Hague Service Convention requests constitute 99% of my practice– that’s a literal statistic.* Easily half of them are sent to countries that haven’t caved in to the pressure (good for them) and made English an official language. As such, the lion’s share must be translated into German or Italian or French or Korean… you get the idea. In most instances, my clients just have me take care of the whole shooting match, from soup to nuts. Occasionally, though, a firm or solo lawyer has a relationship with somebody who purports to translate legal documents as a matter of course, so they prefer to handle the linguistic work themselves. To be sure, we’re not a translation provider– we’re a law firm– so if you want to do your own thing, I don’t object.
But I do disclaim the heck out of it.
Among the most frequent reasons Hague requests are rejected: bad translation. If it’s my guys who goof it up, I have somebody to yell at (pretty rare, as I work with some of the best in the business), and they can get things fixed in pretty short order. If it’s my client’s translators who goof, well, I can’t help them. They have to handle the heavy lifting, and then I have to hit them with an additional fee for resubmission of a request once the translation problem is remedied.
While I disclaim the burden of ensuring solid translation work for clients who insist on getting their own, I still offer a bit of guidance via this blog…
- Yes, counsel, you do have to translate that thing, my post in response to “no, no, the defendant speaks English, so…” (Big deal.)
- Get the Language Right, my post in response to “Yep, we’re having it translated into Mandarin.” (No, you’re not.)
- Keep Costs Down. (Duh.)
- This above all, keep it short, counsel. (Lawyers don’t get paid by the word… translators do.)
A few off-the cuff-suggestions in conversations over the phone:
- Don’t just ask Emily the Intern to handle the work for you because she spent last semester in Costa Rica. Unless she’s also a translation major, she’s not qualified to do it, and you’re just asking for disaster.**
- For crying out loud, don’t use Google Translate. Or any machine translation, for that matter.
- And the whole point of this little rant:
YES, FOREIGN AUTHORITIES WILL READ YOUR TRANSLATION TO MAKE SURE IT’S ACCURATE.
If you’ve cheaped out, it’ll get kicked back to me (or you), sometimes with a quickness, sometimes after nine months’ waiting. Either way, you’re back to square one.
* In the literal sense of the word literal. The other 1% is Guardian-ad-Litem work on behalf of CASA– which is incredibly rewarding– I highly recommend it. Just don’t ever get a parking ticket in KCMO Municipal and tap me on the shoulder to handle it. I can’t help you, apparently. [For the record, my client (Peggy, my wife) was guilty, and the prosecutor was happy to knock the thing down to $25 so she wouldn’t have to jack with it.]
** My former intern, actually named Emily, *is* a translation major, so she’s qualified. I still never had her translate for me, because she was more valuable to me on other projects. So is your staff, whether intern, L.A., para, or associate. Their time is worth far more than you think.