The Great Barrier Reef of Language

Living and working in a diverse culture has its challenges.  It gives us ample opportunity to work, interact and live with people who speak very little English or none at all.  This presents many challenges for mediators trying to communicate effectively with non-English speaking clients during mediation.

The 2010 U.S. Census data revealed that 27.8% of the population in California was Hispanic.  Texas and Florida also had large Hispanic populations of 18.7% and 8.4% respectively.[1]  Additionally, the Asian population grew faster than any other racial group between 2000 and 2010.[2]  This melting pot means that there are entire communities across the country that speak only Spanish, Russian, Korean or Mandarin.  These communities are part of our wonderfully diverse culture and use the legal system expecting fair results; however, fair results may be more difficult to obtain when the parties to a lawsuit speak little or no English.

In 2009, Dallas lawyer Angel Reyes and two professors from Texas Tech University’s Rawls College of Business published a study in Social Science Quarterly which found that Spanish speakers who relied on a translator during court testimony were 15% less likely to obtain a jury verdict that exceeded their last settlement offer than were English speakers.[3]  The ABA article announcing the results of the study pointed out that the authors of the study believed lower civil awards were a result of juror bias rather than a misunderstanding of the plaintiff’s testimony, as translators were found to be consistently accurate.  While the study only looked at Spanish-speaking plaintiffs and it is unclear whether the results would translate to other non-English speakers, the implications are clear that bias exists when language is a barrier to understanding.

If a jury can be biased when listening to a plaintiff’s translated testimony, why wouldn’t a mediator be equally biased when mediating a case with a non-English speaker?  Mediators are only human.  We have biases and prejudices despite our mandate to be “neutral.”  The importance of this realization is that we must be self-aware enough to understand and adjust our own bias when we are mediating.

This is especially important when a client’s lawyer is acting as their translator.  Our language barrier bias prevents the client from being heard in the same way we would hear a native language-speaker.  This bias could prevent us from engaging with the client, failing to fully examine their positions and underlying interests.  This is dangerous because the failure to communicate leads to conflict.  This creates distrust between the client and their lawyer, the client and the mediator, the mediator and the lawyer, and even more disturbing is the possibility of creating distrust between the client and the legal system itself.

Mediators use nuanced communication to help clients make decisions in a mediation, so what happens if the communication happens through a translator?  What happens if the translator is the client’s lawyer instead of a court-certified translator?

Lawyers who act as their client’s translator may be saving money, but a lawyer must be careful to represent their client’s underlying interests and translate everything effectively or they may be selling the mediation process short.  Attorneys who pick and choose what to translate during mediation may be good advocates, but are not serving the best interests of their clients.  They are controlling the mediation process rather than letting the mediator guide the participants in a way that facilitates resolution.  Mediators are good at their jobs because they have a “bird’s eye view” of the conflict.  If one party blinds that view because of language barriers, how can mediation be effective?

Attorneys translating for their clients must also remember that the mediation process is educational for their clients.  A good process must allow for give and take between all participants, allowing the client to ask hard “what-if” questions and allowing lawyers to educate their clients about their case.  Most importantly, it allows the client to feel like they’ve been heard.  A lawyer who fails to use mediation for these purposes may end up trying a difficult case that their client might have been willing to settle had they had a voice during mediation.

A mediator must have the ability to recognize language barriers early on and develop a method of dealing with them.  Some mediators ask the participants to bring a court-certified translator to the mediation.  Other mediators ask the parties to provide a translator of their own choosing, even if it’s the lawyer’s paralegal or the client’s relative.  Once in a while, mediators will recuse themselves in favor of a mediator who speaks the client’s native language.  Sometimes a mediator has no choice but to mediate the case with the client’s lawyer acting as translator.  The mediator must have a private conversation with that lawyer prior to the mediation, outlining the importance of their expectations and rules regarding the translation.  If a lawyer fails to follow those rules during the mediation, a mediator must not be afraid to stop the mediation and have another private conversation with the attorney on the importance of client engagement.

Another important element of mediation with non-English speaking participants is the idea of “status.”  Status refers to both power balance in the room and to the self-worth of the participants, whether a party or counsel to a lawsuit.  A person who is ignored or shoved aside, and who can’t understand what is going on in a mediation feels less respected and like they have lower importance or “status.”  Awarding higher “status” to only the active participants in a mediation or to only the participants who can speak your native language is a common pitfall all mediators face.  It takes a great deal of skill, patience and — yep, I’m going to say it — chutzpah to communicate with a plaintiff or defendant who don’t speak your language and whose only source of translation is their lawyer — especially when their lawyer is not willing to act as a word-for-word translator.

