Tuesday, 25 March 2014

What Your Lawyer Client Can Help You with

As a follow up to my previous article about what lawyers need from you as their translator, I would like to mention a couple of things your lawyer clients can help you with:

Clarification. If you're translating something your lawyer client wrote, that lawyer client is the best person to ask what he wanted to say in the passage which is leaving you uncertain. However, the same is true for what his colleagues or even opposing counsel or some other lawyers — or their clients — wrote. Chances are his knows his clients well and possibly his opponents too. And the judge. And the clerk. And the law, of course.

Guidance. If you can't find it, chances are he still can (or his paralegal). You don't necessarily need to ask him for ready solutions, you can ask him where to find them. He is also likely to be your best source of information about all relevant matters concerning the law or the legal profession. You'll impress him more by finding the answers on your own than by asking him, but — probably just like with any other sensible client — asking will impress him more than failure.

Library. 'Nuff said. Some firms even employ librarians. Depending on their deals with publishers and other copyright holders they may be able to send you some materials you'd otherwise need to pay or make a long trip for (naturally, just for use in that particular assignment, not as a permanent freebie).

Logistics. This should not normally be necessary and would normally be looked upon kindly but in some situations — e.g. when you need research you don't have the time to do within the available deadline or need office assistance or something like bringing you a book from the law firm's library — your lawyer client (or his own client) almost certainly is better prepared than you to handle the necessary logistics and probably wouldn't mind. There is a chance that the lawyer will be willing to (get his client to) compensate you for any unforeseen but necessary expenses. If possible, however, better ask the lawyer's assistant or paralegal (since that's where the request will be forwarded anyway).

Editing (and sometimes even proofreading). Chances are he'll be doing it anyway. However, you can ask your lawyer client's input in matters of legal style. The lawyer probably won't mind as long as the question is not something you can easily find in Google or some other readily available resource (this said, rather buy yourself a style guide for lawyers and look there). In fact, he might even appreciate the thought and feel needed. In a closer relationship, where there is no danger of misunderstanding, it might be a good idea to engage the lawyer client as that much-needed second pair of eyes (it is not uncommon for lawyers to be more competent than some linguists you've worked with). Caution: Don't abuse it and don't make yourself look less competent for asking.

Referrals. If you're good, chances are he's already recommending you to other lawyers and possibly to his clients, but there may be some situations in which he wouldn't mind to but just hasn't thought about it yet. Recommending you to his colleagues will probably be a spontaneous impulse, but recommending you to his clients — for work connected with the clients' business but not the legal work the lawyer handles for them — sounds to me just like the thing a lawyer might not intuitively think about due to being totally concentrated on the cases.

Consultation. Whether you can ask freely about some terminology you need in your work done for your other lawyer clients will depend on how close a relationship you have. The closer you are, the more favours are owed, the easier this will be. In return, you can credit your lawyer client on your website for providing consultation (also boosting your own credibility). You can also ask for such consultation in exchange for any discounts or free assistance you'd be giving anyway.

Legal services. Duh. The obvious. Don't go to a random stranger when you have your own client. (This may not always be possible, though, as in some cases it could create a conflict of interest.) Besides, chances are you'll get a discount or even free service. Lawyers can be very protective of their own, which is how they may be seeing you by now. Plus:

Signing your default notices for non-payers. Something like printing your default notice for a non-payer on the firm's stationery and appending a lawyerly signature on it would be an easy favour, as it takes seconds, costs nothing and changes your situation with the debtor dramatically.

Reviewing your contracts. I wouldn't count on this one coming free of charge. However, stuff agencies ask you to sign and stuff your other clients ask you to sign (cut their names out) may need review by a qualified lawyer. I have talked about this lately with Rose Newell.

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