Legal Translation Services and International Code of Attorney Ethics

We’ve blogged about professional legal translation services and bilingual attorneys. The International Bar Association (IBA), in response to the growing number of global or cross-border cases, has developed an International Code of Attorney Ethics. Accordingly, a lawyer who undertakes professional work in a jurisdiction where he is not a full member of the local profession shall adhere to the standards of professional ethics in the jurisdiction in which he has been admitted. He shall also observe all ethical standards which apply to lawyers of the country where he is working. Of course this seems like it says nothing – that you have to adhere to both your home country and the foreign country’s codes, but what about when they contradict? This, along with the general vagueness of the Code in general, is why it is often overlooked as a governing document.


However, there are some other interesting points. For example, according to point four:
“Lawyers shall treat their professional colleagues with the utmost courtesy and fairness.
Lawyers who undertake to render assistance to a foreign colleague shall always keep
in mind that the foreign colleague has to depend on them to a much larger extent
than in the case of another lawyer of the same country. Therefore their responsibility is

much greater, both when giving advice and when handling a case.”

Here it is implied that it is the lawyer’s responsibility to ensure the colleague understands all aspects of the case. When that colleague is not a native English speaker, then, it would seem that the attorney must take the proper steps to ensure full understanding – including securing foreign language translations of all documents and a foreign language interpreter for all verbal communications and testimony.

Up Next: Multilingual E-Discovery and Ethics: Confidentiality