Identifying and Categorizing Language Discrimination in the Legal Field
Language discrimination is a less-discussed form of discrimination that threatens the success of speakers of non-standard English in the United States’ legal system. While language discrimination has been discussed as it relates to clients specifically, an attorney’s perspective of this issue is missing. To better understand how much attorneys recognize language discrimination in their work, I conducted and recorded interviews with three practicing attorneys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Specifically, I asked them questions regarding their backgrounds, practices, and thoughts about the treatment of non-standard English speakers in the legal system. Their responses highlight some of the specific challenges that non-native or non-standard English speakers may experience in the institution of law: challenges related to the legal system as a whole, the availability and quality of translation services, and attorneys’ conscious and unconscious discriminatory behavior toward their clients. A better understanding of language discrimination and how much attorneys understand this issue is important in working towards a more fair and just legal system for all.