September 2008 • Vol. 28 No. 8 | An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association

LACBA Lawyer Referral Service Launches Free 24-Hour Interpreting Line to Assist Japanese Communities

Win-win situation for public to get legal assistance and LRIS panel members to expand source of business

In collaboration with the 24/7 call center of the Japanese Assistance Network, Inc., which assists Japanese residents and travelers worldwide, LACBA’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service will reach out to Japanese-speaking nationals who are in need of legal help but are reluctant to approach attorneys because of language and cultural barriers. The launch of this Japanese interpreting line will allow Japanese callers to have access to LRIS-qualified attorneys.

Oftentimes, small- to medium-sized Japanese businesses and middle-class travelers and consumers have little or no experience obtaining legal services provided by attorneys. However, as times change and their economy has shifted from an insular one to a global one, many Japanese business people realize they need access to U.S. lawyers. 

For example, JAN cites the example of a Japanese businessman who exports imitation crab throughout the world and who received a telephone order for three containers of imitation crabmeat, worth in excess of $100,000. There was no written memorandum of the transaction. The order was shipped, and when payment was sought, the Los Angeles buyer refused to pay, saying that the crab had been sent as free samples to be sent to supermarkets around the country. The businessman wasn’t aware of his legal options and accepted the loss.

JAN also hears stories from visitors—5 million Japanese tourists visit the United States each year—who run into legal difficulties while traveling here. They, too, just give up or are unable to find a Japanese-speaking lawyer who has the expertise they require, resulting in unsuccessful outcomes.

Patricia Holt, LRIS Directing Attorney, said, “Overcoming the language barrier between the community and the legal professionals will create positive benefits for both the clients and our panel attorneys and other attorneys who would like to join the LRIS. This should be a great opportunity for attorneys to pick up high-value clients and possibly expand the thrust of their practice, both geographically and in their practice areas.”

The JAN operator/interpreters will interpret the initial consultations between the attorneys and clients for free until a retainer is signed. At that time, they will be able to recommend qualified interpreters to the clients as needed until the matter is completed and at an appropriate rate. 

“We anticipate the interpreting line to be very successful,” said Holt. “LRIS hopes to provide equal access to other communities by setting up more interpreting lines of different languages in the near future.”

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