The American Bar Association has issued a formal opinion to guide lawyers in situations when they and their clients do not share a common language. This guidance also covers when the client has a physical condition, such as a hearing, speech or vision disability, that might impede communications. The guidance revolves around a lawyers duty to communicate under Model Rule 1.4 and competence under Model Rule 1.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
This opinion outlines certain steps lawyers can take, including the use of an interpreter. It also makes clear that “it is the lawyer’s affirmative responsibility” to ensure the client understands the lawyer’s communications, and that the lawyer understands the client’s communications.