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  • While it is not surprising that people who are not fluent in English seek out bilingual solicitors, practitioners should be aware of the risks of acting as translator or interpreter.
  • Recent cases emphasise the importance of assessing when a qualified and independent translator or interpreter should be engaged.

According to 2016 ABS census data, more than 25 per cent of households in New South Wales speak a language other than English at home. In Greater Sydney, the proportion is more than 35 per cent. It is not surprising that, where available, people who are not fluent in English will seek out a bilingual solicitor. Indeed, for many years the Law Society has been collecting and disseminating information on the languages spoken in legal practices to assist culturally and linguistically diverse (‘CALD’) members of the public to find bilingual solicitors.

Recently, there has been a number of reported decisions that have highlighted the dangers of solicitors acting as translators of important documents. These cases underscore the need to exercise judgment about the circumstances in which a properly qualified and independent translator/interpreter should be engaged.

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