El Centro & Elon School of Law

“Be a Better Lawyer: Learn Spanish”

The newest class at Elon University School of Law in downtown Greensboro is the largest and one of the most diverse in school history, crafted from a record number of applicants drawn to a 2.5-year program that emphasizes learning by doing.

Elon Law’s innovative curriculum positions students to excel in the rapidly evolving legal profession. In keeping with the school’s vision to be a pioneering “law school with a difference” and in emphasizing learning by doing, the program is designed with the student in mind: highly experiential, personalized and professionally connected.

The demographics of our country are rapidly changing, so it is easy to see why Spanish-language skills are a growing trend among lawyers. The need for professional Spanish language-skills is a reality that is here to stay and escalate as more Spanish speakers become an integral part of our rich and diverse society.

El Centro is offering Spanish Conversation classes for Law professionals, not only a resource to learn about the language grammar and culture, but also learn about elements of equity, social justice, intercultural awareness and sensitivity, and identity. The more time and effort a person invest in learning Spanish, the more confident a person will grow in the ability to represent Spanish-speaking clients with knowledge of not only the language but also the culture.

Understanding the culture will help a person become a better advocate to Spanish-speaking clients. The following facts describe the benefits a lawyer can expect to achieve after committing to learn Spanish and incorporate the skills into law practice.

1. Deepen cultural understanding and sensitivity and connect with community
Studying Spanish enrich students’ life beyond just a profession; it becomes a second way of thinking. Utilizing Spanish-language skills with clients on an individual basis, helps garner a sense of cultural sensitivity and:
• Provide presentations to Spanish-speaking members of the community to educate about developments in legal fields
• Offer pro-bono services to Spanish-speaking individuals in need
• Volunteer at a local organization that assists Spanish-speaking clients with legal or other issues

2. Provide better service
Practicing law is about service. Therefore, the most significant benefit to incorporating Spanish into law practice is providing better service to clients through increasing effective communication. The ability to communicate with clients in their language provides convenient, customized attention to their legal needs.

3. Avoid misunderstandings
Avoid malpractice by speaking the same language as Spanish-speaking clients to clarify important information such as dates of hearings and other important facts for determining legal options or benefits. By learning and improving your Spanish skills, individuals can minimize and avoid a language barrier that might otherwise impede effective representation of a client.

4. Acquire client trust
Explaining complicated legal processes or clarifying a procedural or factual issue in Spanish to a client creates ease and facilitates understanding. Establishing this comfort is significant for Spanish-speaking clients who are oftentimes wary of falling victim to a complex legal system they do not understand. The attempt to speak their language helps build the rapport between lawyer and client.

Our goals are:
• To make the University Spanish language resources more accessible to students at the Elon School of Law.
• To encourage Elon Law students to expand their Spanish language skills providing them with even more competitive skills upon graduation.
• To allow Elon Law students to learn about the Hispanic/Latinx cultures, promoting cultural competence by increasing cultural awareness and sensitivity
• To encourage Elon Law students to participate in service projects in the Hispanic/Latinx community of Alamance and Guilford counties in conjunction with El Centro.
• To allow Elon Law students to utilize benefits related to accruing El Centro hours (70/140) toward airfare ($325/$650) to a country with primarily a Spanish speaking population.

For more information, please contact Diana Prieto Vinas dprietovinas@elon.edu or Kevin Acuna kacuna@elon.edu