Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Cinderella
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:04 pm

Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby Cinderella » Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:38 pm

I want to be a public defender. I have significant pre-law school experience working for public defense organizations. I've seen first-hand how important Spanish fluency is, especially in the pd hiring process. I've been taking Spanish classes since I was in kindergarten, but I was never very interested in learning foreign languages and I never studied abroad, so I’m not fluent.

Would it be more detrimental or beneficial to my career to do Spanish immersion in a foreign country over the summer, rather than working for a public defender for 1L summer?

User avatar
cinephile
Posts: 3469
Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 3:50 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby cinephile » Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:49 pm

I would think that doing legal related work would be the most important thing for your 1L summer.

There are opportunities working abroad if you want to immerse yourself in Spanish. Or you could take classes in the evening. Or immerse yourself in a law school study abroad.

LawStudent89
Posts: 78
Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 6:34 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby LawStudent89 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:51 pm

cinephile wrote:I would think that doing legal related work would be the most important thing for your 1L summer.

There are opportunities working abroad if you want to immerse yourself in Spanish. Or you could take classes in the evening. Or immerse yourself in a law school study abroad.


This seems like really great advice.
Last edited by LawStudent89 on Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Cinderella
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:04 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby Cinderella » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:01 pm

cinephile wrote:I would think that doing legal related work would be the most important thing for your 1L summer.

There are opportunities working abroad if you want to immerse yourself in Spanish. Or you could take classes in the evening. Or immerse yourself in a law school study abroad.


The study/working abroad opportunities that I know of/have the most access to either require fluency or are in non-spanish speaking countries. So assume, at least for the moment, that this is not a viable option.

Also, I know the conventional wisdom is to do something legal 1L summer. But conventional wisdom rarely applies to public defense.
Last edited by Cinderella on Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MrAnon
Posts: 1615
Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:08 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby MrAnon » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:02 pm

focus on a law job.

Two candidates: One knows spanish, one worked with a PD during the summer. Which one you think a public defender wants to hire?

User avatar
Grizz
Posts: 10583
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2010 6:31 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby Grizz » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:03 pm

You need to do legal work 1L summer.

Cinderella
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:04 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby Cinderella » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:06 pm

MrAnon wrote:focus on a law job.

Two candidates: One knows spanish, one worked with a PD during the summer. Which one you think a public defender wants to hire?


You sure? Two candidates: one is top %10 at a T14, the other knows spanish. Most PD's would take the spanish speaker.

LawStudent89
Posts: 78
Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 6:34 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby LawStudent89 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:08 pm

Cinderella wrote:
MrAnon wrote:focus on a law job.

Two candidates: One knows spanish, one worked with a PD during the summer. Which one you think a public defender wants to hire?


You sure? Two candidates: one is top %10 at a T14, the other knows spanish. Most PD's would take the spanish speaker.


I agree. You should take night classes so that you are fluent in Spanish. And also get a legal job for your 1L summer.

User avatar
Grizz
Posts: 10583
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2010 6:31 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby Grizz » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:15 pm

Cinderella wrote:
MrAnon wrote:focus on a law job.

Two candidates: One knows spanish, one worked with a PD during the summer. Which one you think a public defender wants to hire?


You sure? Two candidates: one is top %10 at a T14, the other knows spanish. Most PD's would take the spanish speaker.

That's not the problem.

Cinderella
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:04 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby Cinderella » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:20 pm

Grizz wrote:
Cinderella wrote:
MrAnon wrote:focus on a law job.

Two candidates: One knows spanish, one worked with a PD during the summer. Which one you think a public defender wants to hire?


You sure? Two candidates: one is top %10 at a T14, the other knows spanish. Most PD's would take the spanish speaker.

That's not the problem.


I know. Just pointing out how helpful Spanish can be, and that conventional wisdom often doesn't apply.

User avatar
cinephile
Posts: 3469
Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 3:50 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby cinephile » Thu Jan 19, 2012 8:22 pm

Cinderella wrote:
The study/working abroad opportunities that I know of/have the most access to either require fluency or are in non-spanish speaking countries. So assume, at least for the moment, that this is not a viable option.


It still could be an option. I know someone who volunteered (in a pro bono capacity) in Guatemala last year, and she didn't know any Spanish before going. She arrived a month before her summer internship began and took a crash course.

