The language access gap in the legal field is an especially important issue to me. I am a Native-Spanish speaker, a first-generation law student, and a first-generation Mexican American. I have seen firsthand how language barriers can inhibit vulnerable communities from obtaining justice. When I was selected to be the 2021 Melanie Kushnir Access to Justice Fellow at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, I knew I wanted to help find ways to expand access to justice for Nevadans with limited English proficiency. As I began my fellowship, I quickly learned the difficulty legal aid nonprofits face when attempting to place pro bono cases with volunteer attorneys.
With the incredible support of the Pro Bono Project team and the bilingual attorneys at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, I created the Volunteer Interpreter Program. This program pairs pro bono attorneys with qualified volunteer interpreters to help provide legal services to non-English speaking clients.
The development of this program occurred throughout the course of the summer. To create a program that could recruit, train, and retain qualified interpreters, I spoke with experienced interpreters in the local community, nonprofit organizations dedicated to language access, language instructors, bilingual attorneys, and more.
I learned that, in the same ways that attorneys are required to obtain Continuing Legal Education units (CLEs), court-certified interpreters need to obtain Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
I successfully led the effort to amend the certification process for court-certified interpreters. As a result, the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and all legal aid nonprofits in the state of Nevada can now provide CEUs to court-certified interpreters for volunteering to interpret for pro bono attorneys. Legal aid organizations, and more importantly, pro bono attorneys now have improved access to language access resources. This change will allow non-English speakers across the state of Nevada greater access to justice, regardless of the language they speak!
Developing this program with the Legal Aid Center’s attorneys and staff, who care so deeply about the organization’s commitment to access to justice, has been incredible. I hope you decide to take on a pro bono case with a non-English speaking client and utilize an interpreter to expand access to justice.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact Pro Bono Director Michael Wendlberger at (702) 386-1429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
Priscila Venzor is the 2021 Melanie Kushnir Access to Justice Fellow at Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. She is currently in her second year at William S. Boyd School of Law as a dual-degree law and social work student.
About this article: This article was originally published in the “Estate Planning” issue of Communiqué, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association, (November 2021). See https://clarkcountybar.org/about/member-benefits/communique-2021/communique-november-2021/.
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