Way back when, we looked at whether or not you could benefit your career by learning Chinese. While the answer seems to be “maybe”, there are some ways that lawyers with a second language can help themselves in a down job market, according to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog:
“Unemployed lawyers looking for work in a lousy job market might want to brush up on their Korean or Chinese.
As international business disputes proliferate, law firms are bringing in flocks of attorneys with a flair for languages, although the jobs are almost always temporary.
This spring Apple Inc.’s AAPL +1.69%lawyers brought on dozens of Korean-speaking contract attorneys and document reviewers to help grind through a last-minute document dump from Samsung Electronics Co., 005930.SE +3.41%the Korean manufacturer with which it is locked in an epic patent battle over smartphones.
In fact, law firms and corporations that used to hire translators fluent in languages such as Japanese, Hebrew or Spanish now figure they can get legal skills in the bargain.
“For legal matters, translators and attorneys with foreign-language skills are probably in the same price range—you get more bang for your buck,” said Michael Reichwald, president of Yorkson Legal, a New York agency that supplies law firms and corporations with foreign-language-proficient lawyers and paralegals.”
“The rise of the global economy—and the tilt toward Asia—has increased demand for lawyers who are fluent in Asian languages or who can help translate on deals or disputes in emerging economies, such as Brazil or India, said Belina Anderson, a commercial litigator whose practice includes French comparative law and legal translations.
But even the biggest law firms typically can’t afford to retain an army of bilingual lawyers just in case litigation pops up in one country or another.
So they often turn to staffing agencies. Fluent temp attorneys and document reviewers can help winnow down mounds of foreign-language material during trial preparation, flagging the relevant files for the firm’s senior litigators.
Staffing agencies might bill law firms anywhere from $75 an hour to as much as $150 an hour, depending on the contract lawyer’s expertise and other skills, such as knowledge of engineering. While such projects may be extended for some time, few contract attorneys jump from temp work for a law firm into full-time work.”
Read more on the rising need for bi-lingual lawyers at the WSJ Law Blog…
Again, it’s pretty clear that if you are not already highly fluent in a second language, you can’t expect to compete with the likes of non-native English speakers who have reached a high level of English language proficiency. But, there are some instances when even a moderate level of speaking/reading ability can be of service. We have seen expat lawyers placed in foreign destinations simply because they at least possess the skills to assimilate more quickly into a new work/living environment better than other candidates with no foreign language skills. Our advice is to consider improving your language skills or start from scratch, but don’t expect an immediate return on your investment.