UC Clermont College, Colleges Around Cincinnati, University of Cincinnati

UC Clermont Paralegal Student Translates the Language of Law

Project tackles access to justice challenge facing non-English-speaking clients.

Date: 1/24/2018 12:00:00 AM
By: Amanda Chalifoux
Phone: (513) 558-8199
Photos By: Danny Kidd

UC ingot   After earning her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati in 2016, Shayla Parsons found her first job at the university, too, as a campus security officer for UC Clermont College. Instead of settling into a life of upholding the law, however, Parsons decided to go one step further — to make the legal system more accessible to all.
UC Clermont paralegal student Shayla Parsons
UC Clermont paralegal student Shayla Parsons

“Everyone deserves to have fair representation and to understand the details of their case,” said Parsons, who is currently pursuing her paralegal certificate at UC Clermont. In particular, Parsons recognized the challenges that face non-English speakers, thanks to a finding from the American Bar Association’s 2016 Future of Legal Services Report. For this growing population, the lack of multilingual court documents and translation services such as interpreters means lack of meaningful access to justice. “[Understanding the language] makes the legal system easier to navigate,” said Parsons.  

In response, Parsons, along with fellow paralegal student Jane Butschie, approached UC Clermont Dean Jeff Bauer with a proposal for the college to purchase newly developed translation headsets, which give two parties, who do not speak the same language, the ability to have a real-time conversation with each other. The headsets can translate nine different languages. The dean endorsed the project, as did UC Clermont’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. UC Clermont and UC’s Office of Equity and Inclusion are funding the initiative.  

“We hope that not only paralegal students, but faculty and even community members — like local courthouses — will be able to use the headsets to help non-English speaking clients,” Parsons said.
Page Beetem, associate professor of legal studies at UC Clermont, said Parsons’s project puts into action one aspect of the American Bar Association’s recommendations that the U.S. legal system should meet the needs of multilingual individuals in gaining access to justice. Beetem and her paralegal students are exploring how technology — like the translation headsets — might provide economical solutions in reaching underserved communities through a class project in her Introduction to Legal Studies course at UC Clermont, in which Parsons and Butschie are enrolled.

“Our paralegal students truly are the future of legal services,” said Beetem. “The ABA report calls on the legal profession to engage technology as one way to increase access to justice. UC Clermont paralegal students, armed with what they are learning in our program, can make that happen. This project is just one great example of how they are already making a difference.”

The next UC Clermont paralegal information session for interested individuals will be held Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the college. Register now.