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Anyone do a lot of work for law firms directly (i.e. as direct clients)?
Thread poster: Ken Fagan
Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
French to English
Jul 11, 2007

If so, I'd love to ask you a couple of questions.

Thanks very much in advance.


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Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 06:21
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
Very demanding but one of the best clients Jul 11, 2007

Once you get used to their style - short deadlines and ungodly working hours and lingo - definitely on my list of preferred clients for both translation and interpreting.

Shoot your questions.

Magda


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Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
are you referring to 1 or to several different law firms? Jul 11, 2007

Magda Dziadosz wrote:

Once you get used to their style - short deadlines and ungodly working hours and lingo - definitely on my list of preferred clients for both translation and interpreting.

Shoot your questions.

Magda


Hi Magda,

Thank you for volunteering!

Are you referring to 1 or to several different law firms?


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:21
Dutch to English
+ ...
Yes Jul 11, 2007

Several in Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and South Africa (including my own firm, where I've retained an interest and do some consulting rather than translating).

Ready for the questions ...

[Edited at 2007-07-11 11:11]


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Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
may I ask these 2 questions? Jul 11, 2007

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Several in Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and South Africa (including my own, where I've retained my shares).

Ready for the questions ...

[Edited at 2007-07-11 11:00]


Would it be possible for you to comment briefly on
1) how a freelancer can convince a law firm to give her/him a try? and
2) should the freelancer necessarily be less expensive than an agency?

Many thanks for any help:)


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:21
Dutch to English
+ ...
Sure, no problem Jul 11, 2007

Ken Fagan wrote:

Would it be possible for you to comment briefly on
1) how a freelancer can convince a law firm to give her/him a try?


Maybe I'm not the person to ask because in my case it's been quite easy - with being a lawyer, it hasn't taken much convincing. We already speak the same "language". Because I specifically trained in and practised law, I can defend any decisions I make as a translator from both a legal and linguistic perspective and often make suggestions to lawyers when their source text has potential (legal) problems, so I perhaps have a bit of a different relationship with them.

But to approach the question with the other hat on: to be honest, I'd be hesitant as a lawyer to entrust work to someone who merely professes to be a legal translator, so I'd be looking for evidence in the form of specific training.

Examples: the new MA in Legal Translating at City University (distance studying) or the International Legal English Certficate (ILEC) - not the "be all and end all" but an indicator of how you've specialised.

and specific work experience.

Without infringing on client confidentiality, I'd ask the translator put together a portfolio of work including examples of articles of association, various contracts, pleadings, wills etc etc.

And finally I'd be keen to see and test whether the translator had specific knowledge of the legal systems in question e.g. France/UK, France/US


and
2) should the freelancer necessarily be less expensive than an agency?


Depends what the freelancer has to offer that the agency doesn't - all boils down to a price/quality ratio.

If the freelancer is a qualified lawyer and/or has solid legal training, is an experienced translator, keen researcher, offers an independent proofreading service and has PI insurance, he/she is carrying the same risk as an agency, so if not exactly the same rates as an agency (to be more competitive), I'd still argue top-end rates.


Hope this helps
Good luck

[Edited at 2007-07-11 11:42]


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Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
very helpful Jul 11, 2007

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Ken Fagan wrote:

Would it be possible for you to comment briefly on
1) how a freelancer can convince a law firm to give her/him a try?


Maybe I'm not the person to ask because in my case it's been quite easy - with being a lawyer, it hasn't taken much convincing. We already speak the same "language". Because I specifically trained in and practised law, I can defend any decisions I make as a translator from both a legal and linguistic perspective and often make suggestions to lawyers when their source text has potential (legal) problems, so I perhaps have a bit of a different relationship with them.

But to approach the question with the other hat on: to be honest, I'd be hesitant as a lawyer to entrust work to someone who merely professes to be a legal translator, so I'd be looking for evidence in the form of specific training.

Examples: the new MA in Legal Translating at City University (distance studying) or the International Legal English Certficate (ILEC) - not the "be all and end all" but an indicator of how you've specialised.

and specific work experience.

Without infringing on client confidentiality, I'd ask the translator put together a portfolio of work including examples of articles of association, various contracts, pleadings, wills etc etc.

And finally I'd be keen to see and test whether the translator had specific knowledge of the legal systems in question e.g. France/UK, France/US


and
2) should the freelancer necessarily be less expensive than an agency?


Depends what the freelancer has to offer that the agency doesn't - all boils down to a price/quality ratio.

If the freelancer is a qualified lawyer and/or has solid legal training, is an experienced translator, keen researcher, offers an independent proofreading service and has PI insurance, he/she is carrying the same risk as an agency, so if not exactly the same rates as an agency (to be more competitive), I'd still argue top-end rates.


Hope this helps
Good luck

[Edited at 2007-07-11 11:42]


Yes, very helpful! Thank you!

