Legal Deaf people have a legal right to a qualified interpreter. In legal settings, a qualified legal interpreter will have a specific skill set to ensure that the deaf person’s right to be present and participate is not compromised. Legal interpreting requires highly skilled and trained specialists because of the significant consequences to the people involved in the event of a failed communication.

Legal interpreting includes courtroom interpreting in addition to attorney/ client conferences, investigations by law enforcement, depositions, witness interviews, real estate settlements, court-ordered treatment, educational programs and administrative / legislative hearings.

Qualified Legal Interpreter

Legal interpreters are governed by the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct which requires that interpreters “possess the professional skills and knowledge required for the specific interpreting situation.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires the use of “qualified interpreters.” The implementing regulations define a qualified interpreter as one “who is able to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.”


At a minimum, two interpreters are typically required for most legal assignments. Because legal assignments are generally more complex, interpreters often work in teams and relieve each other at predetermined periods. One interpreter actively interprets while the other interpreter watches to ensure accuracy of the interpretation. The process is alternated at appropriate intervals between the two interpreters.


The interpreter is ethically obligated to prepare for all assignments, particularly legal and court assignments. For this reason, interpreters will contact counsel or the hiring party and request to review pertinent documents to prepare to interpret accurately. As interpreters are necessary for communication, sharing preparatory materials with them does not breach the attorney-client privilege. Interpreters are governed by strict rules regarding confidentiality.