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Institute on Legal Interpreting: Backstage Access for Sign Language Interpreters

Anna Witter-Merithew Bids Farewell to ILI Attendees

Anna Witter-Merithew Bids Farewell to ILI Attendees

Is it possible to create a learning environment that effectively supports taking 220+ sign language interpreters on a guided exploration of their work, while offering real-world advice on how to enhance this work, and do it all in three days? Prior to attending the 2014 Institute on Legal Interpreting (ILI) in Denver, Colorado August 21st-23rd, I would have said, Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

If you attended the 2014 ILI you know, not only is it possible, it happened and was amazing!

Behind the Scenes

StreetLeverage is excited to have partnered with Anna Witter-Merithew and the good folks at the MARIE Center to extend backstage access to the 2014 ILI. What follows is a summary of the StreetLeverage coverage.

How ILI Got Started

Anna Witter-Merithew sat down and shared how the Institute on Legal Interpreting got started, the important role of Deaf interpreters at ILI, and the significant contribution made by Diane Fowler in the promotion of advanced legal training for sign language interpreters.

Anna Witter-Merithew Sits Down With Brandon Arthur From StreetLeverage

 

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Setting the Tone

During any type of guided exploration, it is important to set a tone of collaboration and safety. This task was left to keynote speakers and meta facilitators, Carol-lee Aquiline and Sharon Neumann Solow.

They sat down and shared their hopes for conference attendees and their excitement to see Deaf and Hearing interpreters exploring strategies to effectively work together.

Carol and Sharon 2



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You can watch both their keynote and endnote addresses below.

Keynote | Looking Out – Looking In – Reaching: The Role and Function of Critical Analysis of Interpreting Performance

Keynote Address: Carol-lee Aquiline and Sharon Neumann Solow

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Endnote | Looking Out – Looking In – Reaching: Next Steps

Carol-lee Aquiline and Sharon Neumann Solow - Endnote Address



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Interpreters at the Core

At the center of the conference was the examination of the work of 5 teams of sign language interpreters comprised of Deaf-Hearing and Hearing-Hearing interpreters. This served as the basis of examination for all sessions and group discussions.

These good interpreters shared insights into their teaming and work experience during two panel sessions. You can watch them here:

Panel One: Deaf-Hearing Interpreting Team Reflections

ILI Panel One: Reflections on Deaf and Hearing Interpreter Teams



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Panel Two: Deaf-Hearing Interpreting Team Reflections on Preparation Sessions

ILI Panel Two: Deaf-Hearing Interpreter Team Reflections on Preparation Sessions



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Better with a Deaf Team

A prominent theme running throughout the conference was the importance of Deaf and Hearing interpreters working together effectively as a team. Jimmy Beldon, Carla Mathers and Kelby Brick share insights into how to this can be done effectively.

Jimmy Beldon Offers Insight on Supporting Deaf Interpreters and the Importance of the ILI

Jimmy Beldon Offers Insight on Supporting Deaf Interpreters and the Importance of the ILI



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Carla Mathers Shares About the Work of Bringing the 2014 ILI to Life

Carla Mathers Shares About the Work of Bringing the 2014 ILI to Life



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Kelby Brick Sits Down With Brandon Arthur at the 2014 ILI

Kelby Brick at the 2014 ILI Conference

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The Diane Fowler Award

With the passing of Legal Eagle, Diane Fowler, founder of the Iron Sharpens Iron conference (the precursor to the ILI), the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) Legal Interpreter Member Section (LIMS) Chair, Liz Mendoza, announced the establishment of the Diane Fowler Award.

Liz Mendoza Announces the Creation of the Diane Fowler Award



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Noteworthy

There are a couple of real standout developments at the 2014 ILI.  The ILI had 54 Deaf interpreters attend over the weekend. This is the largest of gathering of Deaf interpreters in the field in recent memory (maybe, ever). Perhaps, it is because, in the words of Jimmy Beldon, “The ILI is a ‘home’ for CDIs.”

Deaf Interpreters at the 2014 ILI











The 2014 ILI had 26 facilitators working throughout the weekend in order to support and encourage meaningful discussion and learning. These folks deserve a medal of honor for their tremendous work.

2014 ILI Facilitators






StreetTeam

The coverage at the Institute on Legal Interpreting was only possible with the support of several amazing and talented people. I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to those magic makers that brought the ILI coverage to life.

