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Lawyers: Do You Need Legal Forms in Spanish?

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on
If your law firm's clients speak Spanish (or deal with Spanish speakers in their course of business), how can you make sure you're speaking to their legal needs? According to the Pew Research Center, Spanish is far and away the most-spoken non-English language in the United States. It's spoken by 37.6 million people, followed by Chinese (a distant second, with 2.8 million speakers). Spanish-speakers need legal services too, and often they may not be able to find them. While you may have a few template legal forms available for simple things like leases and powers of attorney, having them in Spanish, as well as English, is a pretty good idea.

Sometimes, It's the Law

If your clients routinely interact with non-English-language speakers in a foreign language (for example, landlords who rent to Spanish-speaking tenants), it might be the law. California, for example, mandates that if negotiations for a contract, loan, lease agreement, credit-sale agreement, automobile financing agreement, or vehicle lease were conducted in one of five foreign languages, then every term and condition of the agreement has to be translated into that language. (The five languages, by the way, are Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Korean.) Failure to comply with this law is grounds for rescission by the aggrieved party. For other documents, like wills or powers of attorney, it's an excellent idea to memorialize the content in the language of the person making the agreement, in order to prevent capacity from becoming an issue in the future.

Spanish-Language Forms? Way Easier Than Certified Translations

In other states without this requirement, providing copies of form agreements in the language of the person entering the agreement is just good practice. As with wills and powers of attorney, this makes it fairly simple to show that the person understood what he or she was bargaining for and eliminates the "he said, she said" that comes along with relying on ex ante oral assertions. Basically, providing a contract in Spanish to a Spanish speaker makes mutual assent a no-brainer. Rather than rely on ad hoc certified translations every time the subject comes up, practitioners whose clients use legal forms would benefit from using Spanish-language forms instead. With a growing library of Spanish-language forms, clients who regularly deal with Spanish speakers have easy access to agreements that not only meet state legal requirements, but provide some peace of mind in the fact that the agreements are enforceable.

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