In any business, it pays to think about the wider needs of your clients. If you are working in a business that is likely to bring you into contact with people from a range of backgrounds, it pays to think about their specific needs.
This is true in most businesses, but particularly in a law firm. After all, a lawyer's stock-in-trade IS language.
Three quotes spring to mind to sum this up:
The renowned Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once said:
"The main business of a lawyer is to take the romance, the mystery, the irony, the ambiguity out of everything he touches."
A University lecturer of mine was fond of the aphorism that a lawyer is "A person who can read and write, nothing more" (While his source has been forgotten, the lesson hasn't.)
Finally, the famous trial Lawyer Louis Nizer said:
"Preparation is the be-all of good trial work. Everything else - felicity of expression, improvisational brilliance - is a satellite around the sun. Thorough preparation is that sun."
It goes without saying that lawyers need a facility with language above and beyond that of the person on the street. However, the hypothetical "Man [sic] on the Clapham Omnibus" may now come from any country in the world, such is the nature of our globalised world.
So, how can lawyers be prepared and ready to deliver their stock-in-trade to people from all corners of the earth? First, you need to have expert translators you can trust on hand.
Second, you need to know which languages you are most likely to encounter and have ready assistance to hand.
What are the most common languages that lawyers in the UK need to know?
The first thing to understand is which languages we are likely to run into.
Thankfully, that is fairly straightforward. The three most common languages in the UK are:
Polish - there are more than half a million native Polish speakers in the UK. The number rose sharply after Poland acceded to the EU in 2004. There are many Polish businesses and communities in the UK.
Punjabi - there are around a quarter of a million native Punjabi speakers in the UK, which is home to the largest Punjabi diaspora.
Urdu - just behind Punjabi is Urdu. Again, there are around a quarter of a million native Urdu speakers, with more than four hundred thousand people in the UK able to speak the language.
Britain's historic presence in India has had a clear influence. Bengali and Gujurati are not far behind those mentioned above.
However, other common languages include Arabic, French, Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish. Duolingo, the language learning app, also reports that users are using their service to learn Japanese, Turkish and Welsh!
What can lawyers do to turn language into an opportunity?
Again, having the services of a translator you can trust is vital. Interpretation is vital and absolutely necessary in many cases, such as criminal proceedings. However, in other areas, having material like handouts, flyers, guides etc., available can set you apart from the competition.
It pays to carry out some additional research to find out which languages are prominent in your area and translating key material, as well as possibly your website.
If you would like to discuss how our translation services can help you tap into new markets, better serve existing ones, and help you prepare for every eventuality, please get in touch.