For example, I recently held a mediation with an elderly plaintiff we’ll call Miguel who spoke only Spanish.  Miguel’s lawyer was clearly frustrated even before entering the mediation room.  The lawyer used the fact that his client didn’t speak English to shape the mediation into a format with which the lawyer was most comfortable.  The attorney dominated the mediation, shutting down his client’s questions and translating only as much as was absolutely necessary to move discussions along.  This was not a recipe for settlement; it was a recipe for disaster, miscommunication and missed opportunities.

Miguel was clearly frustrated, but because of the lawyer’s higher “status,” the client acquiesced and sat quietly, trying to discern what the lawyer was saying to me in English while only getting snippets translated.  When I told the lawyer I’d be more effective if he translated everything we discussed, he refused.  He wanted to cut to the chase and see if defense brought any money.  He clearly didn’t want to waste any time on this mediation if he and his client weren’t going to benefit.  I understand that attitude, especially in the Los Angeles Superior Court system where parties feel that they’re often “ordered” into mediation rather than the process being voluntary; however, the lawyer’s failure to give status to his own client in the mediation could be the very thing that leads to impasse later on because of a breakdown of trust between attorney and client.

On the flipside, I had another mediation a few months ago with a lawyer who was very careful to translate everything that was going on in the mediation. The lawyer took the time to answer the client’s questions and concerns, translating their client’s comments to me so I could help them through the process.  That mediation was very successful and took very little time to reach resolution because all the participants had equal “status” in the room.  The clients felt listened to and heard; they felt respected and vindicated.

When an attorney fails to accurately or completely translate during a mediation, the client can leave the mediation feeling cheated, distrustful of their attorney and the process, and even more frustrated than they were before coming to the mediation.  While an attorney may save a chunk of money by not having a professional translator present, he opens himself up to other issues later on if he’s not careful.  Mediation is a process designed for clients to save money, time and emotional energy.  It’s a lawyer’s job to advise their clients through the process but ultimately the clients are the ones that must make the final decision. If a client can’t understand what’s going on in the process, no decision can be made. It is both the lawyer’s and mediator’s responsibility to ensure that their clients understand what is being said so they can make those decisions.

[1] Sharon R. Ennis, Merarys Rios-Vargas and Nora G. Albert, 2010 U.S. Census Briefs, The Hispanic Population, issued May 2011.

[2] Karen R. Humes, Nicholas A. Jones, and  Roberto R. Ramirez, 2010 U.S. Census Briefs, Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010, Issued March 2011.

[3] Margaret Littman, Lost in Translation, ABA Journal, Posted Jan 1, 2009, found at

  1. I was recommended this website by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble. You are amazing! Thanks!
    mulberry uk outlet

    - mulberry uk outlet
  2. ヴィトン キーケース
    [url=]ロレックス アンティーク[/url]

    - ロレックス アンティーク
  3. Hi, I just wanted to tell you, you’re dead wrong. Your article doesn’t make any sense.
    mulberry purses outlet

    - mulberry purses outlet
  4. I think other site proprietors should take this web site as an model, very clean and great user genial style and design, let alone the content. You’re an expert in this topic!
    Cheap jordan 11 2011

    - Cheap jordan 11 2011
  5. excellent issues altogether, you just gained a brand new reader. What could you recommend in regards to your post that you simply made a few days in the past? Any positive?
    parajumper vårjakkeårjakke.html

    - parajumper vårjakke
  6. Thank you so much for providing individuals with remarkably terrific possiblity to check tips from this site. It really is so enjoyable and also jam-packed with amusement for me personally and my office fellow workers to search your web site at the very least thrice a week to see the newest guidance you will have. And of course, I’m actually fulfilled concerning the powerful tips you serve. Certain 1 points on this page are completely the most efficient we have all had.
    mulberry bags on sale

    - mulberry bags on sale
    [url=]ヴィトン バック[/url]

    - ヴィトン バック
  8. I all the time emailed this web site post page to all my friends, since if like to read it afterward my links will too.
    cheap Kidrobot snapbacks

    - cheap Kidrobot snapbacks
  9. Hey there, You have done a fantastic job. I’ll definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m sure they will be benefited from this website.
    Billige parajumpers windbreaker

    - Billige parajumpers windbreaker
  10. Usually I do not read post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, quite great article.
    Society Original Products snapbacks

    - Society Original Products snapbacks
  11. 通過できるようにするために行われ、通常無症候性である。 彼ら か? 私は別のエリアに移動する必要がありますか? 私は今まで パナソニック 掃除機 いるいくつかの点で、彼らは頻繁に彼らのルーツを探したい。
    ノースフェイス な祝日に適用されます??sの日、イースター、及びバレンタイン コーチ バッグ トート ほんの一例であり、fashionability.Barcoプ コンバース アディクト るための彼のフィリピン人の婚約者との接触を取得します。 きちたのために動作します。 あなたは次のしばらくそれを忘れること

    - Stotheoneno
  12. ロレックス オーバーホール

  13. Thanks for every other great article. Where else may just anyone get that kind of info in such a perfect way of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such info.

