Have you ever thought you might want to work in the legal field?
Do you dream of courtrooms, pressed suits, jury boxes and gavels?
Maybe you’ve imagined yourself in front of the judge or behind a typewriter or perhaps behind the scenes helping prepare the cases.
Well, no matter what part of the legal arena you favor, learning Spanish will help you.
Sure, you might also need years of schooling in law, paralegal studies or a related field, but Spanish can be that extra skill that sets you apart—sort of like the cherry on top of your legal sundae.
Even the American Bar Association says that learning Spanish will make you a better lawyer. Though honestly, learning legal Spanish will help prepare you for any job in this field or even just everyday life.
A lot of jobs require Spanish skills. Even if a job doesn’t require you to be fluent in Spanish, speaking Spanish can offer economic benefits. But speaking Spanish in a business setting isn’t quite like normal, everyday Spanish you hear between friends—you have to know how to use it correctly.
It’s even harder in fields like law that have very specific sets of vocabulary. Luckily, with a strong legal mind like yours, you’ll have no trouble deducing what you need to do to gain these necessary skills. You can DIY advanced vocabulary lists to help you along the way. There are also some great Spanish learning resources for lawyers.
But let’s get started the right way with 40 common terms every legal professional needs to know!
Why Learn Spanish Legal Terms?
If you’re looking for a career as a legal secretary, paralegal, translator or lawyer, knowing Spanish legal terms will increase your job prospects. Whether you want to work with Spanish-speaking clients or work in international law, your knowledge of Spanish will come in handy. Even if a job doesn’t require it, it’s still a skill that many employers covet.
Learning Spanish legal terms will also increase the number of people you can serve. Even if a client speaks fluent English, he/she may be more comfortable communicating in Spanish. After all, legal proceedings are always stressful, and in times of stress, it’s easiest to speak in the language you’re most comfortable with. Therefore, many clients may seek out legal professionals who can speak their language. If your firm doesn’t offer services in Spanish, these clients may seek out another that does. However, if you’re willing to learn, your law firm can start marketing to Spanish-speaking customers, who make up a sizable chunk of the population. This can massively increase the number of clients who may be interested in your services.
Additionally, learning Spanish legal terms will allow you to help people that many other legal professionals cannot help. Clear communication is important, so clients who do not speak English fluently will need someone who can communicate with them in order to navigate through the criminal justice process. As the Denver Bar Association Docket notes, speaking Spanish allows lawyers to help an under-served population access justice.
Finally, learning Spanish legal terms is useful for anyone learning Spanish. After all, you’re likely to hear these terms if you watch Spanish-language news. Plus, if you ever find yourself in legal trouble while abroad, even if it’s just a parking ticket, you’ll be super relieved you took the time to learn a little legal Spanish.
40 Common Words and Phrases Every Legal Professional Should Know
As you become more proficient, try to use these words every chance you get. Your understanding of the word will increase as you utilize it in context and your fluency will increase as you use complete sentences. See example sentences with these words using online tools like Linguee or 123 Teach Me and their “Spanish Sentence Maker.” These websites collect sentences from all over the internet that contain your keyword and are invaluable as you continue on your journey to learning Spanish legal terminology.
petitioner, complainant or plaintiff
state of being accused or the person who is accused
the police force as a group or individual officers
jury or individual jurors
It can also act as an adjective, meaning “sworn” when referring to things like statements or testimony.
Tribunal can also refer to a jury or panel, but this meaning is rarely used in a legal context—jurado is the more common word for a legal jury. Juzgado can also mean “courthouse.”
8. Palacio de justicia
It literally means “palace/center of justice” (which really has more of a ring to it).
9. Sala de justicia/tribunal
These can both be used to mean “courtroom.”
You can also just use the word sala (room), but this could also be misinterpreted, so you might want to play it safe.
legal violation or crime
infraction or offense
This is used when referring to things like traffic violations or other non-violent crimes.
(It can also be used to mean “opinion.”)
16. Mandato/mandato judicial
(It can refer to specific laws or the law in general.)
Bajo juramento therefore means “under oath” or “sworn statement.”
In a legal context, acusar can also mean “to charge.” The reflexive, acusarse, can also mean “to confess.”
(In other contexts, it means “to absolve.”)
(It can also mean “proof” or “test.”)
It’s often used in phrases like ser admisible (“to be admissible”) and prueba admisible (“admissible evidence”).
29. Carga de la prueba
burden of proof
30. Causa/proceso judicial/pleito/acción judicial/caso
Context is really important because these terms have more than one meaning. Proceso judicial and pleito are the least likely to be misinterpreted, though, because they have fewer meanings. Acción judicial means “legal action.” Pleito usually means “lawsuit” or “action.”
All the other words for “court case” have additional meanings. For instance, causa can also mean “cause,” proceso also means “process” and caso can mean “case” or “fact.”
Still, all these terms are frequently used interchangeably to refer to a “court case.”
It’s usually used to describe various acts. For instance, acto delictivo means “criminal act.”
32. Daños y perjuicios
Both daños and perjuicios mean “damages,” but perjuicios can mean “losses,” so daños y perjuicios can more literally translate to “damages and losses.”
(In a legal context, its meaning is closer to “to disclose.”)
35. Entrar en vigor
to take effect
Literally translates as “to enter in vigor/force.”
(However, it can also mean “incident,” “event,” “made” or “done,” so always pay attention to context.)
archive, file or record
Fallo most literally means “ruling.” Determinación more literally equates to “determination.” Sentencia means” sentence” and decisión means “decision.” Still, all of these terms can be used to mean “ruling.”
So if you’re looking to enter the legal field or just become fully fluent in Spanish, remember these legal terms. They certainly do have some appeal.
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