Top Legal Interpretation Hacks

We are often contacted by legal clients who need interpretation services for a court case or other legal proceeding.  In some cases, it is the first time that a paralegal or legal assistant is requesting interpretation.  Part of our role is to serve as cultural consultants and advise clients on the best approach when language services are needed.

With this in mind, what follows is a checklist to consider when requesting legal interpretation:

Target Language and Dialect – It’s not as easy as it may appear.  You may think you need an English-Spanish interpreter.  However, it is important to know the proper dialect of the language to ensure accuracy.  For instance, French differs greatly for France, Canada or West Africa, and some Middle Eastern languages are also specific to their locales.

Interpretation Mode – Do you need consecutive or simultaneous interpretation? Consecutive interpretation is when a person speaks, the interpreter listens, and then provides the interpretation.  There is a pause between the speaker and the interpretation. Simultaneous is when the interpreter provides “real time” interpretation.  Think of the United Nations. The interpreter listens to the speaker and simultaneously provides the interpretation.

Type of Proceeding – It is important to provide the type of legal proceeding when requesting interpretation.  Different interpreters may specialize in different proceedings, such as depositions, trials, arbitrations and independent medical examinations.

Nature of the Case – If possible, it is helpful to know the nature of the case, such as a slip-and-fall claim or workers compensation.  There is often specific legal terminology based on the type of case, and some interpreters may have more experience in one type over another.  This helps to ensure accuracy.

Assignment Details – When requesting interpretation, it is important to gather the relevant logistical information, such as date, time, location, attorney, duration of proceeding and on-site contact.  These facilitate the recruitment and fulfilling of the assignment.

Court Certification –In some cases, a court-certified interpreter is required. This may impact the interpretation hourly rates and travel fees.  Plus, certain languages may not have a local court-certified interpreter, and court certification is not available in all states.

Person Who Requires Interpretation – If possible, it is helpful to provide the name(s) of the person who actually requires the interpretation.  This is often helpful for rare languages or assignments in small communities in order to avoid a conflict of interest with the interpreter.

CETRA specializes in providing interpretation services for depositions and other legal proceedings, as well as translations for the legal field, including international litigation and patents.  We hope you found this checklist helpful, and we would be happy to answer any additional questions you my have.  Please contact us at