The majority of time someone contacts a law firm, they are likely going through a personal crisis. Most people only need legal representation when they are in a difficult position, making for many stressed and impatient callers.
Consider how intimidating it must be for a first-time caller to contact a law firm and then describe the issue they are facing, looking for help. Now imagine how intimidating it must be for callers who are not fluent in English.
The United States is an increasingly diverse nation, with more than 40 million people speaking Spanish. Roughly 40% U.S.-based Spanish-speaking consumers have only limited English proficiency, possibly impacting their ability to use services in their community. Vital services in legal, healthcare, and education must offer multi-language options to successfully support the growing number of diverse communities in the U.S.
Providing service to bilingual clients can be difficult, though fortunately the bar of entry to successfully support non-native English speakers is low.
At Abogados Now, we help attorneys effectively communicate to English and Spanish-speaking consumers, and often recommend and implement the following strategies in our members’ practices.
Hire Bilingual Staff
Considered a relatively minor change but one that makes an exceedingly large impact on your law firm’s ability to help bilingual clients. Having a bilingual or multilingual staff increases your staff’s ability to successfully build life-long relationships with potential clients. Most clients, especially those with difficult legal issues, will confide in someone if they can speak candidly, in their native language.
Advertise Your Bilingual Services
Hiring a bilingual staff is a great first step, but potential clients need to hear about your firm’s bilingual access. Advertising in both English and Spanish tells potential clients that they are safe and welcomed to contact your law firm. Advertising in Spanish also allows potential clients who only speak Spanish to get to know you and your firm before making a call.
Give Callers a Bilingual Option
A quick solution could be a recording that gives callers the option to press a key for their preferred language (i.e., “For English, press 1. Para Español, oprima 2”). You can also train intake staff to help guide callers to bilingual staff who will be able to provide this service. By giving your caller the option to speak in their preferred language, you will immediately alleviate their anxiety. All clients want to be assured that you can communicate regardless of what language they speak.
Establish a rapport with the caller
This tip applies to both English and Spanish-speaking callers, but phone etiquette norms can differ depending on the language spoken. It is important to make your caller feel comfortable and listened to. The legal system is complex, even for native English speakers. Patience and reassurance with Spanish-speaking callers go a long way. Remind every caller that you are an expert in legal intake, that you are there to help them, and that you will answer any and every question they may have.
Pay Close Attention to Local Cultural Groups
We rarely use the “Hispanic” and “Latino/a/x” labels to identify Spanish-speaking communities. The reality is that Spanish-speaking communities come from a variety of countries with different viewpoints, values, and legal systems. Treating the Spanish-speaking community as a monolith is a mistake, but it is a prevalent mistake. Research your local Spanish-speaking communities to effectively demonstrate an understanding of its members (who will likely become your clients). The more you understand about your target audience, the easier it is to build trust in your community.
Track Language Preference
Your law firm’s intake process should include keeping track of your potential client’s language preference. Legal intake can be long and are often complicated, and involve extreme detail. It is also not uncommon for a call to be dropped before the intake process is completed. In this event, a receptionist will have to call them back. When this happens, the receptionist calling-back needs to know the potential clients’ preferred speaking language, improving future communications quality.
Effective bilingual communications go far beyond Google Translation. They require bilingual staff, cultural competency training, and company infrastructure that supports prospects with different language preferences. Setting up a bilingual intake system may require some initial heavy lifting, but the value of having a bilingual-friendly infrastructure will pay dividends far beyond the financial.
Are you wondering how your firm can better support your Spanish-speaking clients? Check out bilingual marketing experts Abogados Now for bilingual campaign support, and LEX Reception‘s bilingual team can be the welcoming voice that greets English and Spanish callers alike.