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Promoting Language Access in the Legal Academy

University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class, Forthcoming

UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2249798

American University, WCL Research Paper 2013-09

37 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2013 Last revised: 4 Nov 2014

Gillian Dutton

Seattle University School of Law

Beth Lyon

Villanova University School of Law

Jayesh Rathod

American University - Washington College of Law

Deborah M. Weissman

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2013

Abstract

Since the 1960s, the United States government has paid increasing attention to the rights of language minorities and to the need for greater civic and political integration of these groups. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the issuance of Executive Orders, and intervention by the federal judiciary, progress has been made in the realm of language access. State and local courts have likewise taken steps (albeit imperfectly) to provide interpretation and translation assistance to Limited English Proficient persons. Most recently, responding to both lack of services and inconsistent practices, the American Bar Association has set out national guidelines on the subject.

As language access rises in importance – within the government as a whole, and the legal system in particular – law schools have begun to develop strategies to promote language access within the academy. These strategies serve multiple purposes: to prepare students to identify, and respond to, issues of language difference in the context of legal work; to ensure that the policies and practices of law schools comply with language access norms; and to foment student awareness and advocacy on language access, as a key social justice issue. Indeed, educating future lawyers involves not just teaching law students how to read a case, interview a client or draft a brief, it also includes introducing them to the numerous ways lawyers seek to participate in and improve the justice system. Promoting language access in the legal academy offers numerous opportunities to expose students to a diverse set of organizations and skills, and to a community of advocates who have engaged on these issues.

This article describes some innovations and best practices relating to language access in the legal academy. It opens with a description of the salience of language access in the current political moment, noting recent demographic trends, and the political importance of language access. It discusses the contemporary salience of language access and the ABA’s 2012 Standards for Language Access in Courts. The article reviews various models for incorporating language access into the law school curriculum, in both doctrinal and experiential settings, and positions bilingual instruction as a language access strategy. The authors describe how law schools can expand the pipeline into the interpreter professions by training and deploying bilingual college students as community interpreters.

Keywords: Civil Rights, Language Access, Foreign Language Interpreters, Bilingual Education, Courts, Legal Education

Suggested Citation

Dutton, Gillian and Lyon, Beth and Rathod, Jayesh and Weissman, Deborah M., Promoting Language Access in the Legal Academy (January 1, 2013). University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class, Forthcoming; UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2249798; American University, WCL Research Paper 2013-09. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2249798

Gillian Dutton

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

Beth Lyon

Villanova University School of Law ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States
610-519-7126 (Phone)
610-519-6472 (Fax)

Jayesh Rathod

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Deborah M. Weissman (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States
919-962-5108 (Phone)
919-962-1277 (Fax)

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