Use Translators to Communicate with Foreign Clients

Why Lawyers Need Legal Translators and Interpreters

An important step in attracting foreign born clients is to make your firm “foreign language friendly.” In order to do so, law firms should not hesitate to employ the services of a legal interpreter when meeting with prospective or existing clients. As discussed below, there are several reasons why firms should consider utilizing the services of professional translators and interpreters.

First, non-native speakers may be reluctant to reach out to legal counsel for fear of not being able to communicate their needs effectively. By offering the services of an interpreter to assist with client consultations, firms will not only enable their clients to feel more at ease during initial consultations and meetings, but they will also demonstrate respect for their clients’ language and culture. Likewise, firms can set themselves apart from their competitors by offering these services to clients and can even use it as an effective marketing tool in advertisements.

Although it might seem unnecessary to hire a professional interpreter if the client has friends or relatives who are willing to translate for him or her, the informal translator most likely will not understand the importance of translating the conversation between the lawyer and the client exactly. Instead, non-professional interpreters will often summarize what each party says instead of translating the statements word for word like professional interpreters. Likewise, non-professional interpreters may be prone to omitting information they may think is unnecessary and may gloss over legalistic language from the lawyer that they themselves do not understand.

Furthermore, family members or friends may not understand the importance of keeping matters discussed with the attorney confidential and may be tempted to share personal and confidential information gleaned during the meeting with others. Doing so could not only jeopardize the attorney-client privilege, but it could also jeopardize the outcome of the case. In contrast, professional interpreters are typically willing to sign confidentiality agreements to protect the attorney-client privilege and are committed to following the ethical rules and regulations of their profession.

In addition to utilizing the services of an interpreter for client meetings and initial consultations, firms should also consider having important documents professionally translated. For example, firms should provide non-English speaking clients with professionally translated retainer or engagement letters to ensure that the clients understand the terms, conditions, and expectations of the attorney-client relationship completely.

Moreover, to the extent that clients have documents, such as contracts, written in foreign languages, it is imperative that attorneys seek to have those documents professionally translated at the outset of the attorney-client relationship in order to provide clients with the most competent and comprehensive legal representation possible.

In addition to providing clients with documents in their native language, firms should also ensure that their website is “foreign language friendly.” If the firm seeks to attract Spanish speaking clients, for example, the firm’s website should have Spanish language informational pages, tabs and links in order to accommodate these clients.

Doing this will also set the firm apart from its competitors and will demonstrate to its existing and prospective clients that it is accustomed to serving such clients and that it seeks to serve their best interests.

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