Does language fluency help?

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Kimchi_smile
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Does language fluency help?

Postby Kimchi_smile » Mon May 02, 2011 10:55 pm

with a future legal career in international law/corporate law/ cross-border M&A?

From my research it seems most of the legal work is done in English anyway. So why would anyone learn perfectly Chinese, Korean, French whatever?

I'm interested in specializing in international law (trade, private) and hoping to work on cross-order business transactions in the future. Will my perfect fluency in several languages help during OCI and on the job? If so in what ways and how?

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TaipeiMort
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby TaipeiMort » Mon May 02, 2011 11:29 pm

Kimchi_smile wrote:with a future legal career in international law/corporate law/ cross-border M&A?

From my research it seems most of the legal work is done in English anyway. So why would anyone learn perfectly Chinese, Korean, French whatever?

I'm interested in specializing in international law (trade, private) and hoping to work on cross-order business transactions in the future. Will my perfect fluency in several languages help during OCI and on the job? If so in what ways and how?


It will help a lot with inbound international transactions, especially with Chinese clients. Law firms understand that a large part of their success relies upon attorney-client relationships.

It terms of particulars of the work, I know that with Chinese language, many concepts have difficulty transferring over into clean translations-- especially with contract law. Being bilingual will ensure that you are in fact accomplishing what you client desires. I think that Chinese natives sometimes have trouble articulating in English concepts with perfect accuracy.

At the partner level bilingual abilities will be valued, especially when you are managing a group of attorneys with different native languages.

Overall, think of it like a hard science or technical background being required for patent prosecution-- it will not help you on every case, but will help you in a lot of cases.

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dpk711
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby dpk711 » Mon May 02, 2011 11:31 pm

Worry about the LSAT first.

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Kimchi_smile
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby Kimchi_smile » Tue May 03, 2011 2:07 am

dpk711 wrote:Worry about the LSAT first.


My LSAT is 170, and I'm thinking about retaking it after asking lots of questions on TLS. But my talent isn't in LSAT...I'm more interested in learning languages, and find that international law can be really fun. I'd like to meet with foreign clients and deal with foreign issues as much as possible in my legal career. Do you have any advice on how I can make the most of my language abilities? I'm fluent in Chinese, but I'm not a native Chinese speaker (I'm not Chinese national or American-born Chinese). I'm good on paper in other languages, but my speaking in those languages is probably weaker than Chinese and English by a lot, but I can comprehend fine. But as TaipeiMort said, building client relationship is important. So is speaking the most important skill?

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Grizz
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby Grizz » Tue May 03, 2011 2:11 am

Kimchi_smile wrote:
dpk711 wrote:Worry about the LSAT first.


My LSAT is 170, and I'm thinking about retaking it after asking lots of questions on TLS. But my talent isn't in LSAT...I'm more interested in learning languages, and find that international law can be really fun. I'd like to meet with foreign clients and deal with foreign issues as much as possible in my legal career. Do you have any advice on how I can make the most of my language abilities? I'm fluent in Chinese, but I'm not a native Chinese speaker (I'm not Chinese national or American-born Chinese). I'm good on paper in other languages, but my speaking in those languages is probably weaker than Chinese and English by a lot, but I can comprehend fine. But as TaipeiMort said, building client relationship is important. So is speaking the most important skill?


You want to be a language professor, not a lawyer, if this is how you feel about language. It's not gonna be a huge part of your work.

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SOCRATiC
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby SOCRATiC » Tue May 03, 2011 2:12 am

Kimchi_smile wrote:international law can be really fun.


lol...

rad law wrote:You want to be a language professor, not a lawyer, if this is how you feel about language. It's not


+1

I think OP being a 0L sort of gets him to fantasize about his kickass career as a lawyer in the future.

whymeohgodno
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby whymeohgodno » Tue May 03, 2011 2:17 am

Sounds like going to law school will end in disappointment for you.

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dpk711
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby dpk711 » Tue May 03, 2011 2:48 am

whymeohgodno wrote:Sounds like going to law school will end in disappointment for you.

Going to law school ends up in disappointment to the majority of applicants.

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Kimchi_smile
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby Kimchi_smile » Tue May 03, 2011 2:51 am

Wait, can you tell me more in details? Why is this? Why don't you think I'm not a good fit for law school and international law? Any honest and straightforward responses will be greatly appreciated.

whymeohgodno
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby whymeohgodno » Tue May 03, 2011 3:01 am

Kimchi_smile wrote:Wait, can you tell me more in details? Why is this? Why don't you think I'm not a good fit for law school and international law? Any honest and straightforward responses will be greatly appreciated.


