English lesson at Clifford Chance
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English lesson at Clifford Chance

English is well on its way to becoming the global language. According to one estimate, around 350 million people are native English speakers, with another 400 million speaking English as a second or foreign language.

This hasn't, apparently, gone unnoticed at Clifford Chance, which, through mergers and lateral hires, has become the world's largest law firm its website, www.cliffordchance.com, proudly tells us. With 29 offices in 19 countries throughout the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, its lawyers, so the firm claims, have the "in-depth local knowledge and a uniquely global perspective" needed to "advise internationally and domestically; under common law and civil law systems; in local and cross-border transactions."

To reflect its commitment to building an integrated global legal practice founded on in-depth local knowledge, the site has a drop-down language menu, presumably to make its content as widely accessible as possible. Its default setting is English, which is handy, because when you click on it, there are no other language options available.

In an age of globalization, that might not matter so much. But we can't help feeling disappointed. After all, as another great internationalist and lawgiver, Charlemagne, said: "To have another language is to possess a second soul." 

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