Block on Trump's Asylum Ban Upheld by Supreme Court
Language is a cultural thing, not a legal thing.
But they can intersect in law practice, and the work depends on the community where lawyers serve. Attorneys who speak that community's language typically have an advantage over those who do not.
It might be an immigrant neighborhood, or a client from a foreign culture. But bilingual lawyers find their niche in a demographic area more than in a practice area.
California, which belonged to Mexico not so long ago, has a very large Spanish-speaking population. After 150 years of immigration, almost half of California residents speak a language other than English.
It's a big problem for the Los Angeles court system, the largest in the country. According to the Los Angeles Times, the courts can't get enough qualified interpreters to do justice.
Naturally, Spanish-speaking attorneys and other second-language lawyers have access to that population. They serve clients in every practice area imaginable, including personal injury, criminal, family, business, intellectual property, etc. It is effectively a "second-language niche."
Of course, in a land of immigrants the people will have immigration issues. According to the Department of Justice, more than 40 percent of the defendants in deportation cases did not have lawyers in 2016.
That's more than 73,000 people who needed a lawyer but couldn't find one who spoke their native language. Part of the problem, for all concerned, is they couldn't afford one.
But in jurisdictions like New York City, Los Angeles, San Franciso, Chicago, and Austin that offer financial assistance, bilingual immigration lawyers have a place.
Contract attorneys work in a niche unto themselves. But if they speak a foreign language, they can command more money.
Some document review jobs pay twice the going rate; some hire only bilingual lawyers.
In any case -- all other things being equal -- a bilingual lawyer has an advantage over any attorney who doesn't speak the client's native language. It's a big world, and the niche is where you practice.