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Representing Clients Through Interpreters--Ethics Rule NH 2009

  • Organization: NH Ethics Board
  • Document Type: Case law/admin decisions
  • Date Created: Thursday, August 19, 2010
  • Submitted: Thursday, August 19, 2010
  • Attachment(s): LINK

QUESTION: What are the ethical obligations of an attorney representing a client with whom the attorney cannot communicate directly in a language understood by the client?
BACKGROUND: An attorney has inquired whether he may ethically represent a client with whom he cannot communicate directly without the assistance of an interpreter.
RESPONSE: This inquiry implicates an attorney's obligations relating to competence (Rule 1.1), client communications (Rule 1.4) and confidentiality of information (Rule 1.6).
An attorney's inability to communicate directly with a client in a language understood by the client does not necessarily preclude the attorney from ethically representing the client. Indeed, communication problems can arise even where the attorney and the client speak the same language. In all cases, attorneys must take steps to ensure that the client is provided with competent representation, that communications with the client are adequate to provide such competent representation, and that the confidentiality of the client's information is protected. Where an attorney cannot communicate directly with the client in a language understood by the client, the attorney may ethically represent the client if the attorney uses a qualified, impartial interpreter to conduct adequate communications with the client, and takes appropriate steps to protect the client's confidential information.

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