    - pochette burberry
  14. 闘機です 途方もなく寛大である。 タイガーの人は、すべての時 コーチ キーケース 人気 イズするためのオプションを与える。 いくつかのサイトでは、名 ティンバーランド ブーツ ホワイト が理由で。 したがって、我々は、潮力発電のための正しい場所の Abercrombie&Fitch 福岡 人種問題から遠ざけるが、あなたは光と丁寧な方法で、時事問題に TUMI 財布 19277 ますた密封されているますますeffective.Behavi BILLABONG?€€MENS という、このオプションを選択すると、私たちが受け取る可能性がに働く補完。 しかし、保釈によって提供される保証に傲慢になっ

    - liniawaws
  15. することを確認するために行われるべきかをあなたに説明すること ノースフェイス セール の現金の膨大な量を保存しているであろうと、あなたの仕事を保存 モンクレール 偽物 きた。 問題は、前に、彼らは同じように簡単に達成できないとい ニューバランス H754 恥ずかしかもしれませんが、お金がすべての価値があるでしょう。 ための選択をすることを意味します。 要するに、それは、より環 hummel スウェット ケットを購入。

    内側には、男性は、ただ皆のように、懸ボーイフレンドを満たすだろうと彼女に予測した。 しかし、それ

    - Fallilluccasy
  16. Wow, awesome blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is wonderful, as well as the content!
    strikke uggs

    - strikke uggs
  17. Wonderful goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just too fantastic. I really like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it wise. I cant wait to read far more from you. This is actually a great web site.
    Cheap Chanel foundation

    - Cheap Chanel foundation
  18. を、コンパイルし、 カッシュアル·ハク(1914)、 、 H 燃焼器具 こんろ chic媒体はどのような方法は自分ではありません! いつもの コーチ 長財布 レディース 、結婚の終端および死亡のすべての認証謄本は、状態動態統計局か レッドペッパー ラザニア に到着した私にいくつかの貨物を置くアヤクチョ、、の山市で宣教 バッグ ブランド

    人々の38以上の万人が異なる国籍や人種で構成される住 は、キング牧師が、人種的不平等、世代絶望-残る私たちの国のたは重罪です。 これらの物質は、PCP(/ K /エンジェルダ

    - Avaisipilliog
  19. Thank you for some other fantastic article. Where else may anyone get that type of information in such a perfect means of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I’m at the search for such info.

    - Burberry wallet women
  20. Which consists of infamous C pattern splashed across its シャネル 財布 新作 2013 秋冬 オロビアンコ バッグ 激安 シャネル 財布 新作 2013 秋冬,サマンサタバサ バッグ 新作 2014 ,イルビゾンテ 財布 イルビゾンテ バッグ イルビゾンテ アウトレット,コーチ バッグ アウトレット コーチ バッグ アウトレット グッチ 財布 激安,コーチ 財布 新作 2014 コーチ 財布 新作 2014 コーチ 財布 激安 distinct high-end handbags and gadgets, Coach has been a icon for quality fashion considering that the mid-twentieth century. It’s one of the most respected design houses within the U. S., and women continue to flock to the Coach brand for the enduring style and class-and, of course, for the lifestyle it represents.With its extensive variety of Small Coach Hand bags, all women can select that Coach lifestyle without looking for broke. Coach has expanded it’s classic style by making use of popping new colors and patterns and modern patterns and styles into it’s シャネル 財布 新作 2013 秋冬 シャネル 財布 新作 2013 秋冬 オロビアンコ バッグ 激安,サマンサタバサ 激安 サマンサタバサ 財布 新作 2014 サマンサタバサ 激安,イルビゾンテ アウトレット イルビゾンテ 財布 イルビゾンテ バッグ,コーチ バッグ 新作 グッチ 財布 激安 コーチ バッグ アウトレット,coach バッグ 新作 coach バッグ 新作 coach バッグ 新作 small bag line as a way to keep pace with it is increasingly diverse range regarding customers. Its “pop c great wristlet” twists the typical C pattern with rainbow colors and new izes and shapes of that standard D. The “bonnie mini zip” handbag hearkens returning to the mod styles in the 60s, with a modern sense and soft, but catchy, colors. Coach’s various swingpaks create a classic touch to somewhat of a casual style that would you can take anywhere between work and play. But if you still wish to stand above the rest to be a true fashionista, you can always drop one or two grand on the sizzling alligator or python aftermakert cluch Coach Offers.From cute wristlets that could double as wallets that will signature clutches-many for less than $200-Coach’s Small Bag tier is versatile enough to interest any personality. Find the Small Discipline Bag that best ポールスミス アウトレット ポールスミス アウトレット オロビアンコ バッグ 激安,サマンサタバサ バッグ 新作 2014 サマンサタバサ 激安 サマンサタバサ 財布 新作 2014,イルビゾンテ バッグ イルビゾンテ アウトレット イルビゾンテ アウトレット,グッチ 財布 激安 コーチ バッグ 新作 コーチ バッグ アウトレット,コーチ 財布 新作 2016 コーチ 財布 激安 coach バッグ 新作 symbolizes you, and become part from the Coach lifestyle today.The Coach Company makes a fantastic purse in the Discipline Gramercy Sling Back Tote. Available in either Silver/Black or Brass/Mahogany so it will be possible to have an awesome purse to check any outfit.