StreetTeam - 2014 ILI

 

 

 

 

 


Special thanks (left to right) to: Lance Pickett, Jean Miller, Kristy Bradley, John Lestina, and Wing Butler (not seen here).

Conclusion

I would like to extend my thanks to Anna Witter-Merithew, Carla Mathers, and the good folks at the MARIE Center for their vision and the opportunity to partner with them to extend the reach of the ILI to the broader Deaf and sign language interpreting communities.

Brandon Arthur | Closes up the StreetLeverage Coverage of the 2014 ILI

Brandon Arthur Closes up the StreetLeverage Coverage of the 2014 Institute on Legal Interpreting

 

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Sign Language Interpreters: 5 Helpful Tips in Selecting an Attorney

When a sign language interpreter needs an attorney, do we know what to look for? Carla Mathers highlights the top five guidelines for selecting the right legal counsel.

One thing sign language interpreters should know when selecting an attorney is that one size generally does not fit all. There are many misconceptions about attorneys. The generic attitude that a good attorney is something akin to a pit bull is problematic for a number of reasons that I will discuss in this post. In addition, I have several tips for identifying the kinds of attorneys that sign language interpreters might need. If you recall, we already discussed a number of legal issues that affect sign language interpreters as independent business people in How Practicing Sign Language Interpreters Protect Against Legal Liability.

TIP #1: Why do You Need an Attorney

Try this. At a dinner party, ask the attorney sitting next to you what they think about the FCC regulations on sign language interpreters working from home, the recent Supreme Court decision distinguishing interpretation from translation, or even something mundane like the HIPAA Business Associate Contract that sign language interpreters must complete to work at a hospital and watch their eyes glaze over and begin the disclaimer: ‘I don’t practice that kind of law.’

Specific Legal Need

The law is very broad. Most lawyers are subject matter specialists in one or only a few areas and in a specific geographical region. The specific legal need will drive the type of attorney that a sign language interpreter needs to consider. Have you been sued or are contemplating suing someone? Have you been charged with a crime? Are you contemplating divorce or adoption? Are you interested in an attorney who will assist you in reviewing and negotiating contracts? Are you in need of an attorney to assist you in setting up a limited liability company (“LLC”)? Are you interested in providing services in other states and need to know the requirements for foreign corporations to do business in those states?  If the sign language interpreter is seeking counsel to set up an LLC, she should not then look for a criminal defense attorney.

Locate an Attorney

Once the legal need is determined, then the search can be narrowed. I recommend using Martindale Hubble. Martindale is primarily used by attorneys to locate other attorneys for referrals or to assess opposing counsel; however, the public can search for attorneys by location and practice area. In addition, Martindale employs a peer rating system to give the user a general idea of the quality of the attorney. When you have identified an attorney, for example, to set up the sign language interpreter’s LLC, then call and ask for an initial conference or telephone interview. Most attorneys will sit down with prospective clients for a half hour or so without charge.

TIP #2:  Win-loss Records Don’t Apply

In speaking with the attorney, you should get an idea of their expertise by asking the right questions. Do not ask ‘what is your win-loss record’ because there is no such thing. The fact is that 99 percent of all cases are resolved without a trial whether it by way of an agreed upon settlement or a guilty plea in the criminal context. A guilty plea is always a win for the government, but it also may represent a very good outcome for the defendant. A civil settlement is an agreement by the parties to forego litigation in return for each giving up something and each getting something they want. In the end, no one ‘won’ yet the result may be completely satisfactory to both sides.

The Right Questions

Ask the attorney, Have you set up LLCs in the past? How many? When was the last time? Have you ever set up an LLC for an individual service provider? What other types of companies have you set up? Have you ever taken continuing legal education courses in establishing LLCs? Have you assisted small businesses in navigating the state licensing and regulatory arenas? If your attorney has only set up one or two LLCs and it has been a number of years since then, it might not be the best fit. The law changes regularly and it is important to maintain current awareness of the changes. If the attorney’s awareness is not current, again it might not be the best fit.

TIP #3:  Don’t Expect Your Lawyer to be Your CPA

Sign language interpreters, as small business owners, need competent tax advice. There are taxation implications in most areas of the law such as opening a business, writing a will, and getting divorced. Most general practitioners can give general advice on the tax code for those areas in which they specialize. However, for more in depth treatment, the wise sign language interpreter should seek advice from a specialist in taxation.

