Traditionally, small town lawyers dealt with regular clients – individuals whose families have been a part of the town for generations. Everyone spoke the same language- English. If an attorney did come across a non-native English speaker, he or she would typically contact the foreign language teacher in the local school to provide a foreign language translation. However, things have changed. Many rural towns are experiencing rapid immigration, which, of course, means the typical client no longer exists.
According to a recent article in the Wisconsin Lawyer, the state’s Hispanic and Asian-Pacific Islander populations have grown by more than 50 percent in the last decade. In order to provide the necessary level of legal services to these clients, attorneys have been struggling to find qualified, professional foreign language interpreters. They often face a situation where it is too costly to hire a foreign language translator from a major metropolitan area for the interpreting services needed. However, by not providing a professional foreign language translator, the attorney risks committing an ethics violation.
So what is the small town attorney to do? According to the article, state bar associations are working with state judicial branches to create a foreign language translation referral system that is partially funded by the state and the local bar associations. The result: the foreign language speaking client will receive legal advice and the attorney will be able to abide by the code of ethics- thanks to the services of professional court interpreters.