The Case for Foreign Languages ​​as an Aspiring Lawyer | Study law

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JThe relative lack of foreign language skills among the UK population is well documented. A recent Guardian survey found that 39% of young English speakers were dissuaded from learning a foreign language because “most people speak English”, and 14% by the idea that “most other languages ​​are not useful “.

But for students wishing to enter the legal profession – whose horizon is increasingly global – mastering a foreign language is useful, and increasingly desirable for employers.

The globalization of legal practice means that many international law firms will not hire lawyers without language skills, says Patricio Grané Labat, partner at public international law firm Volterra Fietta, who speaks Spanish and French. , as well as English.

“In our profession, language skills are essential because, as international lawyers, we apply our profession with words. It’s definitely something I look for when recruiting, if a candidate isn’t fluent in other languages ​​I wouldn’t usually consider them – if I do it’s usually for a low-key assignment,” he says .

Among lawyers who have foreign language skills, Western European languages ​​are the most common, according to Obelisk research. But the shift in economic power to markets such as China and the expansion of international law firms means that recruiters are increasingly looking for speakers of more distant languages.

Dr Martina Künnecke, Lecturer in Comparative Public Law and European Law at the University of Hull, says: “Students need a holistic mindset, and language skills are part of that. This is absolutely crucial given today’s competitive job market.

Künnecke encourages students to learn a new language in their spare time and take advantage of opportunities to study law abroad, such as paralegal programs.

There is currently a shortage of native English-speaking lawyers working in European and international institutions, according to Brian Porro, senior translator at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation.

“When I was recruiting lawyer-linguists at the European Court of Justice – and even today – I found that there was a shortage of potential English candidates qualified in law with an additional language,” he says.

“With additional language, you are able to communicate better and more broadly, and just having this sub-discipline indicates your ability to focus and deploy your language skills in legal practice,” says Porro. He also notes that international law firms may offer higher salaries to bilingual employees.

In addition to increasing your job prospects, language skills also open up opportunities for working abroad. Aleksandra Skrodzka, a law graduate from the University of Hull, who speaks Polish, Slovak and French, got a traineeship as a legal translator at the European Commission in Brussels last summer.

“It definitely sets you apart because we live in a multicultural society,” she says. “At the European Commission, I translated complex parliamentary acts and it gave me great satisfaction because combining the law with a language gives you cultural awareness.” Knowing different languages ​​can also open the door to better opportunities once you’re employed, says Robert Volterra, partner and director of Volterra Fietta, who speaks French, Spanish and Italian, as well as English.

“For any law firm that engages with clients or opposing parties from different cultures and language groups, it is beneficial to have a multilingual staff,” Volterra says.

Knowing at least one foreign language can also help you broaden the scope of your work, says Gabriel Helou, a lawyer at the Norwegian Refugee Council and former project manager in the rule of law and justice sector at the EU Delegation in Jerusalem.

“It allows you to explore foreign legal systems or experiences through a comparative approach. Referring to original sources of information can sometimes be more reliable and understandable,” says Helou.

In our interconnected world, foreign language skills give lawyers a global mindset that is increasingly useful and desired by employers – so it might be worth dusting off those old textbooks.

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This article was modified on July 8, 2015 to correct the spelling of Patricio Grané Labat’s name.

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