What Not To Wear – Legal and Court Interpreter Edition
The dress code for interpreter assignments isn’t necessarily uniform across the board due to the many different areas in which interpreters work. While medical interpreters may be able to get away with business casual (link to “What not to wear – medical interpreter edition”) Legal and Court interpreters are held to a completely different standard.
Your goal as an interpreter is to blend in alongside the other professionals you are working with – remember you are a reflection of their words and services as well as your clients.
When it comes to interpreting in court or other legal settings, you also need to account for and respect the formality of the overall situation.
As such there is a certain standard of dress you should conform to as a legal interpreter – but before we get into that, let’s take a look at what not to wear.
Clothing to Avoid at All Costs in the Courtroom
Imagine you are scheduled to testify in court for an important investigation. Your testimony carries some weight, and you want to make sure your words aren’t misconstrued – especially since you don’t speak English very well.
Thus you’re relying on your interpreter to help you have the best impression possible, and to get your words across accurately.
So what would you do if you walked into the courtroom and saw your interpreter dressed like this (see picture on the right):
You probably wouldn’t be too confident about how well your testimony would be received would you?
Impressions matter when you’re trying to make an argument, and whether or not people take you seriously in a court room (or any other legal setting) can influence the rest of your life.
The question of how should interpreters dress for legal assignments should be taken very seriously by the interpreter as it can determine how successful they are at getting and keeping jobs.
If a client doesn’t think you’re respecting the legal system, or thinks that you don’t have the necessary experience, all because of the way you dress you’re less likely to be hired again.
So as a rule for legal interpreters, avoid wearing the following items:
- Short sleeved T-shirts
- Tank tops
- Low cut shirts
- Club wear
- Flip flops
- Spike heels
If you would wear it to the beach, the gym, or when going out with your friends on the weekend you shouldn’t wear it to a court interpreting assignment.
Remember that casual clothing in court is not acceptable.
Now that you know what not to wear as a legal interpreter, what should you fill your work wardrobe with instead?
How Do Interpreters Dress for Legal Assignments
Legal interpreters are expected to dress in a conservative, professional and dignified manner as a sign of respect for the judicial system.
Interpreters should try to dress similarly to the attorneys working on the case. In the past a well-dressed legal interpreters have been mistaken for lawyers, which is testimony for how well they’ve presented themselves.
When it comes to the dress code for interpreter assignments, be they in the court room or in a lawyer’s office, business professional is always the best option.
Court Dress Code for Men and Women:
- Navy, black, or gray suit/pant suit
- Dark, neutral colored blazers
- Button down shirts
- Conservative dresses
- Long skirts
- Dark, neutral colored slacks
- Oxford shoes for men
- Flats or short heels for women
Building up a professional wardrobe can take some time – certain pieces are more costly than others. To get yourself started with a versatile wardrobe, without sacrificing any formality, you can start with one main piece and mix and match different shirts and accessories with it.
For example, one option would be to buy an affordable suit (you can check local department stores, thrift shops, or even Goodwill for some bargains), along with a few shirts and ties.
Rotating the shirts and the ties (women can opt for a few silk scarves or understated necklaces) under the suit set will give you multiple options to work with.
The same can be done with a blazer or a long skirt – having multiple shirt and accessory options can stretch what once was a small wardrobe into many outfits.
For those who prefer to wear dresses, one affordable dress matched with different cardigans and accessories can also transform one outfit into many.
Naturally you need not worry about having multiple shoe options – one good pair should suffice.
How to Become a Court Interpreter
Knowing the dress code for interpreter assignments is only a small bit of what it takes to become a legal interpreter. You will also need to work on building your knowledge of various legal systems, legal terminology, and of course the actual skill of interpreting.
Legal interpreter training courses are a great way to build a foundation for becoming a certified legal interpreter. Language Connections offers a 7 week, 45 hour Legal and Court Interpreter Training Program to give individuals the necessary education and practice to work in legal settings.
Our courses cover the following:
- The ethics of interpreting
- The Massachusetts legal system, and standards and procedures for court interpreters
- Legal terminology in English and target languages
- Consecutive and simultaneous interpreting skills
- Cultural training
Our courses are taught by professional legal interpreters, and are small in size to encourage one on one time with students and teachers.
So now that you know the dress code for interpreter assignments from a federal courtroom to a local law office, it’s time to get started with building your interpretation skills.
Join us in our next legal interpreter training program session, and start down the path to a successful legal interpreting career!
Get the necessary, in person training in order to become a competent professional interpreter. Register now for one of our interpreter training programs: Medical Interpreter Training, Legal Interpreter Training or Community & Business Interpreter Training.
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