TIP #4:  If You Want a Pit Bull, go to the SPCA

If you are being sued, say for violating the provisions of a non-compete clause in a state where those are valid, you need a litigator. Many clients think that an aggressive lawyer is a competent lawyer: nothing could be further from the truth. Litigators who fight, delay and who ‘papers the other side’ with motions are simply running up your bill.

After nearly 20 years litigating, I can confidently state that an aggressive lawyer is simply an expensive lawyer.

A good litigator is a good communicator, one who can develop a rapport not only with the client but also with opposing counsel in order to facilitate a reasonable resolution to the issue. Trust and a good rapport with the client is critical so that the client understands the reason why costly legal research and motions practice needs to be undertaken and when it needs to be taken.

TIP #5:  The Attorney Client Relationship Should be Like a Good Marriage

The attorney client relationship should be built on trust not fear or resentment. The sign language interpreter should interview enough lawyers and select someone who also fits their personality type. For sign language interpreters, the relationship typically will be ongoing (assuming you do not get sued often) and it will be based on specific transactions such as setting up the initial corporate structure, reviewing contracts, negotiating terms in your behalf, and possibly assisting with licensing and regulatory issues. In sum, the sign language interpreter should enter the relationship knowing why an attorney is necessary, knowing the questions to ask to determine if the attorney is a good fit, and knowing the specific practice and geographical areas in which the attorney is competent.

Remember…

When interviewing to identify the attorney that will serve you best, remember one size doesn’t fit all. Engage specific attorneys for specific situations. Ask the right questions. Attorneys aren’t CPA’s, unless they are. An aggressive lawyer is an expensive lawyer. Trust and rapport building skills are core competencies you need. Always make sure you and your attorney are a good fit.

 

As always, this post is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Access to this post does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the user or browser.

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How Practicing Sign Language Interpreters Protect Against Legal Liability

Sign Language Interpreters: Protecting Against Legal Liability

In order to protect their livelihood, sign language interpreters must consider the risks and costs of doing business in a practice profession. Carla Mathers addresses some commonly expressed concerns and considerations to explore.

As we have seen from the discussion of whether sign language interpreters are complicit in the statutory bargain with the devil, interpreters are in a practice profession in which trust, reliability and heart are important attributes. While these characteristics might seem at odds with the concept of running an interpreting practice, there are a number of important considerations for sign language interpreters to weigh when thinking about how best to protect themselves as practitioners. While each state varies in their regulatory environment for small businesses, and this post does not purport to offer legal advice, several general questions should be thought through in establishing and running a practice.

What Risks do I Face?

All businesses face risk of one type or another. Simply stated, risk is the probability of an event happening and an understanding of the event’s consequences. The insurance industry exists to help people minimize the effect of the unforeseen event. There are different types of insurance which should be considered by sign language interpreters. Other than the obvious, health insurance, sign language interpreters most often question whether they need professional indemnity insurance. An interpreter can be sued for malpractice if they undertake an assignment and do not follow the standard of care in performing that assignment. If this breach of the standard of care causes damages to any of the parties, the interpreter can be liable. Professional indemnity insurance covers you in case a judgment is awarded against you.

However, a judgment is not the only risk involved in a professional liability claim. An interpreter should ensure that their legal expenses are covered and this is typically a different policy which covers the litigation costs when either initiating a suit or defending a suit. These are the costs that can truly be devastating to any small business.

Further, it is important to think about what would happen to you and your practice if there were an interruption of your business because of a catastrophic illness or national disaster. Various types of insurance are available such as income protection insurance in the event of illness and business interruption insurance in the case of a disaster which prohibits you from doing business and the resulting loss of income.

Mandatory Reporter

Finally, sign language interpreters working in any setting around children need to know whether they are considered mandatory reporters under the state in which they are working. While all states have laws regarding mandatory reporting, according to the Federal Administration for Families and Children, “[a]pproximately 48 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands designate professions whose members are mandated by law to report child maltreatment. Individuals designated as mandatory reporters typically have frequent contact with children.” While sign language interpreters might think this only applies to educational interpreters, some states require reporting from mental health professionals, law enforcement, court appointed special advocates, members of the clergy and domestic violence workers. New Jersey and Wyoming require all persons to report suspected neglect and abuse regardless of profession. Because sign language interpreters, at times, have a somewhat rigid view of their confidentiality mandate, a review of the relevant legal authority in the state in which one works is strongly suggested. A state by state statutory chart is available here and would be a good place to find the statutes applicable in your state(s) of practice.

