Managing translation projects in a law firm
Thread poster: janvalenta
janvalenta
Local time: 01:57
Czech to English
+ ...
Jun 19, 2003

I've been translating in large Prague law firms for several years now, and I have always had more or less the same experience, which can be briefly summarised as follows:
1) Work comes in "waves". One week you have nothing to do, the second week you can bring your sleeping bag to the office. As the number of clients rises, the "nothing-to-do" waves seem to dissapear.
2) The vast majority of translations is urgent.
3) In the middle of one translation, you often have to stop and start translating another document, which is more urgent than the one you were translating before.
4) If the laweyers have scheduled a meeting that requires interpreting, the interpreter is the last to know.
5) Etc. etc.

In my belief, this stems from poor task management by the lawyers/managers. Lawyers don't seem to know what the other lawyers are doing, therefore they finalise their contracts/memos and other documents at the same time. In addition, they don't allow enough time for translation: just last week, I came to work and had to translate two smaller contracts (roughly 8-10 standard pages) in less than 2.5 hours. The deadline was set because the laywers "had promised the translations to the clients". It goes without saying that nobody consults me before "promising a translation to a client", therefore I often end up with having just about one third of the time needed for a good translation.

I know that some urgent work cannot be avoided from time to time but I strongly believe that much of the stress experienced at work could be avoided, too, had the task management been better.

Therefore, I would like to ask all of you whether you have had the same experience and whether you have set up an task management system at your work. We might also try to create a system at this forum: a system that would be feasible and acceptable for both the translators and the lawyers/managers. Unfortunately, the management's will to set up such a system is generally low; therefore, I think we have to take a "proactive approach" (BTW, what a buzzword) ourselves to stop this "insanity".

All comments and suggestions welcome.

Jan Valenta


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Els Hoefman  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:57
Member (2004)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Same experience Jun 19, 2003

Hi Jan,

I've had exactly the same experiences. I work as an in-house translator for an IP company and have several bosses as there are several departments. Nobody knows what the rest is doing which can be pretty frustrating when everyone has urgent translation work at the same time. Although some days can be hectic, I try never to panic. For instance, one trick that really works is to send one boss to the other if both want a rush job done at the same moment. The "more important" boss then wins and the work for the "defeated" boss is simply done later. But the good thing is: they're not angry at me, because I was not the one who decided whose work was more important and whose can wait.
Overtime is rare, fortunately, also because of a company rule that overtime should be avoided.
I fill calmer days with surfing the Internet in search for news, information, contacts that are interesting for the company; which everyone appreciates.
I can only advice you to remember that you cannot do more than what is in your power. Never panic. Use the two-bosses trick, or if you have one boss, ask him which job is more important and should be finished first. This way they will probably get a better idea of what you are working on and how long it will take. And they might appreciate your efforts more.
Els


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Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:57
French to English
Take a stand Jun 19, 2003

janvalenta wrote:

just last week, I came to work and had to translate two smaller contracts (roughly 8-10 standard pages) in less than 2.5 hours. The deadline was set because the laywers "had promised the translations to the clients". It goes without saying that nobody consults me before "promising a translation to a client", therefore I often end up with having just about one third of the time needed for a good translation.



I think you have to take a stand and make sure that the lawyers consult you before making any promises to their clients. They obviously aren't familiar with the translation process and what it involves.

You should be the one telling them when you can finish the translation, not the other way around.

Good luck,

Erika


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janvalenta
Local time: 01:57
Czech to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Draft Rules Jun 19, 2003

Thank you very much for your comments.
I think the only way to resolve this situation is to set up a task management system that would govern the way managers give work to translators. As written above, this system should be feasible for both the manager and the translator. I don't consider pushing such a system through a great problem. I believe the managers are aware of the problems in-house translators face on a daily basis. They just don't know how to deal with them; therefore, the translator should draft some rules on his own and present them for the manager's consideration.

So far, I have drafted just a few. Please feel free to add some of your own, if you're interested. I should also add that the implementation of these rules should be cheap, preferably it should not increase costs at all.

My draft rules:

1) ALL CHANGES TO A WORD DOCUMENT MUST BE TRACKED.
This should avoid the translator having to review the entire document that had already been translated and that was just changed afterwards.

2) BEFORE PROMISING A DEADLINE TO A CLIENT, THE MANAGER MUST CONSULT THE TRANSLATOR.
Self-explanatory, I guess.

3) IF A LAWYER/MANAGER DRAFTS SEVERAL CONTRACTS/DOCUMENTS WITHIN ONE PROJECT, HE/SHE MUST SEND THE DOCUMENTS TO THE TRANSLATOR ONE BY ONE, ONCE FINISHED.
More than often, you will receive a bulk of contracts implementing one larger transaction, all with an impossible deadline. Sending the documents one by one would spread the workload: lawyers often draft these one by one, so you can translate one document per day, instead of having to translate five in half a day.

4) ALL DOCUMENTS MUST BE SEND TO THE TRANSLATOR IMMEDIATELY ONCE FINISHED.
Often you will receive a five-days-old document with a very short deadline.

5) WHEN STARTING TO DRAFT A DOCUMENT THAT WILL REQUIRE TRANSLATION, THE LAWYER MUST NOTIFY THE TRANSLATOR IN ADVANCE.
That's a tricky one; I am not sure this is feasible, but it would help the translators to plan and organise the workflow.

6) THE LAWYER WILL INFORM THE TRANSLATOR WHETHER ANY OTHER DOCUMENTS MAY BE USED AS MODELS FOR TRANSLATION, AND IDENTIFY THEM.
Repeating parts of legal documents are often reused; therefore, they may be of some help for the translator.

Jan Valenta


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:27
English to Tamil
+ ...
My experience as translator Jun 20, 2003

I worked as inhouse French translator in a pharmaceuticals company for 12 years. I was also given the designation of an electrical engineer. Fortunately in my case the priorities were clearly formed. I did engineering work only when there was no translation work to do. Even though many officers (I was also an officer being an engineer in my own right, which helped)to give me work there were reasonable deadlines and of course the director had the top priority.

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