What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

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hcrimson2014
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What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby hcrimson2014 » Sun Dec 01, 2013 10:58 pm

For those without the marks to get clerkship, biglaw is pretty much the only type of employment (outliers not withstanding) that makes law school worthwhile economically. It seems that there are many options for one to improve one's opportunity and performance at biglaw. The benefits of having an engineering degree or having the w/e in a MBB firm have been widely discussed, but not everyone has the ability to go back to choose engineering as a major and certainly not everyone gets hired by Mckinsey. One skill set that seems reasonably attainable is learning a foreign language which hasn't been discussed much around here and I am wondering based on people's past experience, what are the most desirable foreign languages to a generic biglaw firm? Would something like Arabic be more desirable over languages like French?

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cinephile
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby cinephile » Sun Dec 01, 2013 11:01 pm

If you're starting now, there's no way you're going to attain fluency to the degree that it'd be helpful. I mean, unless you're starting college in the fall and are planning on going to live in a foreign country for the next few years.

And no, it's not actually that helpful. Focus on doing well in law school and learning to interview well.

hcrimson2014
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby hcrimson2014 » Sun Dec 01, 2013 11:05 pm

cinephile wrote:If you're starting now, there's no way you're going to attain fluency to the degree that it'd be helpful. I mean, unless you're starting college in the fall and are planning on going to live in a foreign country for the next few years.

And no, it's not actually that helpful. Focus on doing well in law school and learning to interview well.


Definitely, but I just want to put it out there in case someone in first year ug might be interested. Also, it might be interesting for students already possessing a foreign language to have an idea of the desirability of their skill. One of my major was Latin so that is less than useless unless you are dealing with the Vatican city, although they are facing a lot of charges lately, wish I could have done something else.

Void
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby Void » Sun Dec 01, 2013 11:34 pm

I'm definitely not a biglaw guy but I don't think language skills would be that desirable in biglaw. Biglaw deals with big business, and big business (in the U.S.) is conducted exclusively in English. It's not like public interest where fluency in Spanish is hugely helpful because many clients speak it as a first language. The corporations you represent in biglaw don't really have this issue.

rad lulz
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby rad lulz » Sun Dec 01, 2013 11:37 pm

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Last edited by rad lulz on Sat Sep 10, 2016 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

hcrimson2014
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby hcrimson2014 » Mon Dec 02, 2013 1:43 am

Void wrote:I'm definitely not a biglaw guy but I don't think language skills would be that desirable in biglaw. Biglaw deals with big business, and big business (in the U.S.) is conducted exclusively in English. It's not like public interest where fluency in Spanish is hugely helpful because many clients speak it as a first language. The corporations you represent in biglaw don't really have this issue.


But that is based on the fallacy that American big businesses are conducted in isolation when the opposite is true. I thought many American companies have tried to chase a seat in the tokyo or shanghai stock exchange while an even greater number of foreign companies are trying to ipo in NYSE. There are a couple of big ipo's recently just by Chinese companies in Nasdaq and NYSE and an even greater number of cross-border M/A's. Many V50's have more offices in non-English speaking countries than English speaking countries so how is knowing your client's (Toyota, Samsung, Sinopec, Qatar Foundation, all huge entities with $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) language not an advantage when they employ an American attorney for a certain legal affair they face in the United States?

Void
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby Void » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:03 am

hcrimson2014 wrote:
Void wrote:I'm definitely not a biglaw guy but I don't think language skills would be that desirable in biglaw. Biglaw deals with big business, and big business (in the U.S.) is conducted exclusively in English. It's not like public interest where fluency in Spanish is hugely helpful because many clients speak it as a first language. The corporations you represent in biglaw don't really have this issue.


But that is based on the fallacy that American big businesses are conducted in isolation when the opposite is true. I thought many American companies have tried to chase a seat in the tokyo or shanghai stock exchange while an even greater number of foreign companies are trying to ipo in NYSE. There are a couple of big ipo's recently just by Chinese companies in Nasdaq and NYSE and an even greater number of cross-border M/A's. Many V50's have more offices in non-English speaking countries than English speaking countries so how is knowing your client's (Toyota, Samsung, Sinopec, Qatar Foundation, all huge entities with $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) language not an advantage when they employ an American attorney for a certain legal affair they face in the United States?


Because these kinds of companies employ hundreds of people who speak English, and those people are the ones they assign to interact with the American law firm. Again, there is no need for language skills because communication is not an actual issue for companies this size- it couldn't be, or they wouldn't be operating on a scale big enough to necessitate hiring a biglaw firm. They already have mechanisms in place to deal with translation, and they're more effective than some first year associate's Rosetta Stone knowledge.

Edited to add: what's up with your first sentence? How do clerkships "make law school worthwhile economically" any more than biglaw does?

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Cicero76
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby Cicero76 » Mon Dec 02, 2013 11:10 am

Void wrote:
hcrimson2014 wrote:
Void wrote:I'm definitely not a biglaw guy but I don't think language skills would be that desirable in biglaw. Biglaw deals with big business, and big business (in the U.S.) is conducted exclusively in English. It's not like public interest where fluency in Spanish is hugely helpful because many clients speak it as a first language. The corporations you represent in biglaw don't really have this issue.


