The Lawyer's Lawyer

"It's All Greek to Me!"

Q. My client from Athens doesn't speak English. I don't speak Greek. But her son speaks both languages and, until recently, served as my "liaison." Now, they're no longer on speaking terms, and I feel "lost in translation." What should I do now?

A. It is tough enough to convey complex legal concepts to those with a firm command of the English language. Frustrated with litany of legalese, a client who has lived her entire life in America may complain that her lawyer's language is "all Greek to me."

Attorney-client communications are exponentially harder when neither speaks the other's language. While the Rules of Professional Conduct don't require you to be multilingual, Rule 1.4 nonetheless requires that we "explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation."

This gets risky when your explanations are filtered through members of your client's own family. Unlike certified translators, relatives may have an emotional or financial interest in the information being conveyed, or a bias which may skew the translation. Since it's all Greek to you, you would have no way of knowing what information may be lost in translation, embellished, or not translated at all. Indeed, it's entirely possible that the son has given you instructions against the wishes of your client.

When we forgo the expense of retaining qualified translators, we forgo the protection that a disinterested intermediary may provide. Clients often complain that their lawyers never explained certain facts to them, or failed to communicate sufficient information before taking action. This is particularly true of lawyers who relied on the "free" translation services of relatives who may later lend credence to these complaints.

If you are representing a client of limited means, it may be difficult to retain a translator at client expense. If you nonetheless assume the risk of such complaints, you should, at a minimum, have a retainer agreement competently translated to reflect the client's approval of an intermediary who may facilitate your representation. Either way, the troubling reality remains: When you must rely on others to communicate with your clients, you will always face a greater challenge.

Leaving Legal Advice by Text
"Engagement Fee" for Divorce?

Related Posts

 
Attorney Grievance defense attorney specializes in defending lawyers in disciplinary proceedings before the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission and the D.C. Bar's Board on Professional Responsibility involving professional misconduct, legal ethics, disbarment, suspensions of law licenses, petitions for disciplinary action, reprimands and sanctions for unethical conduct. If you receive a letter from Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless, Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox, or from any attorney disciplinary board in Maryland or the District of Columbia, retain experienced attorneys with expertise in lawyer discipline and breach of ethics cases to avoid sanctions for professional misconduct. We help lawyers avoid disbarment, suspension, reprimands, censure and informal admonitions by drafting responses to client grievances and ethical complaints; representing lawyers in peer reviews, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments before the BPR and the Court of Appeals; filing petitions to reinstate an attorney's license to practice law; conducting law firm ethical compliance audits; and drafting legal ethics opinions to protect lawyers from ethics charges. In many cases, disciplinary proceedings may be dismissed, dismissed with a warning, or result in a conditional diversion agreement with Bar Counsel to rectify misconduct. Lawyers may need help in managing their law firm attorney escrow IOLTA trust account and complying with attorney trust accounting rules to avoid charges of ethical misconduct. Do not represent yourself in responding to an attorney grievance, law firm client complaint, or other allegation of ethical impropriety. Attorney grievance defense counsel may help you comply with legal ethics rules, avoid sanctions like suspension or disbarment, and avoid future attorney grievances.

410.581.0070

By The Lawyer's Lawyers | Kramer & Connolly and  who are responsible for the content of this informational website.   This website is designed for lawyers faced with attorney grievances. As cases do differ, past performance does not guarantee future results.
 

NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
OR THE BOARD ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE D.C. BAR