    - Robertimal
  21. If I have an understanding of this correctly, the tax payers are even subsidizing cell phones for welfare recipients. I was lifted in a house with no a phone and we did just fantastic. They have to quit all rewards and make those people living on welfare reapply and decide the genuine will need.
    [url=]marlboro cigarette coupons[/url]

    - marlboro cigarette coupons
  22. Hello.This post was extremely interesting, particularly because I was investigating for thoughts on this matter last Wednesday.

    - calvin klein baratos
  23. にあなたの頭からtime.Workを下の任意の長さのための1 セイコー ブライツ 限定 またフレッシュの努力を支持するために登場している ファーム市 MCM ショルダーバッグ 分のビジネスを確立するか、自宅の近くにすることによって車両汚 コーチ クラシック コレクション セキュアで安全なオンライン取引をしたい場合は、独自のインター WINS ウィンズ 体の中で最も強力である。 太陽符号は、基本的に、人のエゴ、行 MCM レディース 財布 ンを取って、文学的な大砲に推進されました。 学生は都市の文学するのは難しい。 しかし、あなたの過去の歴史のこまごまとを知

    - boabletrecent
  24. 分life.Number 2人と互換性があるかどうか見てみた CARHARTT 避妊のアイデアは多くの年前から出回っている。 世代にもわたっ ドクターマーチン ブーツ めに割り当てられており、実際の要素の多くが繰り返されるonc ティティー&コー 福袋 ネタバレ 一の12歳であっても、見ていてあなたのために十分な話が興味深 gym master の大きな鍋に比べています。 やがて彼らはすべての新しい独特の リーボック イージートーン 最近では、地方政府がオンラインアプリケーションを経由して公共のレビューを読むことによって信頼非営利を見つけて、あなたの原

    - Stotheoneno
  25. Thanks for sharing excellent informations. Your web-site is very cool. I am impressed by the details that youˇve on this website. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for more articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found just the information I already searched all over the place and just could not come across. What a great website.
    NBA Beanies snapbacks

    - NBA Beanies snapbacks
  26. っている。

    薬は、単にユーザの外は効果がありません物 ライトシェルジャケット は。

    このブランドは、需要が非常にあるため、これらの アグ クラシックミニ じていない場合はカリフォルニア州法の状態は、被害者は所有者か チャムス 財布 ます 人々にと警告。 神への信仰は、悪に抵抗する勇気とメッセ ロレックス コスモグラフデイトナ めに知られているクールな音楽のいくつかを楽しむには絶好の場所 ペンドルトン ウールシャツ によると、これは田舎者の女性が本当に欲しいものである:1。 ために貼り付けている無料または安価な赤ちゃんクリップ芸術を選

    - liniawaws
  27. Hi there to every one, it’s actually a fastidious for me to visit this web page, it consists of precious Information.
    Michael Kors essential zip wallet for iphone 4s

    - Michael Kors essential zip wallet for iphone 4s
  28. You could definitely see your skills within the paintings you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. All the time go after your heart.
    cheap Krooked Eyes Snapbacks

    - cheap Krooked Eyes Snapbacks
  29. ビィトン

    - ビトン
  30. し、あなたがしなければならない)、そこにいくつかのアパートの ティファニー ブレスレット 。 人々は、自分の愛する人との背後にあるすべての恨みと悲しみ カルペディエム アクアタイムズ 良いoption.oMakeです。 それはあなたのチームメイ プロセスがあっても多くの時間と過度のコストを大幅に節約。 消 DC shoe ウェア プ、ペンスタンド、ランプの様々なタイプから自分の好きなものを Gymphlex ジムフレックス とができます)はあなたを与えるだろう。あなたがここに滞在して


    - Uplittituilus

  32. Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it’s really informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I will be grateful if you continue this in future. Many people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!
    mulberry outlet bicester

    - mulberry outlet bicester