English is now the global language of law. Is your law firm keeping up?
Legal English is now the global language of law. An increasing number of international law firms are choosing English as their corporate language. At our client Ashurst's base in Germany, 222 of the 225 lawyers speak English fluently as a second language. The other three lawyers are British. Some corporate deals in Germany are even being conducted under the jurisdiction of English law.
While German education is excellent, and English language teaching also very good there, adopting a global language policy is not an easy route to success, and law firms invariably find resistance from employees. Many may feel at a disadvantage if their English isn’t as good as others employees, and staff performance may suffer. But to survive and thrive in a global economy, firms must overcome language barriers—and knowledge of Legal English and Business English will almost always be useful, at least in the short term.
Many employees of multinational law firms revealed to Legal English UK that they felt that their relatively poor language skills could become noticeable and have career-related consequences. In the worst case scenario, they simply stop contributing to meetings. “They’re afraid to make mistakes,” an HR manager once told us, “so they will just not speak at all.”
English as the lingua franca
The fastest-spreading language in human history, English is spoken at an intermediate level or above by some 1.75 billion people worldwide - 25% of the world's population. There are over 400 million native speakers in countries like the US., the UK and Australia, around a billion fluent speakers in formerly colonised nations such as India and Nigeria, and millions of people around the world who’ve studied it as a second language. An estimated 565 million people use it on the internet.
Why should law firms turn to English only?
The need to tightly co-ordinate tasks and work with clients and associates around the world has accelerated the move toward English as the official language of law no matter where firms or corporate legal departments are based.
There are three reasons why English is the corporate standard for law firms and multinational organisations.
In corporate law , your law firm will be competing with law firms that also possess highly educated lawyers with considerable linguistic skills. As mentioned earlier, English law is not only being used in the UK and many commonwealth countries but in many European countries it is being adopted for business law as well. Law firms that limit themselves to the language of the market that they are operate in are missing out on tremendous growth opportunities.
Sharing of resources
Language differences can issues when employees at an organisation with offices all over the world have to work together to meet specific goals. For instance, a lawyer based in Dubai may need input from a paralegal in Beijing. Without a knowledge of legal English, communication will not be at its best. Better language comprehension gives employees more information, which is vital to good decision making.
Negotiations need a common language
One major role of the successful corporate lawyer is negotiation. Negotiations regarding a merger or acquisition are complicated enough when everybody speaks the same language. But when they don’t, nuances are easily lost, even in simple e-mail exchanges. One should also bear in mind that integrating two organisations with different corporate cultures and different backgrounds can also be complicated.
London School of Legal English runs language courses for law firms such as Ashurst, Bloomsbury, Baker McKenzie and corporate legal departments such as British American Tobacco, Cisco Systems, Google and many more. For the best in Legal English, Legal Spanish, Business English and Legal French, fill out the form below or email us. ing of resources Language differences can issues when employees at an organisation with offices all over the world have to work together to meet specific goals. For instance, a lawyer from Belgium may need input from a paralegal in Beijing. Without a knowledge of legal English, communication will not be at its best. Better language comprehension gives employees more information, which is vital to good decision making.