If you want to work in the competitive legal profession, having foreign language skills can help to set you apart. The legal profession – which is increasingly global in outlook – being able to speak a foreign language is useful, and ever more desirable to employers.
“For any law firm that engages with clients or adverse parties that are from different cultures and language groups, having staff who are multilingual is beneficial,”
“It saved them a lot of time, a lot of money, and it also allowed them to feel a lot more comfortable that they were getting their needs accomplished because I was someone who spoke their language — but was more than just some translator off the street who didn’t understand the context,”
The level of fluency required to practice law in a foreign tongue is a step above mere cocktail party conversation and, it takes “a commitment and a dedication to immersion … So is the time and effort really worth it for attorneys?
Here, let’s looks at three reasons to learn a language other than your own.
Make Yourself More Marketable
Multilingual legal professionals are currently “superhot candidates” and legal staffing agencies “absolutely have seen an increase in demand for candidates with multilingual skill sets,” said Stephanie Newman, vice president of search for Parker + Lynch Legal, the attorney search division of Special Counsel. Newman said she’s even seen some firms relax their hiring criteria for attorneys with necessary language skills.
“If a big law firm … might not otherwise consider an associate based on their grades or previous experience … most firms, particularly in New York City, would take a second look at that candidate based on the fact that they have that multilingual capability alone,” she said. That’s especially true for attorneys fluent in Spanish and Asian languages, said Jamy Sullivan, executive director of Robert Half Legal, which surveyed attorneys about the demand for language skills in 2013.
And she pointed out that prowess in a foreign patois not only helps attorneys get in the door at a coveted firm, but also can nudge them a few rungs up the earnings ladder once they’re inside. “Candidates that are fluent in English and any of those in-demand foreign languages will stand out from the competition and often find that firms will offer them above-market salaries to attract them,” she said.
Win More Clients — and Their Trust
Recruiters attributed the uptick in law firms’ demand for multilingual attorneys to the globalization of the economy and the trend of law firms merging and expanding internationally, both of which mean attorneys increasingly have to communicate with international clients. “Being a multilingual lawyer gives me an exponentially larger potential client base, and allows me to advise on business issues for a more geographically diverse set of clients,” Syrkin said of his own work. “So my client base is tremendous out of the gate … it includes all of South America, part of Europe and most of East Asia.”
Syrkin, who has spent time living in Beijing, Tokyo and Panama, said the cultural knowledge he gained living abroad is almost more important than the language itself. “What people are really looking for is someone who understands them and can operate on the same wavelength,” he said. “Those hiring outside lawyers want people who they can relate to, that understand the pressures they’re under, the culture, and will do right by them.”
Expand Your Practice Areas
Litigation, immigration, mergers and acquisitions, and patent and intellectual property are some of the legal practice areas seeing the most call for multilingual attorneys, Sullivan said. Syrkin is quick to include one of his own practice areas, technology, on that list. “What is more cross-border … than tech-based transactions or, frankly, any deal involving internet or IPconnected products or services?” he said. And project finance and international arbitration make the list as well, according to Newman.
But she said that with all the cross-border deals taking place, the practice area in which multilingual attorneys are most in-demand is “far and away” corporate mergers and acquisitions. No matter the practice area, though, she doesn’t see the demand for multilingual attorneys diminishing any time soon. “I think for candidates who are looking for positions who do have that fluency in a particular foreign language, now is the time,” she said. But she said the real reward for her has been the personal satisfaction. “Being able to cross that divide is something that I think is really highly valued,” she said. “It’s been exciting to be able to play that role because you get to both relate to the people who you’re serving, be it pro bono client or a corporation, and you get to have this huge victory.”
About ifc Mandarin Connection
If you want to feel life and love, just learn a new language. Learn Mandarin Chinese with teachers from IFC MANDARIN CONNECTION. We specialized in training business professionals for multinational companies since 1995. The courses are designed for business professionals to help you take your career to the next level and build your business network.
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