Are you speaking the right language?

Are you speaking the right language?

By Rachel Buchanan

Recent research into linguistic diversity in FTSE 250 legal teams (defined as in house counsel in UK operations of the FTSE 250 companies) reveals that while there is a high proportion of European languages spoken (French, German and Spanish) by lawyers, there is a distinct shortfall of bilingual and multilingual lawyers speaking the language of the emerging economies of the Middle East and Asia.

The research carried out by Obelisk in September 2013 shows some encouraging statistics about languages in general. Out of the 2930 lawyers identified, nearly a quarter spoke a foreign language, with 25% of those who do speak a foreign language being female. There were 65 different languages spoken, with French the most popular at 58% of those researched. At the other end of the scale however, only 12 people list Cantonese, 9 Mandarin and 10 Japanese.

The proliferation of Western European languages would seem to be reflective of current trading patterns and close cultural and political links between UK companies and their continental neighbours. Research conducted by Legal Week in February 2013 regarding a backdrop of shifting economic power to emerging markets does show that firms are responding to this change and are increasing the number of Mandarin-speaking lawyers in their Hong Kong offices since 2011.

Interestingly, neither Arabic nor Turkish features on the list of languages spoken. However, the Mergermarket M&A Round-up for Q1 2013 suggests that with M&A activ

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