I know zero Spanish, but I've applied to several firms in Argentina and in they don't seem to care.

Anyway, it's up to you. But the reality is that there are probably a number of people who are doing something like working for a PD office this summer and they also grew up in Spanish-speaking households or studied Spanish in college. Those people are probably in the best position to get the work you want, but at least if you work for a PD office this summer you'd be in the second best position.

sarahh
Posts: 610
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:36 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby sarahh » Fri Jan 20, 2012 1:32 am

If you want to be a public defender, I assume you won't be doing OCI. You should have enough time to do an internship and the immersion program for a few weeks. I know a few people that did that.

BeautifulSW
Posts: 581
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 11:52 am

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby BeautifulSW » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:59 pm

I have spent a LOT of my career as a public defender representing Spanish speaking clients. Indeed, for a large part of the population where I live, Spanish is the first language even for native-born Americans.

A decent knowledge of the language is undeniably useful but it isn't crucial nor is it entirely safe. When you are interviewing some undocumented alien in jail for being a drug "mule", some Spanish helps to establish rapport but unless you are REALLY fluent you had better be using a professional interpreter. Spanish is subtle and often indirect. There are plenty of "false cognates" between Spanish and English, words that sound the same but don't mean the same thing. Sometimes the difference is dramatic but sometimes it is not.

Finally, even if you are a native speaker of both languages, that doesn't mean that you have the knowledge to explain American legal concepts in a way that will make sense in a Latin American's context and experience.

There is a reason that the federal court certification test for interpreters has a dismal pass rate.

I encourage everyone to learn at least some Spanish since it is the second language of the United States. Also, it's fun! But substantial legal translation work should be left to the professionals.

EDIT: I do speak Spanish myself, better than most Americans with college courses in the subject but I am nothing like fluent enough to function as a lawyer in that language. I would never try it. It would be malpractice.

User avatar
nygrrrl
Posts: 4948
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:01 am

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby nygrrrl » Fri Jan 20, 2012 1:05 pm

BeautifulSW wrote:I have spent a LOT of my career as a public defender representing Spanish speaking clients. Indeed, for a large part of the population where I live, Spanish is the first language even for native-born Americans.

A decent knowledge of the language is undeniably useful but it isn't crucial nor is it entirely safe. When you are interviewing some undocumented alien in jail for being a drug "mule", some Spanish helps to establish rapport but unless you are REALLY fluent you had better be using a professional interpreter. Spanish is subtle and often indirect. There are plenty of "false cognates" between Spanish and English, words that sound the same but don't mean the same thing. Sometimes the difference is dramatic but sometimes it is not.

Finally, even if you are a native speaker of both languages, that doesn't mean that you have the knowledge to explain American legal concepts in a way that will make sense in a Latin American's context and experience.

There is a reason that the federal court certification test for interpreters has a dismal pass rate.

I encourage everyone to learn at least some Spanish since it is the second language of the United States. Also, it's fun! But substantial legal translation work should be left to the professionals.

EDIT: I do speak Spanish myself, better than most Americans with college courses in the subject but I am nothing like fluent enough to function as a lawyer in that language. I would never try it. It would be malpractice.

Was going to post something similar but Beautiful has done it... well.... beautifully! Some Spanish will be a help but you'll still be relying on professional court translators. My two cents? It may not be what you want to hear, but get a gig with the PD for your 1L summer. Take Spanish at night.

User avatar
seancris
Posts: 676
Joined: Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:10 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby seancris » Fri Jan 20, 2012 1:13 pm

Would it be possible to self-study for some spanish fluency exam? That way you could study on your own time and list your skills as a credential. I'm sure there are exams out there that test basic, intermediate, and advanced levels of fluency. I know these exams exist for italian, but I can't rememeber what they're called atm.

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby CanadianWolf » Fri Jan 20, 2012 1:14 pm

You need to do both to distinguish your application as one who is willing to do what is necessary to help the office. Spanish is very important for many prosecutor's offices as well as for PD offices throughout the country. Sometimes Spanish fluency is required so summer study may not suffice.

Cinderella
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:04 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby Cinderella » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:49 pm

sarahh wrote:If you want to be a public defender, I assume you won't be doing OCI. You should have enough time to do an internship and the immersion program for a few weeks. I know a few people that did that.


