Legal Interpreting Services for Lawyers Working with Foreign Clients
We’ve blogged about the importance of using professional legal interpreters even when a non-English-speaking client is represented by a bilingual attorney. Usually when we discuss whether or not an attorney is competent to represent a client who speaks little or no English, it is from the view point of whether the non-foreign-language-speaking attorney can ethically represent the foreign speaker’s case. However, there is another side to this issue: whether or not an attorney who speaks the foreign language of the client is competent to represent the case. The issue is when competency is based on foreign language capabilities as opposed to legal capabilities. All too often the foreign language-speaking client will hire the attorney who can speak their native tongue, but this does not always equal hiring the most competent lawyer.
For example, if a Croatian-speaking client has a worker’s compensation claim but hires a Croatian-speaking attorney who specializes in contract law – the fact they share the same language does not equal competency and any agreement to take a case only on language puts the attorney at risk for an ethics violation. The key in such a situation is for the non-foreign-language-speaking attorney to utilize legal translators and interpreters when meeting with the client. If the client feels comfortable with the foreign language interpreter – and you are able to explain the situation via the foreign language translator – then as an attorney you should have no worries in terms of competency.