Overcoming the Language Barrier: Three Reasons Why You Don’t Need to Speak Spanish to Appeal to Spanish-Speaking Consumers

The Census Bureau estimates that by 2050, the United States will have 138 million Spanish-speaking residents. That’s a tremendous market for any small law firm or solo outfit looking for new business. Don’t let the fact that you don’t speak Spanish (or have a Spanish-speaker on staff) stop you from exploring this tremendous business growth potential for your firm.

A full picture of how you can appeal to Spanish-speaking clients is explored in the guide New Horizons: How to Market Your Law Firm to Spanish-Speakers and Win Their Business. In this post, we present three tips for overcoming the language barrier.

1. Meet them where they are: Spanish-speaking consumers look for online legal content more enthusiastically and efficiently than many other demographics. A Spanish-language directory listing, like on Abogado.com, is a great way to start creating trust between a Spanish-speaking consumer and your firm. According to FindLaw’s U.S. Consumer Legal Needs survey, 48 percent of Spanish-speaking consumers reported that they used a legal directory such as Abogado.com or FindLaw.com to search for an attorney. That’s 10 percentage points higher than legal consumers as a whole. Additionally, 52 percent of Spanish-speaking consumers said they have a “high” or “above average” trust in attorney listings on legal directories. The best part: Directory listings typically aren’t expensive or difficult to create.

The takeaway: Listings on Spanish-language sites like Abogado.com are a solid investment. They’re a trusted source of useful information for Spanish-speaking consumers and aren’t too costly or time-consuming.

2. Start off on the right foot: “Spanish-speaking” doesn’t mean “speaks Spanish only.” A 2017 poll by the Census Bureau found that 22.5 million Spanish-speaking U.S. residents indicated they speak English “very well” and another 6.8 million that they speak English “well.” However, comfort levels with English can vary. In a recent focus group organized by Thomson Reuters, 19 percent of Miami respondents said they would “appreciate” Spanish-language legal help, but in Houston, respondents were equally comfortable with English. What does this mean for your law firm? While you don’t necessarily need a staff member who is fluent in Spanish, it pays to have some Spanish-language promotional and informational materials. Spanish-language intake forms can make hesitant new clients feel they are in good hands and increase their comfort level.

The takeaway: Spanish-language intake forms can make it easier and more comfortable to work with your firm and go a long way towards building trust. While these types of forms may be more expensive to create than a listing on Abogado.com, they shouldn’t need frequent modification. Once in place, they can give you quick return on investment.

3. Show (don’t tell) your support: Involvement with your local Spanish-speaking community demonstrates that you are interested and engaged. That’s valuable because the results of the U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey show how important community, colleagues and family are to Spanish-speakers. Consider this:

  • Seventy-nine percent of Spanish-speaking consumers said they sought recommendations and advice from friends or family, while only 73 percent of overall legal consumers said the same.
  • Twenty-four percent of Spanish-speaking consumers said they sought advice from neighbors, while only15 percent of all respondents did.
  • Thirty-two percent of Spanish-speaking consumers turned to coworkers for advice, but only 20 percent of overall consumers used the same technique.

Taken together, those three points should show you that Spanish-speaking consumers place immense trust in their social circles. The good news is that showing engagement and involvement doesn’t have to be large-scale. Volunteering once a month or quarterly at a legal clinic where a high number of clients speak Spanish would be a great idea (and serve as an opportunity for pro bono service). You could also sponsor a parade or celebration (to the extent your budget allows, of course.) It shouldn’t be hard to imagine how gaining currency with one portion of your local Spanish-speaking community could set off a ripple effect in the most positive way.

The takeaway: The bottom line is that showing a genuine interest and authentic commitment in your local Spanish-speaking community can help you build awareness and trust. It’s a long game, to be sure, but the potential rewards of those connections are significant.

Ultimately, there’s no way around the fact that knowing some basic Spanish makes appealing to Spanish-speakers easier. However, it’s important that you don’t feel you have to speak Spanish fluently to market yourself effectively. Modest, but strategic investments of time and resources may get you further than you think, and you can start today.

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