Why learning a foreign language is hugely beneficial for a career in law
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Whether you’re taking a few extra language classes to brush up on your French for a trip to Paris, or you’ve chosen to study a language as part of your degree, the skills you gain when learning a language will serve you well.
In many ways, a languages degree is the perfect degree to provide you with ever-essential ‘transferable’ skills. Here are some of the skills that language learning develops – and how they’ll help you on the pathway to a legal career:
This seems like a basic one. Learning a foreign language means that you can communicate with someone who also speaks that language, right? Yes, that is a huge part of it. But it goes beyond that. If you study languages, you’ll probably recognise the feeling of utter frustration when you can’t find the right word to express yourself in that language – either in your head or the dictionary.
When faced with cultural differences, you’re also faced with linguistic difficulties, and you often must find a way to express a concept without using a specific word itself. This skill is perfectly transferable to what solicitors do day to day in interactions with clients. Often, clients will not be as legally literate as solicitors. Explaining complicated legal procedures in simple, concise terms is an important communication skill that language-learning prepares lawyers well for.
With Brexit looming, Britain is shrouded in uncertainty. What is certain, though, is that knowing a foreign language will only become more important after Brexit occurs.
International clients wishing to carry out huge business deals or seeking legal advice might no longer look to Britain for answers. Therefore, the awareness of a foreign language will stand you in good stead, allowing you to approach overseas clients who may have doubts or handle transactions within a different cultural context. Furthermore, if you’re interested in working for an international law firm, global skills are incredibly important – often these law firms will trust their employees to communicate with foreign offices and clients, and they might even offer secondments in foreign countries.
If you study a languages degree, one of the most exciting aspects of your degree is probably a year abroad. During this time, you might work in a foreign culture and environmen, whether that be in a business or in a school. Going to work within a different cultural context is brilliant for broadening your commercial awareness – a skill that is in huge demand at law firms.
Once you’ve witnessed how a business operates abroad, you will be able to draw comparisons with your home country, and understand different systems. This understanding is essential if you want to work as a commercial lawyer, where you might be handling transnational deals that involve businesses based in different locations. Which brings me to my next point…
Innovation and creativity skills
Language-learning, essentially, opens your mind to how foreign cultures have different approaches to situations. When you experience various ways of interpreting the same situation, or problem, you broaden your mindset and the way that you approach situations in your own life. Learning about a foreign culture helps to improve creativity because you consider many ways of viewing the same problem. In a law career, solicitors and barristers often need to think outside the box, whether that’s to find the best deal for a client, or using innovative ways to attract new clients to the business. Rather than having a narrow viewpoint towards the world, language-learning teaches you to keep an open-mind.