Two quickies, if I may:)
1. Would offering to do free tests (of, say, 1,000 words) in one of my specialisms (i.e. contracts) be helpful in convincing them?
2. Is PI necessary outside the UK? If never been asked for it by a French agency, though I know that, for example, many UK agencies ask for it?


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:21
Dutch to English
+ ...
Feedback Jul 11, 2007

Ken Fagan wrote:

Two quickies, if I may:)
1. Would offering to do free tests (of, say, 1,000 words) in one of my specialisms (i.e. contracts) be helpful in convincing them?


Lawyers are not really tuned in to the whole free test story.

If you really want to, you could suggest they give you a small job for starters and only pay if they are satisfied (if you sense they may be hesitant).

Boils down to the same thing but sends out the message you're confident from the outset.

Think like they do, they don't offer tests. However, in countries where it is permissible, they often work on a "no win, no fee" basis. Similar idea.


2. Is PI necessary outside the UK? If never been asked for it by a French agency, though I know that, for example, many UK agencies ask for it?


Not "necessary" unless asked for anywhere much, but I'd say recommended especially for fields like medical and legal. Depends how "heavy" you're getting into it.

I'm adequately covered by my PI insurance back in SA for all legal work worldwide, so it's wide enough to cover my legal translating, which is practically all I do, so I haven't gone into it specifically from a freelance translator's point of view.

At any rate, my own terms and conditions for translation limit any liability to my invoice amount.


[Edited at 2007-07-11 12:46]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:21
English to Spanish
+ ...
Convincing - Agency Jul 11, 2007

You already know I do a lot of direct work for law firms. Of course, my situation is a bit different; probably quite different from yours so not so useful. But here are the answers to your questions from my situation:

1) How a freelancer can convince a law firm to give her/him a try?

I've never had to do that; they all come to me from word-of-mouth referral. I'm well known in town and give them excellent service, and that keeps the business going. Natually there are some referrals that go out of town as well.

Being local has its advantages because my legal business here involves paper documents that for the most part cannot be transmitted electronically, so distance is a factor.

In your case that could also be an advantage if there is good potential for that kind of work in your locality.


2) Should the freelancer necessarily be less expensive than an agency?

That has been the case when working with local agencies; they charge more than I do; they have to, because they pay me my regular rate.

Plus from me they get faster service, and they know it will be my work.


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Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
I can't eat it if I don't kill it:) Jul 11, 2007

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Ken Fagan wrote:

Two quickies, if I may:)
1. Would offering to do free tests (of, say, 1,000 words) in one of my specialisms (i.e. contracts) be helpful in convincing them?


Lawyers are not really tuned in to the whole free test story.

If you really want to, you could suggest they give you a small job for starters and only pay if they are satisfied (if you sense they may be hesitant).

Boils down to the same thing but sends out the message you're confident from the outset.

Think like they do, they don't offer tests. However, in countries where it is permissible, they often work on a "no win, no fee" basis. Similar idea.

i.e. I can't "eat it" if I don't "kill it", eh?:)


2. Is PI necessary outside the UK? If never been asked for it by a French agency, though I know that, for example, many UK agencies ask for it?


Not "necessary" unless asked for anywhere much, but I'd say recommended especially for fields like medical and legal. Depends how "heavy" you're getting into it.

I'm adequately covered by my PI insurance back in SA for all legal work worldwide, so it's wide enough to cover my legal translating, which is practically all I do, so I haven't gone into it specifically from a freelance translator's point of view.

At any rate, my own terms and conditions for translation limit any liability to my invoice amount.


[Edited at 2007-07-11 12:46]


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:21
Dutch to English
+ ...
Precisely Jul 11, 2007

Ken Fagan wrote:

i.e. I can't "eat it" if I don't "kill it", eh?:)



Provided you have a solid defence for doing so, of course

Keep well
Debs

[Edited at 2007-07-11 14:02]


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Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 06:21
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
Confirming what others said above Jul 11, 2007

Ken Fagan wrote:

1) how a freelancer can convince a law firm to give her/him a try?


Same as Henry above - most of them came via word-of-mouth referrals either from fellow translators or lawyers. Some of them though contacted me via my website, too. But definitely referral from a translator they already trust is the best.


2) should the freelancer necessarily be less expensive than an agency?


From my experience with direct clients, the price was practically never an issue, that is, it doesn't seem to be an important factor when choosing translators/interpreters - if this is what you had in mind ... Also, the law firms (plural) I'm working for outsource mostly to freelancers, not agencies. They usually have in-house staff and outsource whenever their workload is higher than in-house capacity. I believe they prefer to have direct contact with the translator - typically there is a lot of contacts over the project, emails and telephone calls with (changing!) instructions, endless revisions of the source text.

