Legal Language Services and the Ethics of Advertising in a Foreign Language

We’ve blogged about multilingual legal language translation and interpretation services in the context of Internet advertising and attorney ethics, and about the need for professional translation services when marketing legal services to non-English-speaking clients. The issue of the ethics of attorney advertising and foreign languages again came up in a recent situation in Nevada. The case involved a local attorney who was disciplined for running a Spanish-language radio adverts claiming that anyone who had been in a car accident had the legal right to receive at least $15,000.00. At the ethics hearing, the attorney claimed the radio spot was in fact a public service announcement, not an advertisement. Needless to say, the ethics court didn’t agree.


This case shows that most state ethics codes are ill-suited for managing this growing trend. Most codes have a rule stating that an attorney ‘shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services’. False and misleading is defined as one that ‘contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.’
Policing attorney advertising is hard enough when it is in English, let alone when the communication is in a foreign language. This is why foreign language translations by native speakers are essential to making sure a communication is not misleading in any language. In fact, some jurisdictions are requiring all advertising to be submitted for approval to the ethics board and, when necessary, including a foreign language translation.

Up Next: Certified Translation of License Agreements

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by Legal Translator

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