Professional Legal Translation of Public Service Announcements
Another way to offer value to prospective non-English-speaking clients and increase a firm’s visibility is through the use of public service announcements (“PSA”). PSAs are a great way for law firms to address topics relevant to the individuals within their target market in the language of their foreign clients. PSAs are generally educationally-based and seek to provide important information to members of a particular group.
PSAs can take on many forms and can address just about any topic. For example, a PSA could be crafted to alert victims of domestic violence who do not speak English to the fact that battery is a criminal offense in the United States and that there are services – as well as lawyers – who can help them. This type of PSA could be particularly helpful to foreign-born women who have been abused by their husbands but fear that they will lose custody of their children or be deported if they report domestic abuse. Also, in some countries, men are generally never punished for abusing their wives as some cultures do not view this kind of abuse as a “crime,” so PSAs of this nature can provide women with valuable information of which they might not be aware. In addition, PSAs directed to battered women can alert them of their rights and the laws in place to protect them from abuse, such as the Violence Against Women Act.
Another topic idea for PSAs involve educating the foreign-born of their rights when placed under arrest. For example, some individuals who do not speak English may not be aware of the fact that they have the right to remain silent when placed under arrest and that anything they say can and will be held against them in a court of law. Law firms that practice criminal law and wish to expand their services to Spanish-speaking clients, for example, may want to consider placing PSA billboards in Hispanic neighborhoods with the goal of educating these individuals about their right to remain silent if they are ever arrested.
Similarly, law firms seeking to market themselves to Spanish speaking clients may want to consider informing their target market about the very limited role that notaries have in the United States. In Latin America, a “notario public” is a well-respected attorney with specific certifications who draws up documents and “public deeds.” In the U.S., by contrast, notaries do not perform these roles and are actually forbidden from preparing legal documents if they are also not licensed attorneys. In fact, some states have even passed legislation prohibiting the use of the term “notario public” in advertisements to the Spanish-speaking community to avoid confusion or manipulation.
In order to have the largest impact, multilingual PSAs should be compelling, interesting, and informative in nature. When creating a PSA, every effort should be made to ensure that it grabs the reader’s immediate attention, especially if it will be in the form of a billboard where drivers may only be able to view the PSA for a matter of seconds. In addition, lawyers should be very careful to ensure that the PSA complies with their applicable rules of professional conduct, as some states have strict laws regulating PSAs and attorney advertising.
As with other types of marketing, law firms may want to consider presenting a focus group with their multilingual PSA ideas first to ensure that they are well-received by the target market and to gather any valuable feedback before finalizing the proposed PSA. Finally, law firms will want to be sure that the PSA is professionally translated into the language of the law firm’s target market to avoid the embarrassment or offense that can come with mistranslations.