If You Need a Translator to Communicate with Your Bankruptcy Lawyer, Some Key Considerations ...
Good Information = Smooth Bankruptcy Process
The U.S. Bankruptcy Courts do a very good job, once you have filed a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, of ensuring that debtors whose first language is not English are able to testify in a language of their choosing. At the 341 Meeting of Creditors and other required hearings, the U.S. Trustee's Office will provide a telephonic translator at no cost to the filing debtors whatsoever. However, before any petition gets filed, that same debtor still needs to work with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to get the petition and/or Chapter 13 payment accurately and fully drafted and filed. In order to do that, a lot of information needs to be provided to the bankruptcy attorney, beginning with the initial consultation. How do you do that if your bankruptcy attorney does not speak your language?
If You Need a Translator at your Bankruptcy Consultation: Ethical Considerations
First, it is important that you be aware that your potential bankruptcy attorney is bound by ethical considerations that arise, in Michigan, with the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of Michigan. These considerations can, on some occasions, supersede the attorney's duties to you specifically, but, with regard to this question, they are oriented toward protecting you as a client. The Duty of Confidentiality: As we've previously described in this post, your attorney (or potential attorney) is bound to protect the attorney-client confidentiality and privilege that arises between you when you discuss a legal representation. The presence of a third party in a consultation, even if that third party is a spouse or family-member, can inadvertently waive your attorney-client confidentiality and render the content of that conversation unprivileged for evidentiary purposes in later litigation. Ultimately, the privilege is yours to waive—but it is not the attorney's. Your attorney may require you and your translator, if you have brought someone to help you out in the initial discussion, to sign acknowledgments of this voluntary waiver and/or an agreement by the translating individual to keep confidential all information discussed. The Duty of Communication: The attorney has a duty to communicate with you all matters, developments, and information necessary for the prosecution of your case and for you to make the right decision regarding the prosecution of your case. With any translator, there is a possibility of the transmission of inaccurate information. With a non-professional interpreter, such as a family-member or friend, that possibility increases dramatically. If the attorney does not feel comfortable that he or she is or can communicate accurate information to the potential client or receive accurate communications from the client, he or she may suggest the use of professional interpreter, and this may bear an additional cost for you. An initial consultation appointment that is advertised as "no-charge" or "free" by the attorney may quite rightly not include costs of additional assistance of this sort. There may be other ethical considerations as well that may guide the lawyer's method of conducting the consultation.
If You Need a Translator at Your Bankruptcy Consultation: Practical Considerations
Accuracy of the pleadings prepared and filed by your attorney, including the bankruptcy petition and Chapter 13 payment plan, is the basic practical consideration in danger when the attorney cannot communicate directly with a client. This is really more than practical: the attorney has further due diligence obligations under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to provide certain information notices to clients and potential clients and to ensure that the information disclosed in the bankruptcy petition is complete and accurate and true. After the petition is filed, you will need to swear on the record at your 341 Meeting of Creditors hearing that you reviewed the information with your attorney prior to filing and that all of the information required to be disclosed was indeed accurately disclosed. Again, this may necessitate the use of a professional translator, with attendant additional costs.
Need a Translator at a Bankruptcy Consultation: The Bottom-Line
The bottom line if you need a translator to communicate with your bankruptcy attorney is that you should not schedule a consultation with a potential attorney with the expectation that the language barrier involved will not present additional complication and, conceivably, additional cost for you. Above all, however, you should be honest with the potential attorney about the language challenge so that he or she can determine the best way to assist you. Simply because English is not your first language does not mean that you are not entitled to relief from your debts, and a good bankruptcy attorney will be able to navigate such complexities with you. If you are a Michigan resident and would like to explore your options for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy with an experienced Michigan bankruptcy attorney, please contact us at (866) 674-2317 or click the button below to schedule a free, initial consultation.
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