Confidentiality plays an important role not only during multilingual legal document translation, but also in the context of legal translation and legal interpretation services and multilingual e-Discovery. According to the rules of ethics, lawyers are required to keep confidential anything pertaining to the representation of a client. Further, the rule of confidentiality is specifically broader than the attorney-client privilege, which only pertains to communications between the client and his or her attorney. Of course the purpose for this rule is to encourage clients to speak openly about the case and the lawyer to provide zealous representation. But what happens when the attorney and client cannot communicate?
When a client is a foreign language speaker, a foreign language interpreter will be required. According to United States v. Kovel, the presence of a third party in an attorney-client matter, such as a foreign language interpreter, does not waive the right to confidentiality so long as the third party person’s sole role was to facilitate the communication rather than provide translation services for other reasons.
Based on this decision, many jurisdictions have enacted specific laws recognizing the applicability of the rule of confidentiality when a foreign language interpreter facilitates confidential communication between a client and attorney. Accordingly, the attorney is required to properly monitor the third party, and responsibility for preserving the right to confidentiality is on the attorney.