Right, I'm not planning on doing OCI. I'm not sure what the rest of this means, though. Doesn't OCI happen during the first few weeks of 2L? So I'd have to be back at school anyway?

Cinderella
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:04 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby Cinderella » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:57 pm

@ BeautifulSW:

Thank you for the response, this is exactly the kind of information I was looking for. In my experience, Spanish speaking staff/investigators are given great preference in the hiring process. But now that I think about it, not many public defenders that I know are Spanish speakers. I guess this more or less explains it.

User avatar
mountaintime
Posts: 222
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:38 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby mountaintime » Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:02 pm

The State PD office I worked for last summer was very clear about this. By far, the biggest hiring bump they give is the one for working for them previously. If you want to work for them 2L, the most important thing, by far, is working for them your 1L year. If you want to work for them after graduating, you sure as hell better have worked for them as a summer intern. Also, this was in a fairly spanish speaking state, and none of the attorneys at my office spoke spanish. every office had multiple translators. spanish speaking is something that can be outsourced cheaply. you're making a big mistake if you go do some BS language immersion program instead of just working for the PD office this summer. How much spanish do you really think you're going to learn? a lot? maybe. enough for it to make a meaningful impact on your productivity for the PD office? doubtful.

edit: the comments above about court certified translators and malpractice are on point. i really don't think spanish will help you much unless it is absolutely perfect and you can get certified, and then, it's overkill and kind of pointless.
Last edited by mountaintime on Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

sarahh
Posts: 610
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:36 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby sarahh » Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:04 pm

Cinderella wrote:
sarahh wrote:If you want to be a public defender, I assume you won't be doing OCI. You should have enough time to do an internship and the immersion program for a few weeks. I know a few people that did that.


Right, I'm not planning on doing OCI. I'm not sure what the rest of this means, though. Doesn't OCI happen during the first few weeks of 2L? So I'd have to be back at school anyway?


Ours is before. I guess it depends on the school. Obviously, if you had an internship you could not go for the whole summer, but maybe a few weeks. I was planning to do it for 3-4 weeks at the end of the summer after my internship and then take a class at school next year. People told me that that was the common thing to do.

User avatar
mountaintime
Posts: 222
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:38 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby mountaintime » Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:19 pm

i don't mean to be rude, but 3 or 4 weeks of spanish refresher isn't going to do anything for you.

sarahh
Posts: 610
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:36 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby sarahh » Sat Jan 21, 2012 10:41 am

mountaintime wrote:i don't mean to be rude, but 3 or 4 weeks of spanish refresher isn't going to do anything for you.

I know people who did it who said it was helpful. Not ideal, but I can't go back and time and continue taking Spanish in college.

LawStudent89
Posts: 78
Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 6:34 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby LawStudent89 » Sat Jan 21, 2012 11:43 am

sarahh wrote:
mountaintime wrote:i don't mean to be rude, but 3 or 4 weeks of spanish refresher isn't going to do anything for you.

I know people who did it who said it was helpful. Not ideal, but I can't go back and time and continue taking Spanish in college.


Very good point. That being said, as long as you work for PD during the summer, it doesn't matter how helpful the spanish refresher is because it won't make a difference. Just don't choose a spanish immersion program over PD work.

seatown12
Posts: 614
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2009 9:16 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby seatown12 » Sat Jan 21, 2012 12:59 pm

If you don't work for a PD this summer you will miss out on valuable experience in the PD setting, you will lose the chance to make connections at a potential future employer, you will not have a resume line that demonstrates your commitment to the work, and as has been pointed out you will not learn enough Spanish to do competent legal translation anyway.

Coming from someone who has devoted his entire law school tenure to becoming a PD: I see this as a big mistake.

User avatar
mountaintime
Posts: 222
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:38 pm

Re: Public Defense - 1L Summer Spanish Immersion?

Postby mountaintime » Sat Jan 21, 2012 3:58 pm

I should also that my PD 1L summer was one of the best experiences of my life. Tons of substantive works, lots of stuff for the resume and subsequent interviews. Also, I told my office that I would like to explore some other options before committing to PD, and they're totally cool with that. They basically told me I can always come back to them. Not many 1L summer jobs can lead to permanent employment; PD is one that does.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.