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Florida Coastal School of Law students attend training session for interpreting in the legal setting.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Sep. 26, 201112:00 PM EST

Multilingual students attend training to serve pro bono clients

by: Kathy Para

Communication is crucial when it comes to the attorney/client relationship. Attorneys must make sure that everything that is said is not “lost in translation,” which was the subject of the “Interpreting and Translating in a Legal Setting” program training session held at Florida Coastal School of Law.

The session gave students an overview of the program, its importance and how they can become involved.

Led by Elizabeth Cuevas, the Clinical Student Representative for the Florida Coastal Immigration Clinic, students learned the differences between interpreting and translating and their roles in helping clients through the clinical program and from possible outside agencies.

Interpretation refers to the spoken transfer of the meaning and translation is a written medium. The interpreters have a twofold duty, to ensure that the proceedings reflect exactly what was said and to place a non-English speaking person on an equal level as a person who speaks English.

Communicating effectively is very important.

“Interpretation and translation are key to preserving a client’s story and play a vital role in the reliability of the outcome of a legal proceeding,” Cuevas said.

“Translators and interpreters also ease the complexity of the situation for a client who is unfamiliar with the English language at the level required by the legal process,” she said.

Students who participate in the program are not to give legal advice, need to remain impartial, and must keep everything confidential. The program qualifies for part of the student’s pro bono requirements for Florida Coastal.

“This program plays an important role in the success of the clinical programs and the interactions with non-English speaking clients,” Cuevas stated.

“It is nice to know that even with the students’ heavy class schedules, students are enthusiastic about serving and willing to give back to the community,” she said.

Multilingual students who are trained to serve as interpreters and translators assist in a variety of settings, including the Florida Coastal legal clinics and agencies serving low-income clients. 

Some will assist pro bono attorneys who are representing Jacksonville Area Legal Aid non-English speaking clients. Some will serve as interpreters at “Ask-A-Lawyer” events. Some will translate legal services brochures distributed at community outreach fairs and forums.

Lynn McDowell is the director of the clinical programs at Florida Coastal School of Law.

Ericka Curran, associate professor of Professional Skills and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Florida Coastal, developed the interpreter/translator program.

Carlos J. Martin, Clinical Teaching Fellow and staff attorney with the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Florida Coastal, currently supervises the program.

Students or attorneys interested in participating in this important and beneficial program should contact Ericka Curran at Florida Coastal School of Law at [email protected].

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the Fourth Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee chairwoman at [email protected].

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