A potential client comes into your law office speaking rapidly in a language you don’t understand.
He sounds panicked, but upon discovering you don’t understand a word, he abruptly leaves.
Who was this intriguing stranger? What did he want?
It sounds like the plot of a thriller, but it could be your reality if you don’t learn some legal Spanish.
Heck, the stranger could have been nervous about some unpaid parking tickets, but without understanding his language, you wouldn’t know or be able to help him. That’s why it’s so important for lawyers to learn some Spanish. Even the American Bar Association says learning Spanish will make you a better lawyer.
Nowadays, many jobs require Spanish language skills. Even if a job doesn’t require Spanish, knowing Spanish can still have huge economic benefits. Because of this, it’s important to use your business Spanish carefully.
However, in specific fields like law, you often need very specific vocabulary. This is when the mighty fall and the meek become powerful with the help of handy dandy DIY advanced Spanish vocabulary lists.
But you don’t have to DIY it alone! With the help of these 10 terrific resources for learning legal Spanish, you’ll never object to learning.
Why Should Lawyers Learn Spanish?
The Spanish-speaking population is rapidly growing. This means more and more people speak Spanish as their primary language, which means you’re much more likely to have clients who speak Spanish.
Learning Spanish will allow you to better communicate with your clients. When someone visits a lawyer, it’s seldom happy-good times for him or her. Even if a client speaks some English, if Spanish is his or her primary language, he or she may be more comfortable speaking Spanish. They may also feel more comfortable simply knowing that you know their language.
If you speak Spanish, not only will this make the situation less stressful for the client, it will also help him or her provide the information you need to do your job. Plus, rather than piecing together information based on what words you and your client both understand, you’ll be able to ask specific questions and garner specific, precise responses.
Learning Spanish will improve your job prospects. As noted earlier, some jobs actually require Spanish skills. However, even if a job doesn’t specifically require that you speak Spanish, it’s a helpful skill that will set you apart from others applying for the position. It’s a great way to make your résumé much more appealing to employers.
You Won’t Object to These 10 Great Spanish Learning Resources for Lawyers
American University’s Washington College of Law offers a course on Spanish for lawyers that’s available online or in person.
This one is intended for Spanish students who are already at a high-intermediate or advanced level since it’s conducted completely in Spanish. This allows the course to move beyond any basics and focus more fully on terms and phrases related to law. Additionally, students must be law students, lawyers or another kind of legal professional.
For someone with a Spanish and law background, though, this is a good option. The instructors are Spanish and Latin American lawyers, so you’ll hear the words in appropriate context with accents you may hear in your practice. The course seeks to improve your legal reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.
While there’s an online weekly meeting, most of the work can be done independently so that you can fit it into your schedule.
The fee is $1200 with a discount available for alumni, non-profit workers and government employees. You’ll receive a certificate of completion if you pass the course.
ISDE (Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economía), in conjunction with the Cervantes Institute, offers a legal Spanish course for law students, lawyers, translators and anyone else working in the legal field.
This program also employs Spanish and Latin American lawyers so that you’ll be able to hear authentic legal Spanish.
The program’s main goal is to prepare you to understand legal texts, prepare arguments and understand Spanish-speaking clients.
The program costs $3200. It’s delivered online, but there’s also an optional week in New York. While it doesn’t specify the required level of Spanish, the course begins with some fairly advanced concepts, so it’s probably best for more advanced speakers.
Spanish Legal Dictionary by Word Magic Software
For just $4.99 (or $0.99 if you’re an Android user), you can download this handy legal dictionary app that also works offline so you don’t burn through data.
It’s great for learning legal Spanish or for keeping handy in case you encounter a Spanish speaker while at work.
The dictionary includes audio pronunciations, translations, definitions, examples and more. The dictionary even includes some colloquial phrases that you might hear.
For a fun learning experience, you can also shake your phone in this app to display a random word all while making those around you think you’re an odd duck.
FluentU is an innovative learning tool that allows you to watch authentic videos featuring native speakers and learn Spanish from them.
It’s a pretty unique program, taking real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turning them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU offers numerous benefits for legal professionals. You’ll find lots of great videos focused on interactions between lawyers and clients, as well as documentaries, news broadcasts and in-person interviews that discuss key legal topics.
