I don’t have an FAQ page on this blog, but if I did, the very first question out of the gate would be “How do I cut that translation cost down from $50,000 to a more manageable figure?”

It really is a shock to a litigator’s system– especially that of a patent litigator– when they’re told that the documents they have to serve in Germany or China or Mexico will cost them five (or six!) figures to translate. Those countries’ declarations to Article 5(3) of the Hague Service Convention require translation. Period. And most other countries require it too, with no exception or variance as to what gets translated and what doesn’t. It means everything.

This is literally knock-the-wind-out-of-you stuff with voluminous pleadings. But the unfortunate answer to the question is… you can’t cut that translation cost down. Once your documents are filed, they’re locked in, and from there, so is the requirement that those documents be translated.

At least once a month, a prospective client will ask some variant of this question: “how about if we just translate the summons & complaint, but not the exhibits?”

Extraordinarily bad idea, that– so bad that I won’t sign onto the project if you do. I simply can’t have something so out of compliance with the rules go out under my firm’s letterhead. A pretty simple progression of logic here:

  • Rule 10(c) makes exhibits part of the complaint. Unambiguous.
  • Rule 4(c)(1) requires you to serve the complaint along with the summons. Unambiguous. It doesn’t say you can omit the exhibits.
  • Article 5(3) declarations are crystal clear for most* countries– translation is required, full stop. Fail to translate anything in the packet, and you’re looking at rejection as a matter of course. The only question is whether they reject in a couple of weeks or in several months.

As such, if you omit the exhibits, you’ll be on the phone with your translator in a few weeks– if not several months– telling them to proceed with the bulk of the project anyway. Only then, the price tag will have gone up in light of the administrative burden of setting up the project again. In the quest to save a few bucks when it’s too late, you’ll end up spending more, not to mention squandering a whole lot of time.

So what’s the solution?

One of my favorite movie quotes is from Ocean’s Eleven, Rusty (Brad Pitt) to Linus (Matt Damon):

Don’t use seven words when four will do.

Fellow lawyers, I’ll say it again– keep it short. You don’t get paid by the word– but translators do. And remember, the time to save money on translation is when the pleadings are being drafted. If you don’t have to attach exhibits, don’t. If you don’t have to spell out minute details, don’t.

Four other pertinent posts:

Foresight is all-important… this stuff must be considered prior to filing. Once it’s filed, I can’t help you.

* Some notable exceptions: Belgium, the Netherlands, Israel, and (kinda-sorta-but-not-really) Denmark.