International law is largely a myth.

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Kimchi_smile
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby Kimchi_smile » Tue May 03, 2011 7:05 am

I don't mean like public international law involving ICJ and stuff like that. And I more than understand that the US doesn't really like "international law" treaties and such. Anyway I'm not interested in that. I'm just hoping with my language skills I can do cross-border M&A, for example if a Chinese or Korean company wants to go IPO in HK or NY and then M&A, I hope to do that kind of work. Is this kind of work a myth, too? How to break it into cross-border M&A transaction legal work? Will language skills help during OCI? I have a lot of questions and I hope I can find some answers...

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Moxie
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby Moxie » Tue May 03, 2011 8:14 am

Kimchi_smile wrote:I don't mean like public international law involving ICJ and stuff like that. And I more than understand that the US doesn't really like "international law" treaties and such. Anyway I'm not interested in that. I'm just hoping with my language skills I can do cross-border M&A, for example if a Chinese or Korean company wants to go IPO in HK or NY and then M&A, I hope to do that kind of work. Is this kind of work a myth, too? How to break it into cross-border M&A transaction legal work? Will language skills help during OCI? I have a lot of questions and I hope I can find some answers...


I think it's going to be hard to get the answers you're looking for on a board filled with prospective and current law students. The work you're mentioning (ex: cross-border M&A) is possible, but from my limited knowledge, Asian biglaw offices require years of experience before you can work for them, vs. entry-level American biglaw offices.

Obviously language skills will be helpful for applying to the country you're interested in, and could help set you a part as an applicant. But it would also be helpful to have a specific reason for "why this country", "why this language", etc.

blsingindisguise
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby blsingindisguise » Tue May 03, 2011 8:47 am

The thing is you need to be cream of the cream to even have a shot at the kind of work opportunities where you might eventually actually use your foreign languages, and even in a top firm that does that kind of work you probably won't have client contact for several years, so it could be a while before you get a chance to use your language skills.

That said, it will probably sound impressive in OCI and make a nice talking point.

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TaipeiMort
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby TaipeiMort » Tue May 03, 2011 7:11 pm

Moxie wrote:
Kimchi_smile wrote:I don't mean like public international law involving ICJ and stuff like that. And I more than understand that the US doesn't really like "international law" treaties and such. Anyway I'm not interested in that. I'm just hoping with my language skills I can do cross-border M&A, for example if a Chinese or Korean company wants to go IPO in HK or NY and then M&A, I hope to do that kind of work. Is this kind of work a myth, too? How to break it into cross-border M&A transaction legal work? Will language skills help during OCI? I have a lot of questions and I hope I can find some answers...


I think it's going to be hard to get the answers you're looking for on a board filled with prospective and current law students. The work you're mentioning (ex: cross-border M&A) is possible, but from my limited knowledge, Asian biglaw offices require years of experience before you can work for them, vs. entry-level American biglaw offices.

Obviously language skills will be helpful for applying to the country you're interested in, and could help set you a part as an applicant. But it would also be helpful to have a specific reason for "why this country", "why this language", etc.


It is not always required for China positions right now if you are bilingual. That being said, it is dumb to do because if you or your spouse hates Asia you wont have the connections to get back to the United States.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue May 03, 2011 7:21 pm

Many legal documents are written in Spanish or Portuguese. I don't know from first-hand experience, but I suspect that Chinese documents are common in Asia. Fluency in French & English is required in order to study law at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Some highly prestigious US law firms present the language fluency of their attorneys as prominately as the law schools which they attended in their firm profiles. These firms have offices abroad.
English/Spanish fluency is a sought after ability in paralegals for several major law firms & DA offices.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue May 03, 2011 7:35 pm

One issue with language "fluency" is that some might regard themselves as being fluent, but when tested by Berlitz or interviewed by a truly fluent speaker, their ability is deemed otherwise. Also, there are issues with Spanish. The best dialect is spoken in Spain, Peru & Colombia typically. Others, although born & raised in Spanish speaking environments may not speak well enough (think in terms of an English speaking American with a heavy Southern or Brooklyn accent). Those who study & learn German in Vienna, Austria might also be at a disadvantage with respect to the quality of their spoken German. The Mandarin dialect of Chinese is preferred over the other dialects usually.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue May 03, 2011 7:39 pm

Does language fluency help ? It depends on the needs of the firm or office. Those with Spanish/English or English/Portuguese or English/Spanish?Portuguese fluency often get interviews from some very elite private firms & DA's offices (Spanish/English).

