What are the first things you consider when you go to hire an attorney? If you are like most people, experience, expertise, and disciplinary history are at the top of the list. And those are all important points to consider when you choose an attorney. But what about communication? We’re not just talking about accessibility and responsiveness (although those are important too). How much thought do you put into what language your attorney speaks? Obviously, it’s important that your attorney is fluent in your native language, but what about other languages? There are many benefits to hiring a bilingual attorney. At Stephenson, Chavarri & Dawson, L.L.C., we have attorneys who are fluent in English, Spanish, and French.
Why do I need a bilingual attorney?
If your primary language is English, you might not see the value of hiring a bilingual attorney. In fact, unless you speak a language other than English, most people don’t think twice about what language their attorney speaks. After all, all communication will be in English, right? Maybe not. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, recent numbers show that over 66 million US residents speak a language other than English at home. Of those people, nearly 26 million say they speak English less than “very well.” That’s almost 8% of the US population. So how can a bilingual attorney help?
Witness testimony is an important component of any personal injury or criminal defense case. Even in family law, witnesses can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. What happens if your primary witness doesn’t speak English? Sure, you can hire a translator, but there are a couple downsides to that. Number one is cost. Every expert or professional you bring on to your case comes with a cost. If you have a bilingual attorney, that is one less cost you will have to incur. Another consideration is comfort. For whatever reason, the witness in your case may or may not feel comfortable talking to an attorney (or in front of a jury). If your attorney speaks the same language as the witness, they may be able to help the witness feel more comfortable.
Maybe you’re looking for an attorney for your family member who doesn’t speak English. Trust and communication are extremely important in any type of legal matter. Whether you are planning your estate or filing a personal injury suit, you want to know that your attorney has your best interest at heart. At Stephenson, Chavarri & Dawson, L.L.C., our goal is to make you feel comfortable. We do our best to match incoming clients with the attorney who will best serve their communication needs.
Being bilingual isn’t just about knowing another language, it’s about understanding and respecting another culture. Every culture has its own beliefs and traditions. With any form of communication, it’s important to understand a person’s cultural beliefs. Different belief systems can make a big difference when it comes to estate planning, divorce and custody matters, and immigration laws.
How to find a qualified attorney
Beyond making sure that you and your attorney can have open communication (which is arguably the most important thing in any legal matter), there are other considerations you need to keep in mind when you choose an attorney. We touched on a few of these items earlier, but let’s take a look at what you should look for in an attorney and how you can find the right one for you:
- Ask for personal recommendations: Your friends and family likely have a good sense of your personality type and your unique needs. Asking someone who has personal experience with an attorney is often the best way to find someone to work with. They’ll be able to give you insight into office practices, billing, and overall quality. At Stephenson, Chavarri & Dawson, L.L.C., we love it when a new client comes to us after being recommended by a friend.
- Do your research: While personal recommendations are good, A: sometimes they are not reliable, and B: sometimes you won’t know anybody who has used an attorney. Whether you find your attorney through your best friend, or by searching Google, research is your friend. Sites like AVVO and Super Lawyers, provide honest reviews from former clients. Additionally, you should always check out your potential attorney’s disciplinary history. In Lousiana, you can look up an attorney’s status here.
- Schedule a consultation: The best way to determine whether an attorney will be a good fit is to sit down and have a consultation. This is your opportunity to ask your potential attorney about their experience, philosophies, and billing structures. Don’t forget to ask about their availability and trial experience. It’s important that you feel comfortable with your attorney. Keep looking until you find the one that’s right for you.
Invest in your future
We cannot overstate how important it is to work with a competent attorney who you can trust. Legal matters can be complex and you want to hire someone who you know has your best interest in mind. In the same regard, it’s important to choose an attorney who can effectively argue your case and understands your individual needs. In some cases, choosing a bilingual attorney is a necessity. For others, it’s just a smart choice. The best legal strategy involves having the right tools and being able to communicate your needs.
Our office is located off of BUS 90, just blocks from the Mississippi River. Our physical address is 400 Poydras Street, Suite 1990 New Orleans, LA 70130. We are a multi-disciplinary firm with attorneys who work in family law, personal injury, immigration law, and other legal specialties. To learn more about our team or to schedule a consultation, contact our office at 504-523-6496 or fill out our online contact form to get started.