Beyond legal content, FluentU has a variety of videos on topics like soccer, Disney musicals, TV shows, music videos and even magical realism, as you can see here:
Each video is captioned, and the words are annotated. That means you can easily see meanings, definitions and example sentences for all vocabulary just by hovering over the word. If you click a word, you can even see how it’s used in other videos on the platform.
Before you even start watching a video, you’ll see a list of the Spanish vocabulary words you can learn from it. You can even look at the transcript of the dialogue and see new words in use before you even press play.
What’s more, FluentU offers a unique learning feature that incorporates video clips, pictures and example sentences into exercises and flashcards.
FluentU even learns with you! The learning algorithm takes learner history into account when presenting questions and builds on what you’ve already learned. This makes FluentU ideal for any level of Spanish learner, from beginner to near-native.
Use FluentU to create vocab lists and track your progress through personalized quizzes as you advance through video after video.
Plus, practicing speaking with FluentU is simple—all you have to do is enjoy great videos and speak along! You can listen to native speakers, then try to repeat what they said. Have trouble remembering the words? Rewind and read the subtitles. Unsure if you spoke correctly? Listen to the video and try again.
By using FluentU to practice your speaking, you’ll pick up real-world accents from native Spanish speakers all while enjoying entertaining, authentic videos.
Free Online Resources
123 Teach Me offers a number of great resources for learning legal Spanish, all condensed in one neat section of the site (linked above).
The legal Spanish flashcards offer a particularly flexible learning option. Each flashcard puts the Spanish word on one side of the card, with a related image along with the spoken word on the other side. You can set the flashcards to hide the printed English words or the Spanish words; you might want to play around with the settings to see what you find most useful for learning.
There also are other useful games and activities like Drag-n-Match, Spanish Spell Out, Image Sentence Match and Word Order Quiz. With so many great options, 123 Teach Me is an excellent resource for learning legal Spanish or reinforcing what you learned elsewhere.
Yes, this is one single YouTube video, but you can get a lot of mileage out of it.
This video has an especially nice selection of words and phrases for anyone in a legal field. Both the Spanish and English versions of each word/phrase appear on screen while a voice speaks the Spanish word/phrase slowly and clearly. This will help you get the pronunciation down and connect the spoken word to its written version.
Plus, after you’ve squeezed every last drop of learning from this one video, you can explore the rest of the Spanish Tutor channel’s offerings, which cover fundamental Spanish lessons, more advanced Spanish grammar as well as key legal topics like “Verbs used in the legal field in Spanish” and “Immigration Vocabulary in Spanish.”
The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch offers a nice free glossary of legal terms in Spanish. If you want a brief list of vocabulary that covers all the most essential terms, this is an ideal option.
Additionally, many states have similar lists; you might want to look for a list from your own state. However, Connecticut’s list is a particularly accurate, thorough and well-formatted resource.
This book offers a wide selection of vocabulary for topics ranging from contracts to felonies to immigration—honestly, it includes nearly any law topic you might need to know. It’s also neatly organized so you can easily focus on any topic of interest without encountering any superfluous vocabulary words.
“Spanish for Attorneys and Paralegals” also includes word lists, usage tips and pronunciation help (both in the text and with two audio CDs).
While the book assumes that you’ll have some basic Spanish skills, it isn’t essential that you’ve developed any Spanish skills at all yet. Even complete beginners will be able to pick up tons of useful words and phrases with the glossary in the back of this excellent guide, and the book does a nice job of walking readers through the basics on the way to legal terminology usage. So, this book will benefit anyone from novice to advanced levels of learning.
This helpful phrasebook can fit in your pocket if you need it at work, but you can also use it to more thoroughly study and learn new words and phrases.
The content is conveniently organized by legal specialties (family law, criminal law, etc.), so you can easily focus on the words and phrases that will most benefit your practice.
“Companion Book for Translators and Interpreters: The 1000+ Key English-Spanish Legal Terms You Will Need to Know”
While this book is aimed at translators and interpreters, it’s a great resource for anyone in a legal profession since it offers a lot of helpful terms.
This book is best for students with some experience, though, since some words offer multiple translations and it can be hard to distinguish between the different options.
With so many great resources out there for learning legal Spanish, it’s easy to give legal Spanish terms their due diligence.
You’ll be happy that you did.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.