Languages spoken by lawyers in a legal department: three levels of proficiency

When companies do business in many languages, their legal department can help more when it has lawyers who are conversant in those languages. Multi-lingual capability is a topic this blog has addressed (See my post of April 26, 2006: managing lawyers who do not speak English as a primary language; Aug. 26, 2006: linguistic diversity in the Mary Kay law department; April 23, 2007: challenges of foreign offices include language barriers; Aug. 13, 2009 #5: only translate key provisions from agreements in another language; and April 29, 2009: Peter Wexler, of French-based Schneider Electric, doesn’t speak French.).

What hasn’t been seen until recently is a survey that asks respondent legal departments to count how many languages its team members speak. So, I read with interest one that asks these three questions:

“How many languages does your team speak? [In how many languages are they] Able to communicate with business people? Able to draft legal documents in.” Those are three levels of fluency in a foreign language and the data will make sense as one indicator of the capability of a law department.

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