Less than a sixth of partners at the UK’s biggest law firms can speak a foreign language - and there is a particular lack of knowledge for emerging market countries a consultancy has claimed. 

According to research by management consultancy Edward Drummond & Co, only 383 of more than 2,500 partners (15%) surveyed said they could speak a foreign language. French was the most commonly spoken with 62% of foreign language speakers citing it as their second language, followed by German and Spanish. 

Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), Russian and Arabic is spoken are spoken less than one percent of partners.

The findings are based on a sample of 2,552 partners at the UK’s top 100 law firms.

Gareth Ward, partner at Edward Drummond & Co, said a lack of language skills and knowledge of local culture could be a hindrance for law firms looking to grow in key emerging markets. He said that despite the dominance of English, expectations are changing. ‘Being familiar with local languages and culture could give partners a real competitive advantage when looking to establish a client base in an overseas market,’ Ward said.