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rvill7
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby rvill7 » Tue May 03, 2011 7:45 pm

I speak Spanish and work at an immigration firm. My supervisor LOVES me (she doesn't speak any Spanish).

ArmyVet07
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby ArmyVet07 » Wed May 04, 2011 9:33 am

CanadianWolf wrote:One issue with language "fluency" is that some might regard themselves as being fluent, but when tested by Berlitz or interviewed by a truly fluent speaker, their ability is deemed otherwise. Also, there are issues with Spanish. The best dialect is spoken in Spain, Peru & Colombia typically. Others, although born & raised in Spanish speaking environments may not speak well enough (think in terms of an English speaking American with a heavy Southern or Brooklyn accent). Those who study & learn German in Vienna, Austria might also be at a disadvantage with respect to the quality of their spoken German. The Mandarin dialect of Chinese is preferred over the other dialects usually.


I lived in Germany for several years and always felt that a Viennese accent enjoyed high prestige. Granted, there are some differences in vocabulary between Austria and Germany (for example, Austrians use more French loan words), but mutual comprehension would not be impaired. On TV comedy shows in Germany, the buffoons are often given Sachsen accents. I was sensitive to this fact because, after living in Saxony, I had developed a slight Sachsen accent myself.

Also, from a linguistic standpoint, Mandarin and Cantonese (as well as Shanghainese, Hokkien, etc.) are separate languages since they are not mutually intelligible. Mandarin, the standard and official language in both China and Taiwan, does have many regional varieties with the Beijing accent having the highest prestige, at least in Mainland China.

There is little value to simply saying you are fluent, given the subjective and vaguely-defined nature of the term. Instead, you could indicate a score obtained on a widely-recognized language test (for Chinese this would likely be the HSK) and/or briefly summarize your training and experience in the language (especially time spent living/working/studying in a country where it is spoken).

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Kimchi_smile
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby Kimchi_smile » Wed May 04, 2011 11:55 am

ArmyVet07 wrote:
CanadianWolf wrote:One issue with language "fluency" is that some might regard themselves as being fluent, but when tested by Berlitz or interviewed by a truly fluent speaker, their ability is deemed otherwise. Also, there are issues with Spanish. The best dialect is spoken in Spain, Peru & Colombia typically. Others, although born & raised in Spanish speaking environments may not speak well enough (think in terms of an English speaking American with a heavy Southern or Brooklyn accent). Those who study & learn German in Vienna, Austria might also be at a disadvantage with respect to the quality of their spoken German. The Mandarin dialect of Chinese is preferred over the other dialects usually.


I lived in Germany for several years and always felt that a Viennese accent enjoyed high prestige. Granted, there are some differences in vocabulary between Austria and Germany (for example, Austrians use more French loan words), but mutual comprehension would not be impaired. On TV comedy shows in Germany, the buffoons are often given Sachsen accents. I was sensitive to this fact because, after living in Saxony, I had developed a slight Sachsen accent myself.

Also, from a linguistic standpoint, Mandarin and Cantonese (as well as Shanghainese, Hokkien, etc.) are separate languages since they are not mutually intelligible. Mandarin, the standard and official language in both China and Taiwan, does have many regional varieties with the Beijing accent having the highest prestige, at least in Mainland China.

There is little value to simply saying you are fluent, given the subjective and vaguely-defined nature of the term. Instead, you could indicate a score obtained on a widely-recognized language test (for Chinese this would likely be the HSK) and/or briefly summarize your training and experience in the language (especially time spent living/working/studying in a country where it is spoken).


Thank you for your reply. I did take the highest level of the HSK and scored an almost perfect score. I can also read traditional Chinese characters, too. Because of my Chinese character knowledge, I was also able to pass the JLPT N1 test not a long time ago. I'm not saying all of this to brag about how great I am or something, I'm just trying to seek advice on how to make the most of what I'm naturally good at. I really hope to put these languages which I had spent so much time on learning to good use.

