Should Lawyers Learn Second Languages? Oui. Ja. Pues Claro.
Should young lawyers mix some French classes in with their études de droit? Learn to sprechen a bit of Español before sending out their resumes? Yes, of course.
No one these days would be worse off for having learned a second language. Lawyers especially will benefit from a mastery of, or even familiarity with, foreign tongues.
It's a Question of Opportunity
Sure, a second language is usually necessary for some practices. Immigration lawyers better be able to speak the language of their clients, for example (or be willing to watch a good chunk of their cash go to translators). But even if a foreign language isn't necessary for a practice, multilingual lawyers simply have more opportunities as a result of their ability to communicate to a wider range of people.
Reaching Clients With Their Mother Tongue
What sort of opportunities come from a second language? First, clients. Speaking another language can help you reach out to ex-pat Russians in New York, for example, or Miami-based import-export companies. It can even be great for clients who are fluent in English but more comfortable in their native languages.
Your second language can put you out ahead of shifting demographic trends. Today, more than 60 million Americans speak a language other than English at home. En fait, just knowing a language can be enough to win over a client who will appreciate your familiarity with their background and culture. You may not even have to use it in your practice.
Seeing the World
Then there's the travel. If you want to see the world, you can do so while you work. Foreign firms love American lawyers, but you'll almost always have to be able to speak the native language whether you're in Copenhagen, Sao Paulo, or Beijing. Even if you'd rather stay back home in God's Country, a second language will still make you more attractive to American firms.
Be the Richest Miserable Doc Reviewer in Town
Finally, there's doc review. We know, doc review is terrible, tedious, and maybe not even the practice of law. But should you ever have to fall back on it, a foreign language can make sure you're getting paid much more for your time. Document review positions are often advertised for just $25 an hour, but foreign language jobs will usually pay twice that -- and that's before negotiations.
So, before you decide to expand your career horizons by studying for a second bar, consider learning a second language first.
- The Case for Foreign Languages as an Aspiring Lawyer (The Guardian)
- Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Your Body Language During Meetings (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- Law School Study Abroad: Hot or Not? (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- 5 Resume Tips to Catch an Employer's Eye (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
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