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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

How Do Non-English Speaking VLSP Clients Communicate with Their Attorneys? With the Help of Volunteers Like Noemi Gonzalez

By Jenny Reyes, VLSP


The Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP) is proud to have a wide variety of dedicated volunteers who help make this organization accessible for our clients. VLSP is able to reach out to San Francisco’s diverse indigent community and work with clients who are monolingual in various languages. The Interpreter Project at VLSP provides interpreters for Family Law, Consumer, and Landlord-Tenant cases, as needed.

Noemi Gonzalez has helped VLSP tackle language barriers between clients and attorneys by volunteering her time outside of her career as a freelance translator/interpreter. Noemi has helped monolingual Spanish-speaking clients communicate effectively with their pro bono attorneys about their legal issues. “Most VLSP clients I have interpreted for are facing imminent eviction,” she says. “They are desperate by the time I get to work for them. It’s an honor to be a conduit between them and their volunteer attorneys, so their voice can be heard clear and accurately.”

Noemi GonzalezLegal issues can be intimidating and overwhelming at times. Being able to provide an interpreter assures our clients that they will be effectively communicating with their pro bono attorney, and conveying any concerns they may have about their legal issues.

As a volunteer interpreter, Noemi has been active in Landlord-Tenant, Consumer, and Family Law cases. She says, “Serving as an interpreter for VLSP is not only stimulating, it is also a tremendous responsibility. Also, since volunteering, it has led me into new areas of translation/interpretation; I am constantly honing my skills! And, I have made valuable business connections. I cannot think of a better example of a win-win situation.”

With so much going on in the life of our active interpreter, Noemi still has time for adventure and says, “I began running two years ago and I love the beautiful running routes this city offers. My favorite starts at the Ferry Building and ends at Fort Point. These runs are helping me prepare for my first hike into the Grand Canyon in September!”

VLSP is always looking for new interpreters who speak various languages, including Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Our next interpreter orientation will be in the fall of 2012. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering please contact

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