Dual-qualifying as a non-native English speaking lawyer

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Many U.S. lawyers and registered solicitors in England enter the legal profession via an alternative route. Some come from outside the United States or the United Kingdom. If you are already a qualified, practicing lawyer in your home jurisdiction and want to globalize your career to the U.S. or England and Wales., your timing couldn’t be better.  

As corporations continue to expand their footprints globally and transact business in multicultural markets, they are using the talents of lawyers who speak the language and understand the culture of these markets well enough to tailor their services appropriately. Being able to speak multiple languages helps build personal relationships and trust with clients. It is a trend that Martha Fay Africa, co-founder and managing director of the world’s leading legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, doesn’t see changing anytime soon.

Increasingly, Africa finds corporate legal departments are interested in attorneys who speak Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese or Japanese, in particular. She notes that while language skill is an asset valued in lawyers across all levels of responsibility, it is highly desirable for mid-level lawyers.

If you are ready to gain additional qualifications by studying for (and passing) a U.S. bar exam or the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), there are some things you should know. First and foremost, know that dual qualification as a non-native English-speaking lawyer is achievable through several career paths depending on your current situation.   

About the TOEFL and IELTS

If you are worried about passing the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam before pursuing your studies to practice law in the U.S. or England and Wales, know that many universities and institutions accept both standardized tests. Still, they are not required to sit a U.S. bar exam or the SQE. What is necessary is for you to have fluency in the English language to be able to pass one of these exams and effectively practice law across borders.

The SQE differs from the former route (the QLTS) to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales in that the current Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) proposal includes an English language requirement in some cases.

Unsure if your existing English language proficiency is enough?

If you are concerned about your English proficiency, you should consider reaching out to whatever academic counseling services your law school of choice has, and do it early. It will serve you well to look into what support programs they have for non-native English speakers before applying.

BARBRI is here to help guide you as well. We offer traditional bar review and extended bar prep options for non-U.S. law graduates, along with SQE prep courses. There’s a course to meet your needs for qualification in the U.S. or England and Wales that fits your lifestyle as a working professional. Our 1:1 personal support is provided every step of The BARBRI Way.

To check your comfort level with the study materials before committing to an exam prep course, download the free BARBRI Bar Prep Preview or BARBRI SQE Prep Preview.

Ready to begin your international legal journey? Set an appointment with a BARBRI rep to discuss your best path.

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