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Solo & Small Law Firms

Make Money Mondays: Learn A New Language – Guest Post by Russell D. Knight

Are you interested in finding a way to expand your audience of potential clients and more effectively communicate with the clients you already have? How about learning a new language – and I’m not talking about a computer language.

Take a look at some recent trends in legal.  Last year, Legal Shield – a legal insurance company announced the launch of the largest Spanish-speaking attorney network in the United States. More recently, the Boise police department began holding immersion classes to teach officers Spanish, with the first group of officers graduating from the program last month.  And if you think that you can get by with computer services like Google Translate, think again. Though computer-assisted translation may work for quick understanding, they still have a long way to go in achieving accuracy.

If you’ve toyed with the idea of learning a new language – but felt too overwhelmed to do it – here’s some inspiration from Russell D. Knight, a divorce attorney in Naples, Florida with his own law firm DivorceAttorneysNaplesFl.com. In his guest post below Russell shares his experience in learning Spanish. 

In 2006 I started working in my first job as a lawyer for general practice law firm on the west side of Chicago.

Over half of the clients who came into that only spoke Spanish and I thought, “maybe I should learn Spanish.” So, I got the “Learn Spanish” tapes at the library and listened to them in my car as I drove all over Chicagoland covering court calls.  I would listen to each tape three times shouting back at the tape in Spanish. I was starting to learn. 

Law school taught me that there are no shortcuts to learning, the hard way is the best way.  So, I bought a bunch of Spanish Grammar books and worked through them.  I was really learning.  

I hired a tutor for an hour and a half before court each morning. I was really getting good.

Finally, after two years I could speak Spanish…but not on the telephone.  I quit my job and enrolled in a Spanish language school in Cuernavaca, Mexico.  For that month in Mexico, I barely spoke any English.  I was dreaming in Spanish.  By the time I got back to the United States, I could speak Spanish on the telephone.

Upon my return to the United States, I immediately opened up my own firm and registered www.abogadodechicago.com which means “Chicago’s lawyer” in Spanish. My phone started ringing right away.  

I put up flyers in laundromats stating that I was a lawyer who spoke Spanish and charged reasonable rates.  My phone rang even more. 

The clients were all very polite, deferential and they all paid on time.  The issues were not especially complicated and I was able to learn new areas of law on the job.  

My law office essentially had two brands.  One in English and one in Spanish.  I wasn’t locked into being a “Spanish law firm.” I had the best of both worlds.

Every year or so, a Spanish-speaker would call my office and say something like, “I think the hospital killed my wife” or “my brother fell off a building.” These were horrible tragedies and complicated cases.  I didn’t know how to handle them so I referred the cases out to personal injury attorneys I knew. I would always be the “go to” person for the client as I was the lawyer who spoke Spanish. 

I got those accident and malpractice cases just because I spoke Spanish.  Little did I know that years later the attorneys I referred the cases to would announce that the case was settled and they had a referral check for me.  I have made hundreds of thousands of dollars of these cases…all because I learned Spanish while driving around Chicago. 

Speaking and understanding Spanish has given me an edge in my legal career I never would have had otherwise.  Moreover, it gives me the security of knowing I will always have clients because the demand is always greater than the supply.  But most importantly, I have been able to help some really wonderful people when they needed help most. Today I have a law office in Naples, Florida where I primarily practice as a divorce lawyer.

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