court interpretation

Lucía Falcón’s Passion for Legal Interpreting Takes Her to NY DA’s Office

Before starting her journey at MIIS, Lucía Falcón Palomar worked as an attorney and legal translator in Mexico. She is a sworn legal translator certified by the Supreme Court of the State of Jalisco, Mexico. Lucía has worked for four years as a legal assistant and attorney at several law firms in Guadalajara, Mexico, specializing in corporate and notarial law. In addition to Spanish and English, Lucía speaks French. She is passionate about languages, music and Lucky Charms. She is a big fan of Amélie Nothomb and Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Hercule Poirot’s way of thinking and Michael Ende’s Neverending Story. Lucía adamantly believes that language shapes thoughts.

Currently a second-year student pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Conference Interpretation, Lucía shares insights about her summer internship experience as an interpreter and translator at the District Attorney’s office in New York.

Lucía Falcón Palomar MA Conference Interpretation 2017 Spanish/ English

Q1: What were your top 3 criteria as you selected your internship(s)?

First of all, since I am an attorney and a certified legal translator in Mexico, I wanted to intern in the legal field where I could learn from the American attorneys about the American legal system and their work.

Secondly, I want to work on the East Coast when I graduate and I had never been to the East Coast before this summer, so I wanted to know what it was like before actually making the decision to look for a job there.

Thirdly, it was extremely important for me to start networking with potential employers and/or colleagues. I wanted to see what the Federal Court in New York is like, and I also wanted to meet professional interpreters from the DA’s office and the Supreme Court.

 Q2: What did you learn about your field during your internship?

I learned extensively about everything I wanted to learn. First of all, I learned how the system works from the inside. This was an extremely valuable takeaway for me, since I am very interested in legal translation and interpretation/court interpreting.  When you fully understand your field, you can be a better translator or interpreter.

Moreover, I finally had the opportunity to work in a “real” interpretation setting, where people were actually depending on me in order to communicate and solve their problems. This was an amazing takeaway because it was when I realized that communicating is everything in this field and that being perfect is not what people you are working for are expecting from you: the most important part of this job is getting the message through as accurately as possible.

Q3: What did you learn about yourself during your internship?Lucía Falcón Palomar

This internship reaffirmed that I want to be a court interpreter or interpret and translate in a legal setting. I realized how much I like helping people communicate among one another, which motivated me to do a better job in every possible way.

Q4: From the employers’ perspective what does a good intern look like?

Good interns should have a thirst for knowledge. They have to be curious, professional, and always motivated by the passion of liking what they are doing. In addition, remaining humble is always extremely important; understanding that we do not know everything and that we can always learn more, regardless of the experience that we may have.

Q5: Any words of wisdom you would like to share?

I would tell you that the most important thing of being an intern is having the opportunity to get to know professionals from the field you want to work in, to learn from them and to start building your network. Be curious.  Do not be afraid to ask questions or to ask for clarifications when you do not understand something. People appreciate this.  It means you are interested and passionate in what you are doing.  It also means that you want to grow both as a person and as a professional. Stay humble and as one very good interpreter once wrote: “You are not a machine. Think about communicating, rather than interpreting/translating, and do not be afraid to contribute the attributes that make you a unique enabler. But remember that good communicators make it all about their interlocutors. Good interpreters take genuine interest in those on the receiving end.” Good luck!

Have a question for Lucía? You can connect with her via email, luciafalcon(at) or LinkedIn.


Winnie Heh
Career & Academic Advisor





Precision is What my Education at MIIS Gave me to Prepare me for a Career as a Court Interpreter

Lesley Walker Headshot 022316

Lesley Walker (MATI ’05) currently works Spanish Court Interpreter for the Sacramento Superior Court. She recently sent me a number of job postings for the CA court system. She indicated to me:  “I am interested in seeing more very well-trained interpreters enter my field and I like giving back to MIIS any chance I get.”  Please read her heart-felt and insightful responses to my questions.

1. What does your typical day look like as a court interpreter?

First you’ll find out where you are assigned for the day. Depending on what county or federal district you work for, the scheduling is done differently. You might know a week in advance or five minutes in advance or you may go to the same assignment every day for your whole career (this is rare, though). Once you get to your assignment, you will either be waiting on call in an interpreters’ office or you will have to go straight to the courtroom that needs you. From there, your day depends on what kind of hearing it is you are assigned to. An arraignment, continuance, or pretrial hearing may be very brief. A trial lasts all day every day for anywhere from a couple of days to several months. As a court interpreter, you will have to be available whenever you are needed, and this may require a lot of waiting around. It is a very edge-of-your-seat job, I think. 2. What aspects of your work experience prior to becoming a court interpreter do you feel prepared you well for your current work?

I had many customer service jobs as I was growing up: video stores, restaurants, library, etc. Those were great experience for court interpreting because both require all day contact with the public. You will encounter and have to work with/for all types of people as a court interpreter.  And the varying pace of customer service jobs is also similar to court interpreting.

2. What aspects of your education at MIIS do you feel prepared you well for your current work?

Precision. My professors at MIIS were very demanding and over the course of my two years there I learned to be exact. In court interpreting, that is critical. You will not pass the test without it. And the people using your work in the courtroom to do their jobs (judges, attorneys, and court reporters) will notice and appreciate it.

3. What are the useful tips you would like to share with our students on how to prepare for the CA Court Certification?

Two things are key. Number one: study with Holly Mikkelson’s materials ( I am not being paid to promote her! I just think if you can do her exercises then you can pass the test. Number two: feel free to correct yourself about an interpretation during the exam. If you are like me, you sometimes think of the perfect interpretation of a word about three seconds after you’ve said out loud a not-so-perfect interpretation of the word. On the exam (and in real life), you can say, “That is…” or “Rather…” or “Interpreter correction…” and your last utterance will be taken as your answer. Don’t do it excessively because that affects your overall style grade. But you can correct yourself on the exam.

4. What are the things that you know now that you wish you had known when you were a student at MIIS?

During my studies at MIIS, I started having lots of random body aches and pains that continued once I started court interpreting. I think I was physically tense from trying to behave like a language machine. What I know now is that I am not a machine and it’s best if I don’t act like one–bring yourself, your personality, your flaws, and your strengths to every job you do. You will be taking much better care of yourself and your performance will be the same or better.


Winnie Heh
Career & Academic Advisor