Bilingual Paralegal? Languages Can Kickstart Your Career

Did you know that being bilingual can boost your career prospects in the legal world? You better get your translation dictionary out! 

 

Bilingual Paralegal? Languages can kickstart your career 1

Languages are useful in the legal world

Words of wisdom can come in all shapes and sizes and often from the most unlikely places. So I bet you’ll be surprised to hear that an ancient Chinese proverb might just help you to kickstart your legal career – learn a second language!

 “To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world”. Not only does a second language lend you a new perspective, it opens up paralegal job opportunities for you.

Picture the scene. You’re a Polish speaking paralegal accompanying partners at a meeting. It’s a big deal, but your Polish clients are becoming frustrated. They have a problem with the small print but they don’t have the English skills to fully articulate what they want. 

All heads turn to you. It’s now or never. You seize the opportunity by artfully translating the Polish clients’ questions, and in turn translating the partners’ answers. The meeting ends with smiles and handshakes all round, as well as a big slap on the back for you. 

It’s clear that having language skills can really help you stand out as a paralegal. Not only will it set you apart from the crowd, but it will allow you to take on more responsibility, more quickly.

Let’s cut to the chase: you’ve got to have excellent language skills

When a law firm advertises for French speaking paralegal jobs, they won’t be too impressed when you turn up to an interview only to give them an earful of garbled GCSE-style French. 

If your second language is going to be useful to your legal career, it has to be advanced. Legalese can be impenetrable at the best of times, let alone in another language. That means you have to be comfortable speaking with clients and translating legal documents. 

And don’t think that being bilingual is a short-cut. Whether you become a Bulgarian speaking paralegal, a Russian speaking paralegal or a German-speaking paralegal – you need legal knowledge! 

As we’ve previously discussed in the How to become a paralegal article, most paralegal jobs will only consider candidates that have a qualifying law degree, like an LLB or GDL.

 

Languages can be a paralegal’s best friend

UK cities are incredibly diverse and none more so than London. Did you know that there are over 250 languages spoken in the capital daily, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world? 

So it’s no surprise that UK law firms are often looking to hire bilingual paralegals. These paralegals with second languages will mostly be working in roles that involve contracts or litigation, especially in commercial and corporate practice areas. There’s one thing all of these second-language paralegal jobs have in common: translation. 

The practice area you end up working in will likely depend on the language you speak. For instance, if you’re an Arabic speaking paralegal it may be worth considering roles at law firms which specialise in Islamic finance. 

Or if you’re a Mandarin speaking paralegal, you may find attractive paralegal roles at one of the many London-based law firms with strong links to China, such as Mills and Reeve. 

If you’re not sure which practice areas are out there, I’ve covered them for you here.

    Will a second language help you to secure a Training Contract?

    If you’re thinking that your second language is a golden ticket to the big time, I’m sorry to have to tell you, but it’s not. 

    When it comes to the elusive Training Contracts, Law firms are increasingly looking for candidates with proven legal experience, such as paralegals. But ultimately, it’s about your academic record. 

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t highlight your language skills. Being able to talk about how you’ve used your language in a legal context will no doubt impress your potential employer. 

    Plus, the appeal of bilingual candidates goes beyond the practical applications. It is proof that this individual is dedicated and demonstrates a real commitment to learning new skills.

    Language skills are the icing on the cake

    Let’s not pretend that a second language makes finding the ideal paralegal job easy. It doesn’t. 

    But it can be the icing on the cake, especially when applying to global law firms. You’ll be able to break down language barriers by translating documents and nurturing relationships with clients.

    Speaking another language even goes beyond maintaining client relationships and translation. It shows that you have what it takes to thrive at a law firm, proving that you’re a keen and diligent learner: everything that a paralegal should be.

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