So, from what I've gathered from this thread, it seems that language fluency helps a bit, but not so much. It's a boost, but it seems that I should not make it too big of a deal on my resume, right? As a 0L I should focus more on the law first, is the impression that I got from your answers.

I don't hope to work in Asia or elsewhere, at least for the first part of my career, though. I have family in the US, and I would rather like to stay in NYC, DC, or California. (The last one's weather is pretty nice, which is a factor in consideration). I wouldn't mind, though, that at one point in my legal career I get expatriated to like Korea or Hong Kong. But it's really fuzzy to me as to the exact process of expatriation (I have questions like: how do Big Law Asian offices determine who are good fits to send out to Asia? Is the consideration based mostly on language abilities? Do you have to have connection?)

I'm also worried that it's hard to break into M&A because I have little to NO background in quantitative sciences or economics. Is this going to hurt no matter what other skills you have, like language? So in a way, I'm hoping that I can compensate for my lack of background with some other skill that is perhaps relevant to cross-border legal work...

As always, advice is welcome. :)

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SOCRATiC
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby SOCRATiC » Thu May 05, 2011 9:43 pm

I know 4,000+ Chinese characters - I passed the Rank 2 Chinese character exam administered in South Korea. But I won't be trying to capitalize on his when I really don't see it being used for practical purposes. If you're coming straight out of undergrad, I think passing CFA I & II looks better on your resume, rather than trying to claim that you're proficient with Chinese because you know some characters. When it comes to languages, I think it's always best to avoid overstating qualifications.

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worldtraveler
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby worldtraveler » Thu May 05, 2011 11:16 pm

Yes, in general, it will help. It obviously depends on the language and what you want to do. I know this isn't the OP's question, but for a huge chunk of international law jobs at tribunals, the UN, or NGOs, French and English fluency are both required. If you want public international law, you really can't avoid learning French.

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TaipeiMort
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby TaipeiMort » Fri May 06, 2011 12:37 am

SOCRATiC wrote:I know 4,000+ Chinese characters - I passed the Rank 2 Chinese character exam administered in South Korea. But I won't be trying to capitalize on his when I really don't see it being used for practical purposes. If you're coming straight out of undergrad, I think passing CFA I & II looks better on your resume, rather than trying to claim that you're proficient with Chinese because you know some characters. When it comes to languages, I think it's always best to avoid overstating qualifications.


Exactly. Also, reading proficiency is great and all. However, I think that most important is oral proficiency. Especially law-related oral proficiency. I think a test like the OPI might be better than the HSK for law jobs. There are a lot of Koreans and Japanese that have reading comp, but can't speak.

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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby ArmyVet07 » Fri May 06, 2011 6:43 am

TaipeiMort wrote:
SOCRATiC wrote:I know 4,000+ Chinese characters - I passed the Rank 2 Chinese character exam administered in South Korea. But I won't be trying to capitalize on his when I really don't see it being used for practical purposes. If you're coming straight out of undergrad, I think passing CFA I & II looks better on your resume, rather than trying to claim that you're proficient with Chinese because you know some characters. When it comes to languages, I think it's always best to avoid overstating qualifications.


Exactly. Also, reading proficiency is great and all. However, I think that most important is oral proficiency. Especially law-related oral proficiency. I think a test like the OPI might be better than the HSK for law jobs. There are a lot of Koreans and Japanese that have reading comp, but can't speak.


I agree that oral proficiency may be more important. However, proficiency tests with an oral component are less common and less widely-known. I would guess this is because they require standardized training of the examiners and are very labor-intensive. For example, military linguists only have an OPI when they graduate from the Defense Language Institute. Annual tests only involve reading and listening comprehension.

Reading, listening, (and writing) skills can be important, too. It's an advantage if you can read Chinese-language documents rather than having to rely on translations.

On the subject of reading/writing skills, I often wonder what someone means by saying they know x number of characters. Does this only refer to reading comprehension or also the ability to write the characters (by hand)? I am curious because of a phenomenon the Chinese call 提笔忘字 ("pick up the pen and forget the word") which is likely caused by an overreliance on writing with computers/mobile phones/smart phones (these generally use pinyin input). I am guilty of this as well and feel very awkward whenever I need to write something by hand.

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Kimchi_smile
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Re: Does language fluency help?

Postby Kimchi_smile » Fri May 06, 2011 9:26 am

I see now. So the languages help a bit, but other substantial things can help more, so I will try to capitalize on the more substantial things. Thank you for all your inputs!




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