As concerns offering free tests: I completely agree with Lawyer-Linguist: 'lawyers are not really tuned in to the whole free test story" and " Think like they do". These people are used to work hard, charge a lot and spend a lot, too. They value their work highly and they usually understand very well the importance of good translation. You need to convince them that you treat your work very seriously and you offer a valuable, quality service. The "no win, no fee" equivalent would be, perhaps, offering them an option not to pay for your first translation if they don't like the quality of it, but charging them your full rate if they accept your work. It may sound risky, but I think it will pay: you show your confidence and determination to deliver good job.

Hope it helps and good luck,
Magda

[Zmieniono 2007-07-11 14:43]


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Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
thanks, Magda Jul 11, 2007

Magda Dziadosz wrote:

Ken Fagan wrote:

1) how a freelancer can convince a law firm to give her/him a try?


Same as Henry above - most of them came via word-of-mouth referrals either from fellow translators or lawyers. Some of them though contacted me via my website, too. But definitely referral from a translator they already trust is the best.


2) should the freelancer necessarily be less expensive than an agency?


From my experience with direct clients, the price was practically never an issue, that is, it doesn't seem to be an important factor when choosing translators/interpreters - if this is what you had in mind ... Also, the law firms (plural) I'm working for outsource mostly to freelancers, not agencies. They usually have in-house staff and outsource whenever their workload is higher than in-house capacity. I believe they prefer to have direct contact with the translator - typically there is a lot of contacts over the project, emails and telephone calls with (changing!) instructions, endless revisions of the source text.

The last 8 words of that paragraph, although not surprising, are a bit of a turn-off (all that starting & stopping = less $). I don't have that with my agencies, who are extremely happy with my work (other than the fact that I say 'no' more often than they'd like).

As concerns offering free tests: I completely agree with Lawyer-Linguist: 'lawyers are not really tuned in to the whole free test story" and " Think like they do". These people are used to work hard, charge a lot and spend a lot, too. They value their work highly and they usually understand very well the importance of good translation. You need to convince them that you treat your work very seriously and you offer a valuable, quality service. The "no win, no fee" equivalent would be, perhaps, offering them an option not to pay for your first translation if they don't like the quality of it, but charging them your full rate if they accept your work. It may sound risky, but I think it will pay: you show your confidence and determination to deliver good job.

Doesn't sound 'risky' at all: I'm happy to do it with law firms, since 1) I'm confident in my abilities and 2) given the $ potential. Even with agencies I offer a free 300-word test... but I wouldn't want to open Pandora's box, so let's pretend I didn't write that:)

Thanks again, Magda

Hope it helps and good luck,
Magda

[Zmieniono 2007-07-11 14:43]


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 00:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
Actually, funny you should ask... Jul 11, 2007

Ken Fagan wrote:

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Several in Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and South Africa (including my own, where I've retained my shares).

Ready for the questions ...

[Edited at 2007-07-11 11:00]


Would it be possible for you to comment briefly on
1) how a freelancer can convince a law firm to give her/him a try? and
2) should the freelancer necessarily be less expensive than an agency?

Many thanks for any help:)


I just got off the phone with a firm who I worked with a few years ago (here in Toronto). I am trying to build up my local client base, since it's been a bit thin lately, and I decided to contact these people. Luckily they remember me and some work should start coming in soon.
Originally, I grabbed a phone book and noted down all the firms with relevant specializations (in my case immigration). Then, on the advice of my husband, who is a government lawyer who used to work for a firm, I phoned and asked to speak with the office manager or the secretary of the main partners. According to hubby THESE are the people (in Canada at least) who make the lists of translators and decide who gets in or not.
I introduced myself and asked care of whom I should send my card (so they could add it to the rolodex). That way when they get it, they know the name...
Hope that helps!


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Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
seems logical Jul 11, 2007

Juliana Starkman wrote:

Ken Fagan wrote:

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Several in Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and South Africa (including my own, where I've retained my shares).

Ready for the questions ...

[Edited at 2007-07-11 11:00]


Would it be possible for you to comment briefly on
1) how a freelancer can convince a law firm to give her/him a try? and
2) should the freelancer necessarily be less expensive than an agency?

Many thanks for any help:)


I just got off the phone with a firm who I worked with a few years ago (here in Toronto). I am trying to build up my local client base, since it's been a bit thin lately, and I decided to contact these people. Luckily they remember me and some work should start coming in soon.
Originally, I grabbed a phone book and noted down all the firms with relevant specializations (in my case immigration). Then, on the advice of my husband, who is a government lawyer who used to work for a firm, I phoned and asked to speak with the office manager or the secretary of the main partners. According to hubby THESE are the people (in Canada at least) who make the lists of translators and decide who gets in or not.
I introduced myself and asked care of whom I should send my card (so they could add it to the rolodex). That way when they get it, they know the name...
Hope that helps!


Would it be possible for the others to comment? Also, Juliana, didn't the office mngr ask you for anything else besides a biz card (which is no evidence of quality)? Thks:)


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