Spanish-Speaking Legal Professionals are in High Demand! Foreign language skills for legal professionals are in high demand, according to a survey by Robert Half Legal. With the nation’s growing Hispanic population, law firms, corporate legal departments and nonprofits have a need for Spanish-speaking attorneys, legal administrators, paralegals and legal advocates. There is particular demand for bilingual legal professionals with experience in employment-based and family-based immigration law as well as translation work for litigation or Latin American business expansion.
Further your career by adding language skills to your resume. The Spanish for Legal Professionals Certificate program is designed for working legal professionals who want to gain confidence communicating in Spanish with clients in a professional legal setting. Through a communicative and hands-on approach, this program will help you build a foundation for continuous development of your Spanish language skills, specifically tailored to the legal field.
Please visit the Agenda tab for specific class dates and times.
University of New Hampshire Professional Development & Training (UNH PD&T) has partnered with Southern Methodist University Continuing and Professional Education (SMU CAPE) to expand access to this exciting certificate program. Students enrolling through the UNH enrollment system will receive communication from SMU CAPE regarding course logistics one week prior to the course start date.
Module 1: Establishing Communication
Responding to Initial Client Inquiry
In this module, you will be introduced to the topic of establishing contact and meeting your potential client for the first time. You’ll learn vocabulary and phrases used during the initial contact and first conversation with a client. Learn to establish trust and rapport by understanding culture and overcoming language barriers.
Module 2: Meeting at the Law Office
Setting Up a Professional Meeting
In this module, you will be introduced to vocabulary and useful phrases that will further help you establish a connection with your client. From scheduling an office appointment to collecting more in-depth personal information, you will improve and strengthen your Spanish communication skills. You’ll also review and practice the two major past tenses in Spanish, the past preterite and the past imperfect.
Module 3: Opening a New Case
Gathering Your Client's Information
In this module, you will learn how to identify and describe in detail family members and personal backgrounds. Learn and practice the vocabulary and grammar necessary to discuss characteristics such as age and occupations, as well as other information you may need to know about your clients. You will continue practicing all types of verbs in the present tense. To demonstrate your skills, you will conduct an interview with a client in Spanish based on an authentic immigration legal form. You will continue to practice specific sounds in Spanish to improve pronunciation and gain further understanding of the Spanish-speaking world through cultural review and reflection.
Module 4: Getting to Know the Client
Addressing Your Client's Personal History
In this module, you will continue improving your Spanish conversation skills. In addition to the review of the important uses of the past preterite and past imperfect, you will practice and learn how to apply the present imperfect tense when interviewing clients and inquiring about experiences related to their case. You will engage in hypothetical situations to conduct an interview and collect the information necessary to prepare for a divorce case with Spanish-speaking clients. In this practical activity, you will use on-point legal vocabulary and pay special attention to commonly used reflexive verbs in the context of family background and relationships. The module will conclude with pronunciation practice and a cultural reading further addressing family law and divorce topics.
Module 5: Preparing for the Case
Requesting Legal Documentation
In this module, you will learn vocabulary addressing the different legal documentation typically used when dealing with a client’s case. Students will learn how to make requests and offer recommendations using the present subjunctive. You will apply the new legal terminology and specific grammatical structures in a formal letter to a client requesting specific documentation.
Module 6: Evaluating Client Documents
Reviewing Authentic Documents in Spanish
In this module, you will work through practical tasks that are extremely useful when working with a Spanish-speaking client. In an interview with a native speaker, you’ll demonstrate your ability to incorporate all the major tenses you have studied so far. You will show your ability to ask logical and grammatically correct questions as well as respond to questions. In addition, you will translate an authentic legal document from Spanish to English to establish your ability to work independently without a translator.
Module 7: Onboarding the Client
Composing Basic Contract Agreements in Spanish
In this module, you will learn terms commonly used in specific areas of law such as immigration, family, and business law which will help you address potential legal services your client may need. Grammatically, you will learn structures which will help you address future plans and contingencies. As a result, you will be able to write your own simple retainer contract in Spanish covering important features such as services and fees.
Module 8: Completing a Final Portfolio
Showcasing a Variety of Acquired Practical Skills
The final module will focus on preparing for the final exam and combining your new professional Spanish language skills for the comprehensive final project.
