Pro Bono Program: Volunteer Interpreter/Translator Registry

Most people living in poverty face multiple obstacles when they attempt to access the legal system. However, poor persons with limited English proficiency often encounter insurmountable impediments. The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program’s Volunteer Interpreter/Translator Registry (the Registry) recruits volunteer interpreters and translators to support attorneys who are handling pro bono cases for low–income clients with limited English proficiency. The Registry compiles and maintains a list of volunteers with various language skills—lawyers and non–lawyers—who agree to provide pro bono interpretation and/or translation services.

Volunteers typically are needed to assist with interpretations and/or translations in the following types of cases:

  • Immigration
  • Housing
  • Family Law
  • Consumer
  • Social Security / Disability

Volunteer interpreters and translators govern the types of services and amount of time they dedicate to this project, though it is expected that each member of the Registry volunteer at least one time a year, so long as there is a need for their services. Simply enlisting for the Registry in no way obligates a person to volunteer on a specific date or for a specific amount of time. 

The law firm of Troutman Sanders LLP administers the Registry. When a pro bono lawyer needs the services of an interpreter and/or translator, s/he calls or e–mails Troutman Sanders LLP and requests a referral. Troutman Sanders then will call or email a potential volunteer to determine his or her interest and availability to interpret and/or translate for that particular matter. Once the volunteer confirms his or her availability, Troutman Sanders will forward the contact information to the requesting attorney.

This Registry is sorely needed by the legal services and pro bono legal programs to better represent their limited English proficient low–income clients. Please submit an online form if you wish to volunteer.