The Value of Understanding in Communications

May 12, 2023

"Understanding" is the Value: Karen Roos, Founder of HireRoos is Delivering Value by Delivering Understanding"

A ClariLegal Value Series article by Jeff Kruse and Cash Butler

George Bernard Shaw is credited with saying "The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place." This problem can be particularly troublesome when multiple languages are involved in a communication or project.

Karen Roos, Esq., a multicultural polyglot, founded her company, HireRoos, in 2020 in part to solve this problem. HireRoos, a woman and minority-owned business, is a staffing service for legal professionals headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Karen knows the value of understanding in communications and the risks of misunderstandings. Specifically, she knows the value of making sure that everyone working on a project understands the "nuances of the languages" used in projects. Her goal is to ensure "understanding at its highest level so that lawyers can do their work at the highest level."

HireRoos Talent Management & Interpretation Services

Through HireRoos, Karen helps U.S. companies by providing temporary, temporary-to-permanent, and direct-hire legal staffing. HireRoos fills staffing needs for attorneys, paralegals, secretaries, and other legal support professionals. HireRoos is adept at providing resources fluent in the specific languages needed for each project. As Karen explains, "Projects involving foreign languages can be quite difficult because of different connotations, context, and slang used in documents."

While working on her staffing venture, Karen identified a new way to provide value for her customers. Karen will soon expand her language service offerings through a new enterprise, HireRoos Interpretations, a service that will be at the "Rolls Royce" end of the interpretation services market. Karen's new service will provide access to interpreters who have translated at the highest level, including at court proceedings, client meetings, and even for heads of State.

Lifelong Interest in Languages

Karen learned the value of understanding communications at an early age. She and her family moved from Peru, where she was born, to the Washington D.C. area when Karen was in elementary school.

Karen quickly learned the importance of understanding context, connotation, culture, and slang when communicating with people who speak, read, and write different languages. Karen's experience adapting to a second language and a new culture at such a young age set her on a purpose-driven mission to ensure an understanding of communications in the legal ecosystem.

In addition to being fluent in Spanish and learning English, Karen also studied Italian and French in school. While attending the University of Maryland, Karen decided to go to law school. She chose to attend the Washington College of Law at American University because it would allow her to study overseas to immerse herself in another language and culture.

When she attended, the Washington College of Law offered two programs with overseas opportunities. One was in Spain and the other in France. Karen was already fluent in Spanish. She wanted to become more fluent in French. So, she chose the more difficult path and studied at Nanterre Université in Paris to get her joint Juris Doctor and Master II degrees.

Always up for an additional language challenge, while she studied international trade law in France, Karen also did a clerkship in Germany. During her clerkship at Baker & McKenzie in Frankfurt, Germany, Karen began taking courses to learn German.


By the time she completed her joint law degrees, Karen had lived in Peru, the United States, France, and Germany. She was fluent in her native language, Spanish, and was also fluent in English and French. Plus, she was conversational in German and had studied Italian. Before becoming a practicing lawyer, Karen fully appreciated the need to understand the nuances of written and spoken words.

Experience as a Contract Attorney

After law school, Karen used her impressive multilingual skills to work on legal translation projects and later worked as an Alternative Dispute Resolution lawyer for FEMA. Because of her language expertise, Karen worked on international projects in Mexico and Argentina.

During those projects, she learned about the nuances and differences between the Spanish language in Mexico, Argentina, and her original home country, Peru. For instance, Karen explains that some residents used specific slang in Argentina and that if you are unfamiliar with the context and connotation, you would not understand the true meaning of what was being said or written.

For that reason, Karen believes grasping the cultural aspects of the language is important to understand the language. She explained, "Even though they say one thing, it could mean something else because it's not just language. It takes knowing the cultural intent of saying certain phrases to know what certain phrases mean."

Misunderstandings Can Be Costly

Through her experiences as a contract lawyer, Karen formed strong views on the need for fluency when handling multilingual projects. As she put it, "There are so many things that could get in the way of communication, and it multiplies the effects of miscommunication that can happen if one person is not proficient in that language."

Spanish is the official language in 20 counties and is spoken in over two dozen countries. But Karen quickly explains that the culture, context, and connotation of words and phrases have different meanings in different countries. Similarly, English is the official language of over four dozen countries and is widely spoken. As with Spanish, Karen notes that words can have different meanings in Australian English, American English, or British English.

Karen emphasized that significant financial impact can hinge on a few words or sentences. The context and true intended meaning of the words can be vital in contracts, international mergers and acquisitions deals, litigations, and fraud investigations.

True mastery of the language and cultural understanding is especially needed in fraud cases because wrongdoers are often trying to hide their fraudulent dealings and try to mask their communications. "Often you would not know about the fraud unless you understand the local nuisances of the language."

Requiring a High Level of Understanding

Because Karen has first-hand experience understanding the risk companies face when communications are misunderstood, HireRoos sets a high standard for language proficiency for candidates. HireRoos requires candidates to demonstrate a high level of fluency in the language involved in the specific project through advanced testing. The advanced testing ensures that the candidates truly understand the language the client needs for the assignment, whether that assignment is for document review, legal research, memorandum or brief writing, contract review or drafting, or other detailed legal work. HireRoos also requires a high level of proficiency for projects involving English as well.

Running to be the ABA Delegate for the DC Bar

In addition to her many hobbies, including playing squash and traveling to 27 countries to date, Karen is now a candidate for the position of ABA Delegate for the DC Bar. She is running partly because of her desire to represent temporary attorneys before the ABA House of Delegates.

Although temporary attorneys make up an estimated 17.5% of all lawyers in the United States, they are underrepresented before the ABA House of Delegates, the body that passes rules that affect all attorneys. Karen explains that certain rules and policies may disproportionately impact temporary attorneys and that possibility must be considered before passing rules.

Karen believes that representation for temporary attorneys is especially important now because there will likely be many more attorneys added to that group soon. She notes that artificial intelligence tools have been shown to help reduce how much work needs to be done by associates. Hence, she anticipates that law firms may start contracting more lawyers on a per-project basis to do substantive work instead of hiring permanent associates.

Providing Value Through Understanding

The value proposition that HireRoos provides manifests itself through her highly vetted staffing resources that drive quality and reduce risk, by providing the right talent for each project. HireRoos sets high standards for the candidates, just as Karen has set high standards for her own language fluency. The high standards she sets for the staff she provides help protect companies from the risks of misunderstandings caused by nuance, context, and/or connotation.

To connect with Karen on LinkedIn go to

You can learn more about HireRoos by going to

About the Authors

Jeff Kruse (l) is the Founder of Key Legal Operations Consulting LLC, where he consults with legal departments and law firms to help them operate more efficiently through process improvements, technology implementation, and outsourced legal operations management to help them improve their bottom lines.

Cash Butler (r) is the CEO of R3 - Legal Operations Consulting and the founder of ClariLegal. Cash has over 20 years of experience in the financial services and legal vertical markets. He is a seasoned legal technology innovator and digital transformation champion.

He focuses on helping organizations by improving legal operations, eDiscovery, litigation & compliance. Cash is an expert in operations, legal vendor, pricing, and project management.

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