For bilingual lawyers, second-language skills can translate into a competitive advantage in today's legal job market.
While the legal industry may not seem like a field in which foreign-language skills matter, the truth is that in this global economy, the more language skills you have, the better. Just check out the local attorney job postings in your area, and note the number of positions that require (or would prefer) attorneys fluent in additional languages.
If you're just starting off, or are looking for a way to leverage your language skills, here are three strategies you may want to consider:
Aim for a Niche Market. We've previously written about marketing your cultural and ethnic background. Many recent immigrants prefer to do business with someone who is familiar with their language and culture. By being able to speak Chinese in San Francisco, Spanish in San Antonio, or French along the Canadian border, you may be opening yourself to a whole new book of business. That's not even mentioning certain practice areas like immigration law where the ability to speak a foreign language is often required.
Be Open to Business Opportunities Abroad. Despite the sluggish economy, foreign investors are still looking to do business in the United States. Whether investors are looking to open a retail store or buy real estate, they will likely need an attorney to perform the work. You can actively target foreign businesses or even go to a foreign country to drum up business. As an American attorney with the ability to speak the language in a foreign country, you may be surprised by the amount of interest -- and business -- you garner.
Consider Foreign Document Review.Document review may be ugly step-child of legal jobs. However, doc reviews tend to pay well and can help hold you over until the next job. If you've done document reviews before, you may be aware that many are only interested in bilingual attorneys. Projects that require foreign-language fluency also tend to pay the most money.
Your ability to speak, read, and write in a foreign language should not be something you shy away from. If you embrace your language skills, you may find the world really is your oyster when it comes to finding jobs and growing your practice.