Using an Interpreter during a Deposition? These are the Three Most Important Things to Remember

Best Practices for Communicating Through an Interpreter

The need to have an interpreter often presents itself during litigation, especially when deponents or witnesses are fluent in another language. To help ensure a smooth experience for all parties, there are a variety of best practices legal teams can use when an interpreter is necessary. 

The main takeaway? Using an interpreter doesn’t have to mean additional “legwork” for your legal team, especially if you prepare in advance and utilize the most professional legal resources possible.  

Dot every “I” and cross every “T”  

Using an interpreter changes the circumstances of the deposition significantly, which is why if an interpreter is needed, you will need to be extra organized and prepared to keep the legal proceedings running as smoothly as possible. Some examples of this include: 

  • Reviewing the rules and certification requirements of your state regarding the use of interpreters 
  • Ensure you are using an experienced court interpreter; a minimum of five years of legal experience should be the goal to obtain the most seasoned, professional interpreters 
  • Including a notice of an interpreter being used in the subpoena/deposition notice  
  • Advising the court reporter in advance that an interpreter will be used 
  • Having all exhibits and necessary documents for the witness translated prior to the deposition (U.S. Legal Support can also help with this!) 

Pro Tip:  Utilizing a third-party service for interpreting can eliminate a lot of administrative headaches that come with using an interpreter during a deposition, as it should be on them to complete a number of these tasks, such as preparing the interpreter, notifying the court reporter and ensuring the interpreter has everything they need in advance to make the job run smoothly.  

Allot extra time 

It is a good “rule of thumb” to account for double the normal time allotted for a deposition when using an interpreter. Breaking up the deposition into shorter intervals to allow for breaks, clarifications and questions may also prove useful in allowing the interpreter the best environment in which to do their job: accurately processing the verbal statements of the deponent for the court reporter. 

Spend time thoroughly preparing the interpreter 

Thorough preparation helps the interpreter to establish a baseline of the key issues of the case and any relevant terminology so they can interpret at a steadier pace during the deposition itself. You can easily help to prepare the interpreter by: 

  • Sending over any/all case transcripts 
  • Any patent information (if applicable) 
  • Copies of any legal notices in the case 

And sending these materials as soon as possible can assist the interpreter in fully preparing for the deposition well in advance. 

Pro Tip: Particularly if your case involves complex medical, technical, or financial terminology, it may be helpful to find an interpreter who has experience with these special languages as well as the language of the deponent.  

As a final tip, if your case requires multiple depositions of the same “players” or witnesses/deponents, try to utilize an interpreter (or company that provides interpreters) that can ensure continuity: one interpreter for the entire case. Case familiarity does help diminish interpreter fatigue while ensuring the best chances for the most accurate record for your legal proceeding.  

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