According to the 2019 U.S. Census, an estimated 42 million United States residents speak Spanish at home, accounting for 13.5% of the U.S. population. Yet, Spanish-speaking lawyers make up only five percent of the nation’s attorneys, according to the American Bar Association.
As the demographics of the United States change and shift, minority groups that once made up small slivers of the population are now rapidly growing, but the legal system is still overwhelmingly English-speaking. That puts the Spanish-speaking community at a severe disadvantage in legal proceedings.
When it comes to legal matters involving work accidents and labor law, car accidents, personal injury or medical malpractice, it is vital that the Spanish-speaking community have access to lawyers who not only understand the language of the law, but who can translate, decode and simplify it for their clients. That’s why, at Conexión Legal, we provide free legal advice, and can connect you with Spanish-speaking attorneys who specialize in your area of legal need. Simply call us at 1-800-201-1220 or message us through WhatsApp.
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Why do I need a Spanish-speaking attorney?
Of the 42 million United States residents who speak Spanish at home, only 23.5 million reported in 2019 that they spoke English “very well.” An additional 6.8 million reported that they spoke English “well.”
English — with its mix of Latin, Germanic, Greek and French influences — is difficult enough to master on its own, but legal English is much more complicated and confusing, even for native speakers. The intimidating language barrier that already exists for non-native speakers is magnified by that complexity, and can become overwhelming. Tasks as simple as filling out paperwork can become stressful and confusing.
Clear and direct communication
For those not born in the United States, the American legal system can be frightening. It is large, complicated and has a language of its own. To successfully navigate that system, attorneys and clients must must work as a team, and good teams communicate.
Non-native English speakers may find it difficult to clearly communicate fears, concerns and questions in English, or may be embarrassed if they do not understand something explained to them in English. Hiring a translator or interpreter to help has its drawbacks: Without experience in the legal field, legal terms are difficult to understand, and therefore translate or interpret correctly.
Because legal proceedings can involve daily, direct and clear communication with your attorney, it is necessary to have an open exchange of ideas, facts, concerns and strategies, so that any misunderstandings can be quickly resolved, if not avoided. By speaking the same language, you can help each other: They can explain every step of your case, and you can clearly explain to them your goals and ideal outcomes.
Comfort is an important factor in clear and direct communication. We are simply more comfortable with people who speak as we do, who grew up as we did and who understand our culture.
Words, phrases, expressions, concepts, ideals, etiquette, values and traditions are all important parts of communication that arise from one’s culture. Beyond a shared language, sharing a similar cultural background or upbringing connects people on a deeper level, and makes communication easier.
By hiring a Spanish-speaking attorney, you will be hiring someone you can trust, someone with whom you can identify and someone with whom you can speak fluently and candidly without fear of being judged or misunderstood.
While hiring any attorney is preferable than having no attorney at all, clients can waste time and money by hiring attorneys who cannot speak Spanish.
Attorneys who do not speak Spanish may not clearly understand concerns their Spanish-speaking clients may have, concerns arising not just from the language barrier, but arising from the anxiety of navigating an unfamiliar system. Their clients may feel too embarrassed or intimidated to ask simple questions that could clarify important parts of the legal process. Even hiring a translator or an interpreter — which would be an additional cost — is a gamble.
Imagine starting a legal process with a lawyer who does not speak Spanish. He has a question about the facts of the case, but the interpreter you hired misunderstands (and then mistranslates) his question to you, so you give the lawyer the wrong information. By the time the misunderstanding is uncovered, you have lost time and money, or damaged your case.
You then decide to hire a different attorney who does speak Spanish, but no matter how skilled and knowledgable, it will take that new attorney time to learn the facts of your case and review the work already done, meaning you will be paying for the same work twice. In the meantime, you may have missed important deadlines.
How do you choose a Spanish-speaking attorney?
To ensure that you are well-represented in legal proceedings, you must take into account several factors when choosing an attorney. While attorney’s fees are certainly an area of concern, what wins cases is experience, expertise and confidence.
Has the attorney worked enough cases and seen enough different scenarios to be able to handle any eventuality? Remember: Not all experience is created equal, and age alone does not determine experience. There are many older attorneys with many years of experience who have not kept up with the times and who do not regularly handle cases. There are many younger attorneys who may not have handled as many cases as older attorneys, but their experience is recent and frequent.
How many cases like yours has this attorney handled? Not all attorneys are created equal. You want to make sure that your attorney specializes in your area of legal need. You do not want a family law attorney to take on your wrongful termination case, or a personal injury lawyer to handle your divorce. The question you have to ask is: Have they handled enough cases like yours, so that they are prepared for the widest variety of scenarios?
That experience will help determine your confidence in your attorney: Do you feel they will do their best to represent you? Do you feel that they are capable of handling your case? Do they have the time to properly attend to your case? If the attorney has worked for your family, friends or acquaintances, how was their experience with that attorney?
During your first meeting with your attorney, you should also measure their confidence. If they guarantee to win your case for you, or promise to win at any cost, that could be a red flag. You want your attorney to be confident, but not arrogant or reckless. You want to look for an attorney who is reassuring, level-headed, optimistic and realistic.
For the rapidly-growing Latino and Hispanic community in the United States, having an attorney fluent in Spanish is of vital importance. That’s why, at Conexión Legal, we provide free legal advice and connect you to a Spanish-speaking attorney who specializes in your area of need. Simply call us at 1-800-201-1220 or message us through WhatsApp.