20 tips for lawyers working with interpreters

I’m sure lawyers taking depositions from deponents speaking other languages, especially when travel to foreign countries is required, are fully aware of the logistic costs involved, and wish to get the best results from interpreters working with them. This post was originally written for journalists working with interpreters, but I felt strongly that it applied so well to the legal context that it was worth sharing with you all.

Of course one or two of the items would generally not apply in a deposition context, such as giving the deponent the option to speak a language other than their own (tip n° 10), but the vast majority of the points mentioned would improve things dramatically in my experience!

Perhaps the key thing to take away is that by making the efforts below you are not ‘making the interpreter’s job easier’ but making your communication more effective, and, ultimately, getting a better result.

See what you think… 

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Canadian radio show discusses court interpreting

Babel, a new show on the Canadian radio station CBC Radio One hosted by an Argentinian with a passion for languages “explores the impact of diversity, technology, and community on Canadian English”.

This 28-minute episode of the show discusses a variety of language-related topics including multilingual families, court interpreting, medical interpretation and forensic linguistics.

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Monday smiles – Appropriate shoes

From 2009, a wonderful motion about a lawyer using shoes with holes in the soles to convince the jury that he is a “humble and simple” man and so frugal that he has to wear old shoes. He also apparently stands with his foot “crossed casually beside the other so that the holes (…) are readily apparent to the jury”.

Less amusingly, the media coverage of the shoe incident actually led to a mistrial verdict.

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Zen and working methods

A very interesting article in the Law Society Gazette last week about flexible working patterns grabbed my attention. Here is a taster: “The term ‘work/life balance’ has such negative connotations in private practice that some firms have banned it from their vocabulary.” The article deals particularly with the problems female lawyers have, but not only – it also talks about flexibility enabling men to pursue parallel careers as well, “such as writing a book or singing in a choir”.

Translators, on the other hand, rather than having the problem of getting out of the office, sometimes have a problem with staying at home too much. A great post over at Patenttranslator’s Blog – “Translator’s Dementia (TD) – What it is and How to recognize the Signs” includes a lovely description of the typical “home office” :). Jill Sommer, on the other hand, gave some really good advice for those who work at home in her 2009 post “Establishing a work-life balance and overcoming loneliness“.

So, following in the estimable footsteps above, here’s my seven-point guide.

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Lawyers’ flash mob in green t-shirts

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms a couple of weeks ago, lawyers and other members of the legal community in Ottawa organized a flash mob and danced a choreographed piece wearing bright green t-shirts.

Other flash mobs were organized all over Canada by the Canadian Bar Association. If you want to learn the dance routine, click and enjoy. 🙂

You can read more about the event here.

Who says the legal profession is stuffy?


By the way, here is the Wordnik definition of ‘flash mob’, just in case you need it: http://www.wordnik.com/words/flashmob

Monday smiles – light bulbs and arks

As my readers may have guessed by now, I do think that a sprinkling of fun is important in life. Today I have two little texts for you – one lampoons lawyers (my apologies in advance, but hopefully you have a good sense of humo(u)r), and the other bureaucracy and nanny States (no apologies there…!)

So, first “How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?”

And second, “Noah’s Ark Today” (the subject of which is definitely not specific to Canada!)

The texts were posted on an award-winning blog with the unexpected name “Law is Cool“, which addresses “issues related to law school and the legal field with a Canadian focus”.

Have a good week!

Legal translation conference in Lisbon, Portugal

On 7 & 8 October 2011, around 190 linguists and legal professionals from 32 countries gathered in Lisbon, Portugal to attend an international conference organized by Tradulinguas in collaboration with the Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

Issues covered included comparative law, technology and e-resources, methods at the EU, and terminology, presented by speakers from all over Europe and beyond. The conference was a forum for much stimulating debate.

Here is the view of one attendee: http://blog.philippahammond.net/2011/10/24/tradulinguas-international-legal-translation-conference-lisbon/

Details of the conference can be found here: http://www.tradulinguas.com/conf-juridica/index.htm