This course is designed to teach the fundamentals of Spanish vocabulary and grammar specifically useful for a legal professional at the work place. Basic Spanish comprehension or previous study is strongly preferred, but fluency is not required for program admission. Students who have the equivalent of one or two semesters of college-level Spanish, or heritage speakers without formal Spanish study, will be well-suited for this program.
If you need to refresh or strengthen your Spanish language skills, we recommend StraighterLine's self-paced language courses. As an SMU partner, StraighterLine will transfer the transcript for completed coursework directly to SMU.
Miroslava Detcheva's combined teaching and legal experience bring unique expertise to SMU's professional education programs. Miroslava is Senior Lecturer in Spanish in SMU's Department of World Languages and Literatures, where she teaches a variety of Spanish language and culture courses. In addition to her long-term teaching experience at the university level, she also is a graduate of SMU's Dedman School of Law and a licensed immigration attorney focusing on employment and business immigration law. Miroslava was inspired to pursue a second career in law while studying in Mexico and traveling throughout Latin America. Her linguistics skills and cultural competence have inspired and impacted her legal practice.
Thursday, February 2, 2023 | 7:30-8:30pm EST
Welcome & Orientation
Thursday, February 9, 2023 | 7:30-8:30pm EST
Greetings & Introductions
Thursday, February 16, 2023 | 7:30-8:30pm EST
Let's Meet at the Office
Thursday, February 23, 2023 | 7:30-8:30pm EST
Getting to Know the Client
Thursday, March 2, 2023 | 7:30-8:30pm EST
Tell Me Your Story
Thursday, March 9, 2023 | 7:30-8:30pm EST
Preparing for the Case
Thursday, March 16, 2023 | 7:30-8:30pm EST
NO CLASS - SMU SPRING BREAK
Thursday, March 23, 2023 | 7:30-8:30pm EST
Review of Client Documents
Thursday, March 30, 2023 | 7:30-8:30pm EST
New Client Onboarding
Thursday, April 6, 2023 | 7:30-8:30pm EST
Final portfolio and all coursework due (no class session)
Do I need to be fluent in Spanish before starting this program?
Basic Spanish comprehension or previous study is strongly preferred, but fluency is not required for program admission. Students who have the equivalent of one or two semesters of college-level Spanish, or heritage speakers without formal Spanish study, will be well-suited for this program.
Can I take this program while I am in law school or any other academic program?
While we do not recommend taking two or more academic programs simultaneously, some may feel they have the capacity in their schedule to perform well. Please keep in mind the 1-hour per week live session and an estimated 4 or more hours outside of class to complete the self-paced coursework.
What will I receive after completing this program?
After completion of this program, you will receive a certificate of completion from SMU. We have partnered with Credly to provide you a digital version of your credentials. Digital badges can be used in email signatures or digital resumes, and on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. This digital credential contains verified metadata that describes your qualifications and the process required to earn them.
What can I expect for job prospects after completing this program? How will this certificate help me in my current or future job?
Many job postings in the legal field list a preference for Spanish language skills. This certificate will allow you to develop those skills and increase your comfort in both reading and speaking Spanish with clients.
What benefit does this certificate offer as an alternate to Spanish-speaking staff that are already positioned in firms? Is there something different I would be able to offer Spanish-speaking clients by completing this certificate?
This course will help formalize the Spanish-speaking context in legal terms to help legal professionals better assist their clients. At the end of the course, you will be able to:
How much coursework is required outside of live class meetings?
Students should expect to spend at least 4 hours per week outside of class to complete the self-paced coursework.
Can you provide more detail on the self-paced portion of the course? Will I have the flexibility to complete them at any time during the 8-week program, or will I need to complete each module weekly to move on to the next? Additionally, will I be able to work ahead if possible?
The self-paced coursework consists of online videos, reading assignments, grammar and comprehension practice, writing assignments, or TalkAbroad assignments. Additionally, we do not recommend that students work ahead as the course builds upon the previous session.
How does this certificate help legal assistants, legal secretaries, receptionists, paralegals, and attorneys?
This certificate can help strengthen your skillset in assisting Spanish-speaking clients as each position in the Legal setting works closely with assisting clients through intakes, interviews, documentations, phone calls, emails, writing, and others.
Can this certificate aid in other fields assisting Spanish-speaking clients?
While this certificate focuses primarily on legal contexts, the foundations of Spanish applications can be applied to working in other fields that assist Spanish-speaking clients, such as non-profit organizations.