Lawyers, Clients and the “Third Person in the Room”

Gary Blasi


Blasi frames his article by first observing that, in his opinion, Ahmad’s article, to which he is responding, makes two significant contributions: first, Ahmad considers the interpreter as serving a role beyond mere translation; rather, the interpreter operates as a conduit for the lawyer to access the client’s language and culture. Second, Ahmad’s article, in its exposition of the lawyer-client-interpreter interaction, implicates and reinforces a broader theory of “collaborative lawyering”.

Blasi’s aim is to extend the analysis presented by Ahmad. Blasi adopts Ahmad’s metaphor of “the room” and utilizes it to illustrate the obscuring effect of adopting nomenclature such as “reconstructive, collaborative, and community lawyering.” The article proceeds in four sections: What Room?; Who is invited into the room, and for how long?; Who is in the room already?; and Interpreting silence, gibberish, and cacophony.

The second section – Who is invited into the room, and for how long? – presents for thought the issue of whether a lawyer can impose, as a condition precedent to representation, an obligation on the potential client to collaborate with third parties. This is not a trivial concern as the presence of third parties implicates rules such as attorney-client privilege. Blasi observes that an interpreter is an essential third-party, and thereby poses no detriment to the lawyer-client relationship. However, what of potential co-litigants who are not strictly essential? Blasi does not resolve the issue; rather, his aim is to flag it as a concern arguable either way based on context.

In his concluding statements, Blasi cautions that lawyers must be aware of two risks likely to eventuate in circumstances where the lawyer has, even moreso than normally, disproportionate power over the client. These two dangers are:

  1. The lawyer will pursue goals that reflect more of his/her personal preference rather than the client’s
  2. The lawyer will evaluate the progress of the matter based on incomplete information arising from a failure to sufficiently inform him/herself about context or consequence.


The article was written as a response to Muneer Ahmad’s article entitled “ Interpreting Communities: Lawyering Across Language Difference”. 56 UCLA L. Rev. 999.

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