As globalisation continues, most lawyers will undoubtedly encounter an increase in client diversity. And as all legal professionals are highly aware, communication and understanding are fundamental to good legal practice. Still, what is a lawyer’s responsibilities when faced with clients with limited English proficiency? And how can lawyers understand clients’ concerns, translate legal concepts into a different language, and ensure that foreign-language clients grasp the fundamentals of the conversation?
It’s important to establish a good understanding of your client’s language skills from the start. Try talking to your client about their language experience when you first meet them. Through asking small questions, you’ll be able to develop a good rapport, as well as a more detailed picture of what you can do to assist.
Once you’ve gained some insight into your client’s English proficiency level, there are several ways to address a language barrier between you and your client. For clients who speak broken English, and where subject of discussion is not highly technical or contentious, translation apps can be of great assistance. Still, it’s essential to recognise that language apps do not currently perform well with specialist and complex language - such as legal jargon. This is why it’s important to stay understanding, empathetic, and alert to signs of misinterpretation at all times. On those occasions where technology fails, you should be able to explain and paraphrase different concepts for your clients.
When working with clients who speak Punjabi, another challenge is explaining legal documents. Even clients who speak English fairly well can still struggle to read the documents since they are jammed with specialist jargon. Tackle the issue with sensitivity, advertency, and patience. We recommend reading the documents aloud or arranging for written translations to be made up. In addition, hiring a literacy mediator is a good way to ensure that your client won’t be left out of the loop.
However, if your client is almost entirely non-fluent, or not confident in their English ability, you might want to hire an interpreter. Though this might sound like an indulgence to some, UK common law requires access to interpreters for those who need them. And according to the Ministry of Justice, from 2011 to 2016, over 2,600 court cases had to be rescheduled due to communication failures. Each of these adjournments represents a waste of time and resources. When working with an interpreter, it’s important to stay flexible, aware, and responsive. Speak clearly and succinctly, with uncomplicated language where possible, so as not to obscure what is being said. Make sure to look out for your client’s body language as you speak, so you can respond to any misinterpretation. In addition, you should make time for any questions and elaboration.
The complex communication issues between English-speaking civil litigators and clients with LEP (low English proficiency) require special attention. Law professionals must ensure they are well-equipped to provide language-concordant services to vulnerable clients.
Punjabi Legal Translation, Interpretation and Transcription Services for Law Firms
If you require interpretation or translation services, our expert translators can help you. Our skilled team can translate swiftly and accurately, saving you time and money, across all legal practice areas. We offer a fast turnaround, exceptional accuracy, and high-quality service. To discuss your needs with us today, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 03309121530