Bilingual Lawyers – Overcoming the Barriers to Legal Service


In a recent article, Felicity Nelson identified the increased demand for bilingual lawyers in Australia. As Australian law firms globalise, there is more demand than ever for multilingual lawyers, however Nelson found that a shrinking number of Australian students are seeking to study a second language. Interestingly, despite the demand for bilingual lawyers being much greater than the recruitment intake of many international law firms, a similar trend is occurring in the UK.

Family LawAustralia is a country of migrants, and with rich multicultural diversity comes a broad range of languages being spoken day-to-day. New Australians will often speak a language other than English as their native tongue, and sometimes find English difficult to grasp. Seeking legal assistance can therefore prove difficult in an industry dominated by monolingual professionals.

Navigating Australia’s legal system is daunting and challenging enough without having additional barriers of language and culture. Therefore it is important that in their role of providing guidance, support and counsel to their clients, a good law firm should provide a suitable lawyer or seek services to help communicate with the client in their native tongue.

Difficulties Faced by LOTE Speakers in Melbourne

Many non-English speakers, or people for whom English is a second language, will incur the expense of a translator in addition to their legal fees, or may have to rely upon a friend or relative in order to communicate with their lawyer.

Translators contribute significantly to the cost of seeking legal help, unless a volunteer translator is available. These problematic issues and lack of adequate resources for LOTE speakers can contribute to them potentially feeling socially isolated and restricted.

The Importance of Direct Communication

A lawyer’s aptitude in their clients’ native language allows for clear and direct communication between both parties. Furthermore, a lawyer will most likely have greater understanding of how best to communicate technical legal information, above a translator who may not have experience in conveying complicated legal matters. Multilingual ability provides the client a more convenient, private and dignified approach, preventing them from having to arrange a third party to be involved during what is often a complicated and sensitive period.

Our Melbourne based lawyers at Le Brun & Associates have varied multilingual abilities; Principal Helen Le Brun is  fluent in both Greek and French. Senior Associate Andrew Sutton also speaks Mandarin. Call us today on 03 9741 6000 to discuss your legal needs.