But that is based on the fallacy that American big businesses are conducted in isolation when the opposite is true. I thought many American companies have tried to chase a seat in the tokyo or shanghai stock exchange while an even greater number of foreign companies are trying to ipo in NYSE. There are a couple of big ipo's recently just by Chinese companies in Nasdaq and NYSE and an even greater number of cross-border M/A's. Many V50's have more offices in non-English speaking countries than English speaking countries so how is knowing your client's (Toyota, Samsung, Sinopec, Qatar Foundation, all huge entities with $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) language not an advantage when they employ an American attorney for a certain legal affair they face in the United States?


Because these kinds of companies employ hundreds of people who speak English, and those people are the ones they assign to interact with the American law firm. Again, there is no need for language skills because communication is not an actual issue for companies this size- it couldn't be, or they wouldn't be operating on a scale big enough to necessitate hiring a biglaw firm. They already have mechanisms in place to deal with translation, and they're more effective than some first year associate's Rosetta Stone knowledge.

Edited to add: what's up with your first sentence? How do clerkships "make law school worthwhile economically" any more than biglaw does?


Because federal clerkships give you the chance to enter Biglaw at a higher level, with a bonus, and with a year of actually interesting work instead of a year of associate misery. Thus the reason they're more competitive than Biglaw.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Dec 02, 2013 11:39 am

But that's not clerking OR biglaw, which is what how the OP framed the question, that's clerking AND biglaw. The OP makes it sound like clerking is an end in itself (which it can be, technically, but I'd argue career clerking doesn't have anywhere near the return on investment of biglaw).

Void
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby Void » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:13 pm

Cicero76 wrote:
Void wrote:
hcrimson2014 wrote:
Void wrote:I'm definitely not a biglaw guy but I don't think language skills would be that desirable in biglaw. Biglaw deals with big business, and big business (in the U.S.) is conducted exclusively in English. It's not like public interest where fluency in Spanish is hugely helpful because many clients speak it as a first language. The corporations you represent in biglaw don't really have this issue.


But that is based on the fallacy that American big businesses are conducted in isolation when the opposite is true. I thought many American companies have tried to chase a seat in the tokyo or shanghai stock exchange while an even greater number of foreign companies are trying to ipo in NYSE. There are a couple of big ipo's recently just by Chinese companies in Nasdaq and NYSE and an even greater number of cross-border M/A's. Many V50's have more offices in non-English speaking countries than English speaking countries so how is knowing your client's (Toyota, Samsung, Sinopec, Qatar Foundation, all huge entities with $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) language not an advantage when they employ an American attorney for a certain legal affair they face in the United States?


Because these kinds of companies employ hundreds of people who speak English, and those people are the ones they assign to interact with the American law firm. Again, there is no need for language skills because communication is not an actual issue for companies this size- it couldn't be, or they wouldn't be operating on a scale big enough to necessitate hiring a biglaw firm. They already have mechanisms in place to deal with translation, and they're more effective than some first year associate's Rosetta Stone knowledge.

Edited to add: what's up with your first sentence? How do clerkships "make law school worthwhile economically" any more than biglaw does?


Because federal clerkships give you the chance to enter Biglaw at a higher level, with a bonus, and with a year of actually interesting work instead of a year of associate misery. Thus the reason they're more competitive than Biglaw.


I understand why clerking is cool. I don't understand how OP framed the question. I think I'm probably focusing on it too much/he's just a 0L who maybe doesn't totally get it.

NYstate
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby NYstate » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:25 pm

I am leaving soon to return to an overseas (European) office of an NYC biglaw firm. I speak English and a tiny amount of French and Spanish. Language ability had nothing to do with my getting this job. In fact, it was probably a fluke that got me this position. We work solely in English with New York and Delaware law governing. We hire local counsel to assist us when needed if the client doesn't have any in-house lawyers to staff on the transaction.

Focusing on a language to maybe get a biglaw job is a waste of time. Language isn't a make or break proposition. You need law school grades most of all. Language might be a small plus in specific situations but you can't predict it. By the time a college freshman is applying for biglaw, the language of the month will change anyway.

hlsperson1111
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby hlsperson1111 » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:36 pm

Anecdotally, I have heard that near-native fluency in Mandarin, Arabic, or Portuguese can help with some niche transactional practices, but there are not nearly enough of those jobs that it's worth learning one of these languages simply to improve your job prospects even if you could do so.

Void
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby Void » Mon Dec 02, 2013 7:33 pm

OP mentioned STEM degrees/work experience as desirable resume padders for certain kinds of jobs. The difference with those examples is that they are basically prerequisites for understanding entire fields. You don't need an engineering degree so that you can talk shop with tech guru employees of your clients- you need it so you can understand a piece of technical intellectual property well enough that you can effectively protect your client's interests. Similarly, work experience helps with consulting because without work experience you don't really know wtf you're talking about. But foreign languages are never the central issue in legal representation. It's pretty unlikely that you will ever be involved in any lawsuit or transaction where your knowledge of mandarin is essential to the representation. That's why you rarely (never, in my experience) see OCI listings that require any language fluency, whereas it's very common to see "hard science undergrad required."

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Hippononymous
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby Hippononymous » Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:11 pm

Mandarin.

That shit is hard to learn. Knowing it will impress people. And might be slightly useful.

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fltanglab
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Re: What foreign language is most useful in Biglaw?

Postby fltanglab » Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:02 pm

Hippononymous wrote:Mandarin.

That shit is hard to learn. Knowing it will impress people. And might be slightly useful.


Yep. In my experience people get really excited when they find out I'm fluent in Mandarin.




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