birth of my companies really came from that vision of the combined services we could offer. We’ve eliminated all cultural and legal barriers. It’s as if you’re doing the transaction in Dayton or Columbus.”

 

Photography by Barbara San Martin

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