Working with Interpreters and Clients: Translating Between Culture and the Courtroom

April 12, 2019 | 5.25 Law and Legal and .75 Ethics CLE Credits | WSBA Activity ID #1083480

As use of interpreters has become a more essential part of almost all areas of legal practice, major drawbacks in how well we use interpreters have emerged. The missing component in working with interpreters: the context of cultural translation for clients unfamiliar with the American legal system. This program will develop your skills for interacting with and employing interpreters, building your toolbox for ensuring the most positive possible outcome for your client.


The skill to fully utilize and work with interpreters is critical to helping your non-English speaking clients, especially in the courtroom. Chaired by Yelena Stock, '08, from the Seattle City Attorney's Office, her faculty for this program include judicial officers Mark Chow, Mafé Rajul, and Linda Coburn, plus attorneys and interpreters who will speak from both a personal cultural perspective and a professional perspective as members of the legal community. The participation of interpreters has become an essential part of almost all areas of legal practice, in order to provide context and cultural translation for clients unfamiliar with the American legal system. Join us to build your toolbox for ensuring the most positive possible outcome for your client.


Agenda and speakers are subject to change

8:00 - 8:30 a.m.

Registration and Coffee

8:45 - 9:30 a.m.

Session 1 - A View from the Bench

  • The ethics and importance of cultural competency 
  • What responsibility do attorneys have to be culturally competent? 
  • What resources are available to become culturally competent?

Judge Mark Chow, King County District Court

9:30 - 10:30 a.m.

Session 2 - Providing Context for Cultural Translation

  • How cultural attitudes and colloquial statements and cultural symbols don't necessarily translate easily into "Standard American", and vice versa. 
  • Fundamental differences between cultures in relation to the legal system 
  • On a system level - how is the American system functionally different from other countries; how the lack of attorneys of color in the courtroom impacts the sense of a client's ability to get justice
  • On a personal level - are the bad guys better than going to the police? Are the police and the system in American just going to separate me from my family? Fear of immigration issues.
  • Learning to ask: How much exposure to the American culture does the victim or the defendant have? What is the client's level of cultural competency?

Yelena Stock, Seattle City Attorney's Office

10:30 - 10:45 a.m.


10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Session 3 - Cultural Roundtable

  • In your perspective, how does your culture most often conflict with "Standard American" in terms of attitude, colloquial speech, etc.? 
  • What stories or examples can you provide from your personal experience, and how were you able to solve or address the issues that came up?

Judge Linda Coburn, Edmonds Municipal Court


Phil Su, Diversity Law Group, PLLC
Sumeer Singla, Impact Law Group
Hong Tran, King County Department of Public Defense

11:30 a.m. - 12 noon

Session 4 - How to listen differently - listening intelligently and with empathy for what you don't know and what the client doesn't know.


Professor Jill Dutton, Director, Externship Program, Seattle University School of Law

12 noon - 1 p.m.

Lunch (on your own)

1 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.

Session 5 - Practical experiences by the client in the court room:

  • Advocates working with non-English-speaking or minimal-English clients.

Alma Rodriguez, DV Advocate, City of Seattle
Yesenia Urbina, volunteer DV Advocate, City of Seattle

1:45 - 2:45 p.m.

Session 6 - Practical experience by attorneys working with interpreters in a variety of legal practice areas:

  • Ensuring that all the attorneys involved in a case are aware of the context from which the client is operating - civility/sharing information.

Prosecution - Peter Palubicki, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Adams County
Immigration - Lola Zakharova, Attorney, MacDonald Hoague & Bayless
Public Defense - Ami Hong Nguyen, King County Department of Public Defense

2:45 - 3:00 p.m.


3:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Session 7 - Let's hear from the Interpreters

  • Difference between court-credentialed and not
  • Why interpreters in some languages could become court-credentialed or court-registered and why non-credentialed interpreters have to be sworn-in; when does this need to happen?
  • Difference between modes of interpreting (simultaneous v. consecutive)
  • What helps the interpreter do their job? What does the interpreter need from the attorneys and the judge and the court to do their job at the best level?
  • How and when to ask follow up questions, through the interpreter, to make sure that the attorney and the court understand answers given by the client.

Judge Mafé Rajul, King County Superior Court


Emma Garvaki, Interpreter Services Manager, Seattle Municipal Court
Luisa Gracia, Seattle Municipal Court
Judge Kimi Kondo (ret.), Seattle Municipal Court


General Registration - $225

Seattle University School of Law Alumni - $195

Legal Staff, Interpreters, and Non-Attorneys - $125

Current Seattle University School of Law Students and Faculty - free for in-person participation only

Group Registration Rate available for Government and NPO Attorneys - $170/person for 3 or more registrants.  For group registrations, please contact the CLE Department at 206-398-4281

In-person and live webcast options available.

Cancellations and Refunds:

The last day to cancel your registration for this program is 4:30 p.m., Friday, April 4, 2019.  A $15 administrative fee is charged for cancellations and the balance will be refunded. After 1 week before the program, cancellations will not receive a refund; however, substitute attendees are welcome. Please inform us of substitutions at or (206) 398-4281.