Overcoming Language Barriers: Why it Pays to be a Bi-Lingual Attorney

In today’s globally-connected world, it pays to be a bi-lingual attorney. The U.S. in particular is a melting pot of cultures and languages. In fact, at least 350 languages are spoken in U.S. homes. Because communication is critical in the law field, knowing more than one language opens up the opportunity to reach and help a wider range of clients.

It’s About Serving Clients

Bilingual attorneys have an advantage when it comes to serving their clients. Let’s imagine that your client was injured in an accident. You’ve found a key witness to corroborate the facts, but there’s just one problem: he does not speak English.

In this type of case, obtaining a favorable outcome may very well be dependent on the attorney’s ability to overcome language barrier issues.

While it’s entirely possible to hire translators, there is concern of translation errors, particularly concerning prior statements made to police, other witnesses and insurance companies.

A bilingual attorney may have the ability to overcome these issues directly to prevent or eliminate these issues throughout all stages of the claims process.

Language barriers can be especially challenging in cases that make it to litigation. A bilingual attorney is better able to prepare a witness for testimony and ensure that there are no translation issues during testimony. All of this can be done without the need to hire a translator.

A bilingual attorney can also identify situations in which a witness’s testimony may be better presented through the use of an expert witness or some other alternative way. The attorney can also ensure that questions are properly conveyed and the responses are translated as intended.

Global Partnerships

We live in multicultural societies, and thanks to digital technology, we are more connected than ever. Law firms are more likely to partner with firms from other countries, especially in the field of business law.

Multilingual skills can be vital in cases involving intellectual property, transaction work, international business projects and imports/exports.

Certain languages are in more demand than others, such as:

  • Mandarin
  • Spanish
  • German
  • Japanese
  • French

In many cases, the process of learning these languages exposes you to the cultures, customs and etiquettes that surround the language. Having an understanding and awareness of foreign etiquette and customs further helps you serve clients when partnering with law firms overseas or working with clients from other countries.

There will always be a place for interpreters in the courtroom and in the legal world as a whole, but having the ability to communicate with clients directly and in their language allows you to forge better client relationships and build trust. It also eliminates the middle man (i.e. the translator), who may not necessarily communicate with your client in the same way you would.

Ultimately, learning at least one other language opens a world of opportunities to you as an attorney and can go a long way in helping you build a positive reputation in the community.. And it will give you the chance to represent clients who are often underserved because of those language barriers.



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