University of Cincinnati Paralegal Students Work to Make Legal System More Accessible for Non-English Speakers

Shayla Parsons, a student in the University of Cincinnati Clermont College’s (UC Clermont) Paralegal Program, has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to improving access to the legal system for non-English speakers — a population that is greatly in need of resources such as interpreters and multilingual court documents, according to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) 2016 Future of Legal Services Report.

After reading the report in her Introduction to Legal Studies course and learning more about the challenges non-English speakers face navigating the U.S. legal system, Parsons and her classmate Jane Butschie decided to go beyond simply writing a plan to address one of the report’s recommendations. They drafted a proposal to UC Clermont leaders suggesting that the school purchase translation headsets to aid this population in its pursuit of justice. A new technology, translation headsets serve as an electronic interpreter in nine different languages, allowing clients and their attorneys to have real-time conversations. 

Dean of UC Clermont Jeff Bauer, DBA, along with the college’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, green-lighted the project, which was funded by the Office of Equity and Inclusion. The college plans to purchase the headsets in December to ensure access to the latest version of this technology and make them available for use by a variety of individuals — from paralegal students to law school faculty to local courthouse officials — to help them serve their clients. They will also be available to UC Clermont students for whom English is a second language.  

Page Beetem, JD, Parsons’ professor and UC Clermont’s diversity officer, said that the project is just one example of how her paralegal students are making a difference in increasing the accessibility of legal services. “The ABA report calls on the legal profession to engage technology as one way to increase access to justice. UC Clermont paralegal students … [are making] that happen,” she said in a press release. 

Bauer seconds Beetem’s enthusiasm for the project and says it speaks to the college’s overall focus on inclusion. “I was so impressed that Shayla’s assignment motivated her to act on her passion for social justice to help overcome language barriers faced by non-English speakers in the legal system,” he says. “This is tied to our mission of inclusion and diversity at UC Clermont, and it is inspiring to see it manifested in this way.”

Ginger O’Donnell is a staff writer for INSIGHT Into Diversity. This article ran in our July/August 2018 issue.