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Bar News - July 16, 2010

Ethics Opinion: Representing Clients through Interpreters

In an opinion (2009-2010/2) issued last month, the Ethics Committee discusses the ethical obligations of an attorney representing a client with whom the lawyer cannot communicate directly. The following is a quotation from that opinion:

"When the attorney cannot communicate directly and fluently with the client in a language that the client can understand—whether the inability to engage in direct communication is because the attorney and the client do not speak the same language, or because either the client or attorney is deaf or hearing impaired—the attorney must make use of the services of a qualified, impartial interpreter. Ideally, the attorney would accomplish this by associating with a bilingual attorney, working with a bilingual employee or staff member who can interpret communications between the attorney and client, or utilizing a commercial or community interpreter service. While this is not always possible, attorneys are cautioned that using relatives or friends of clients as interpreters carries substantial risks. Such interpreters may have a personal interest in the outcome of the representation and, therefore, their interpretation may be biased."

Read the full text of the opinion.

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