If You’re Practicing Law In The 21st Century, You Better ‘Be Sexy and Know’ SpanishOctober 10, 2014
I am a Gleek. I admit it. And never was I more Gleeky than the week Ricky Martin made his guest appearance on the show singing in Spanglish “I’m Sexy and I Know It” back in 2012.
But, that’s not really what this post is about. What it is about is what Ricky Martin’s character, the new Spanish teacher, said to his night students wanting to learn Spanish: “By 2030 more Americans will be speaking Spanish as their first language than English.”
I was a little surprised, too! That’s less than 18 years away from when the show aired in 2012. The stars then took turns singing songs in English and Spanish, the not-so-subtle message being we all need to hone our Spanish language skills….
Well, I couldn’t find anything online to support this statement, but I did start hunting around the internet to find some studies. I’ve known for quite some time that the Hispanic and Latino population is the second-largest ethnic population in the United States. For years we have all been aware of how large companies — including food manufacturers, utility companies, and the government — have printed materials in both English and Spanish, and their voice systems give you the option to continue instruction in English or Spanish. What is the language your children are learning in (public) school as early as third or fourth grade? How many Spanish-speaking cable stations are available? And even with all these indicators, I’m not sure the average person (lawyer) fully understands how quickly this shift in demographics will be upon us or how fully and appropriately to embrace it.
What I did find is support for this fast-moving shift in the U.S. population:
The U.S. population will soar to 438 million by 2050 and the Hispanic population will triple, according to projections released Monday by the Pew Research Center.The latest projections by the non-partisan research group are higher than government estimates to date and paint a portrait of an America dramatically different from today’s. The projected growth in the U.S. population — 303 million today — will be driven primarily by immigration among all groups except the elderly.
Even if immigration is limited, Hispanics’ share of the population will increase because they have higher birth rates than the overall population. That’s largely because Hispanic immigrants are younger than the nation’s aging baby boom population. By 2030, all 79 million boomers will be at least 65 and the elderly will grow faster than any other age group.
The projections show that by 2050:
Nearly one in five Americans will have been born outside the USA vs. one in eight in 2005. Sometime between 2020 and 2025, the percentage of foreign-born will surpass the historic peak reached a century ago during the last big immigration wave. New immigrants and their children and grandchildren born in the USA will account for 82% of the population increase from 2005 to 2050.
Whites who are not Hispanic, now two-thirds of the population, will become a minority when their share drops to 47%. They made up 85% of the population in 1960.
This information is from an article in USA today written in 2008. This is a projection which has, yet again, changed these past six years. In 1992, projections had the U.S. population at 383 million and white non-Hispanics at 53% in 2050. Now look at the numbers from these 2012 (updated in 2013) projections, based upon 2010 census data:
The non-Hispanic white population is projected to peak in 2024, at 199.6 million, up from 197.8 million in 2012. Unlike other race or ethnic groups, however, its population is projected to slowly decrease, falling by nearly 20.6 million from 2024 to 2060. Meanwhile, the Hispanic population would more than double, from 53.3 million in 2012 to 128.8 million in 2060. Consequently, by the end of the period, nearly one in three U.S. residents would be Hispanic, up from about one in six today.
Bear in the mind, these are projections. Here are some summary tables on projected growth. However, the trends clearly indicate your state will likely see a sizable increase in its Hispanic and Latino populations going forward. And this is reflected in the fact that as of 2011 there are almost six thousand elected officeholders in the United States who are of Latino origin (here is the 2012 .pdf, which shows even more information). There is also a member of this growing demographic sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor; SCOTUS is “supposed to” be representative of the diversity of our population and the recognition of the (rising) power of each demographic.
Back to your solo/small firm practice. Will you be incorporating this information into your business plan? Your hiring decisions? Your marketing materials? Will you start considering practice areas which address this growing population? Will you bring on an “Of Counsel” or a paralegal or virtual assistant who speaks Spanish and has ties to your community or target audience? Will you have a translate button on your online portal or on your web presence? (Or better yet, have a mirror website completely in Spanish to recognize Spanish speakers will be using their own language in the search terms.) Do you have any of this already? At the very least, learn some conversational Spanish through any number of business language programs out there.
I also want you to pay attention to what was indicated in addition to trending population growth. The Hispanic population is a “younger” population overall, with higher birth rates. This means traditional practice areas that cater to a younger demographic are going to do very well. This includes all consumer law arenas — real estate, bankruptcy, divorce, trusts & estates, personal injury, business, patents & trademarks, special education, fertility and adoption, etc. And of particular note, the Hispanic community is the only community to see a decline in poverty rates and increase in income.
Time to start learning that second or third language if you haven’t already!