Everyone knows that the face of America is changing rapidly in terms of race and ethnicity. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center almost 59 million immigrants have come to the U.S. over the past 50 years, the majority of those immigrants from Asia and Latin America. As an attorney, whether in criminal or personal injury law, family or immigration law, or any other practice area having the ability to speak Spanish or even Chinese can be hugely beneficial.
Another survey taken among 200 attorneys and commissioned by Robert Half Legal found that more than 40% of those lawyers recognize a need for more attorneys who are bilingual when hiring officers. For the most part, these lawyers felt a Spanish-speaking attorney would be a benefit to their firms.
Why is speaking a second language or having an attorney on staff who is bilingual so important? There are lots of reasons, not the least of which is the ability to communicate clearly with the client and earn his or her trust. Law firms with bilingual attorneys on staff who speak Spanish, Chinese, or other languages in addition to English have an edge in regards to:
Improved service. Those who are passionate about law realize it is a service industry, and providing outstanding service to the client is a must. Not only can you communicate effectively with the client which is essential in clear understanding and customized solutions to their needs, it’s likely these clients will recommend your legal services to any friend or family members who need assistance in your area of expertise.
Gaining the trust of clients who aren’t native English speakers. Legal processes can be not only confusing to those who speak another language, but even frightening in some situations. When you can clearly explain procedures, what to expect, and how the legal system works in our country it can be extremely comforting to the client and ease stress and anxiety. Even the fact that you speak Spanish or Chinese helps to build trust and rapport as the client realizes you’re making an effort on his or her behalf to provide the best possible legal service. Perhaps most important of all is that lawyers who understand and use the language of foreign cultures or who have those on staff who do gain the trust of Latin Americans or Chinese who are from countries that may experience a considerable amount of corruption, leaving them uncomfortable and distrusting when it comes to the law.
No attorney wants to be accused of malpractice, and having the ability to speak in your client’s native language can help you avoid this possibility. Again, communication is key; the client gains vital information from you as an attorney in regards to criminal history details, dates of scheduled hearings, and other facts critical to his or her future in regards to potential legal options and the advantages of plea deals in certain cases, alternative sentences, and more. A second language can absolutely minimize the possibility that you’ll be the defendant in a malpractice lawsuit.
By being bilingual you are viewed as more sensitive and ‘in tune” with a different culture. Clients will see you as a person of authority with a flexible mindset, someone who’s familiar with their culture and the differences in regards to laws in their native country and the U.S. You will be viewed as someone who can provide solutions and who truly understands the situation.
Ultimately, it’s all about gaining the trust of your client and clear communication so that you can provide the best possible legal guidance. You can imagine only imagine someone who is Asian or Latin American attempting to communicate with someone who knows no language other than English – it is a nightmare both for the client, and the attorney. Whether you learn to speak a second language or have someone on staff who is fluent in Spanish or another language, it greatly benefits your law firm and not only provides you satisfaction knowing that you can indeed help those who aren’t fluent in English with their legal issues, but have a “leg up” on your competition as well.