Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Working with Deaf Clients

Working with a deaf client adds certain requirements to your representation.  For court appearances, the court will provide an interpreter, but for meetings with your client outside of court, you are required to hire your own private interpreter under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  There are a limited number of interpreters in Minnesota who are specifically trained to sign for legal proceedings.  This becomes important because many legal terms are not easily translated into sign language.

Hiring an interpreter can be expensive: prices are approximately $150-200 per hour. For sessions of more than two hours you typically must hire two interpreters so that each can take a break. Each meeting thus may cost at least $500, but you can recoup some of the expense, which is tax-deductible.  Check out the CSD-Minnesota [] or the DHS [] websites for possible interpreters.

Video Relay Service (VRS) is an additional tool that’s valuable when working with a deaf client.  Using VRS, you can hold a conference call with your client at no cost.  Either the attorney or the client can initiate a call via VRS, where a Video Relay Interpreter places the connecting call.  The interpreter relays the conversation back and forth between attorney and client using sign language with the deaf person and spoken English with the hearing attorney.  Caveat: VRS interpreters may be unfamiliar with legal terminology.

Traci Capistrant

Capistrant & Associates PA


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