Do I Need to Incorporate?

The most common forms of business are the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and S corporation and the Limited Liability Company.

Sole Proprietorship

Most sign language interpreters probably function as a sole proprietorship. A sole proprietor is someone who owns an unincorporated business by himself or herself. This form of business organization has many advantages. It is the simplest form of organization because there are no set up costs, no complicated bookkeeping and no separate tax return to be filed for the proprietorship. The income is attributed to the individual and the business expenses are tallied on the individual’s tax return. The dangers of a sole proprietorship derive primarily from the liability of the owner for any of the proprietorship’s debts, including legal judgments.

Limited Liability Company

Another option is the Limited Liability Company, (“LLC”). An LLC is the least complicated and has several advantages. According to the IRS, “A Limited Liability Company is a business structure allowed by state statute. LLCs are popular because, similar to a corporation, owners have limited personal liability for the debts and actions of the LLC. Other features of LLCs are more like a partnership, providing management flexibility and the benefit of pass-through taxation.”

Hence, the LLC’s income is passed through to the individual owner and taxes are paid in the normal course as an individual. The major advantage to the LLC is that liability for the corporate debts, including legal judgments, is limited. The federal government does not recognize an LLC as a classification for federal tax purposes. An LLC business entity must file a corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship tax return.

Corporations

The S and C corporations are more complicated and involve significantly more paperwork and accounting requirements. There may also be state imposed fees annually to maintain the corporation in good standing. Separate tax returns are filed for the corporations and employment taxes must be paid for employees of the corporation. The major advantage is that the owner is not liable for the debts of the corporation, though the downside is that there is double taxation: the corporation must pay taxes on its earnings, and the owner pays taxes on his or her wages.

Again, according to the experts at the IRS, “S corporations are corporations that elect to pass corporate income, losses, deductions and credit through to their shareholders for federal tax purposes. Shareholders of S corporations report the flow-through of income and losses on their personal tax returns and are assessed tax at their individual income tax rates. This allows S corporations to avoid double taxation on the corporate income. S corporations are responsible for tax on certain built-in gains and passive income.”

Traditional corporations are called C corporations. The IRS explains, “[i]n forming a corporation, prospective shareholders exchange money, property, or both, for the corporation’s capital stock. A corporation generally takes the same deductions as a sole proprietorship to figure its taxable income. A corporation can also take special deductions. For federal income tax purposes, a C corporation is recognized as a separate taxpaying entity. A corporation conducts business, realizes net income or loss, pays taxes and distributes profits to shareholders. The profit of a corporation is taxed to the corporation when earned, and then is taxed to the shareholders when distributed as dividends. This creates a double tax. The corporation does not get a tax deduction when it distributes dividends to shareholders. Shareholders cannot deduct any loss of the corporation.”

Employer Identification Number

One of the corporate actions that is beneficial to sign language interpreters, even to sole practitioners, is to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (“FEIN”) which can be used on tax returns, contracts, responses to requests for proposals and invoices and which protects the interpreter from having to supply a social security number on these items. A FEIN can be obtained from the IRS website.

Speaking of taxes, as private practitioner, the interpreter should file estimated taxes quarterly on the 15th of January, April, June and September annually. If you are not well schooled in tax preparation, it is a good idea to retain a CPA to assist you in ensuring that your taxes are filed properly.

What Else Should I know?

It is helpful to make sure you obtain contracts for interpreting services in writing. Among other things, those contracts should indicate that you are an independent contractor and not an employee of the hiring entity. Contracts should list your terms or conditions of working, and be tailored to each client and each assignment. Contracts should be read carefully and if particularly complex, the interpreter should consider retaining legal counsel to review and to advise on the documents. Speaking of documents, you should maintain organized business files and keep your records at least seven (7) years.

In some states, you must register to do business if you offer services in the state. In others, sign language interpreters are regulated by a state entity and more defined licensing as an interpreter is required. If you are in a state with a commission, you should consult with its staff on your licensing and registration requirements. In other states, you should contact the executive branch agency responsible for licensing and regulations to determine whether you need a business license or whether you need to register your trade name if you are using a fictitious business name.

There are several good books out there for organizing and running an interpreting practice. I would recommend Tammera J. Richards’ book, Establishing a Freelance Interpretation Business: Professional Guidance for Sign Language Interpreters, currently in its 3rd edition. More information can be obtained at her website.

 

This post is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.  Access to this post does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the user or browser.