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To agencies who expect that your long contract will be signed with no request for any changes
Thread poster: Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:19
English to Polish
+ ...
May 5, 2014

To agency owners, PMs and their lawyers who hand down long contracts entirely tweaked in your favour, expecting translators to accept them whole, without proposing a single change: you bring shame on your business and legal degrees. And your IQs. This notion is infantile and makes the image of your company that of an unprofessional hack. A business party should have more knowledge and maturity than that and stop wasting people's time. It's not smart.

It's dumb.


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
That's a rather extreme reaction. May 5, 2014

If they're asking you to accept grossly unreasonable clauses, decline to work for them. But contracts are usually weighted in favour of the party that draws them up. It's no big deal.

 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:19
French to English
+ ...
Agree... May 5, 2014

philgoddard wrote:
If they're asking you to accept grossly unreasonable clauses, decline to work for them. But contracts are usually weighted in favour of the party that draws them up. It's no big deal.


Agree -- if there's something you find unreasonable in the contract, propose the change that you would like to make. If they accept it, sign; if they don't, don't. If they're insisting on unreasonable conditions, then you don't want to work with them anyway, do you?

That said, this is why I tend to wait until an actual job offer is on the table before messing about with contracts -- it's happened to me before that I've wasted time re-drafting a contract with an "admin-hungry" agency only to find that this effort resulted in a negligible amount of work.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:19
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That's not the point May 5, 2014

philgoddard wrote:

If they're asking you to accept grossly unreasonable clauses, decline to work for them. But contracts are usually weighted in favour of the party that draws them up. It's no big deal.


The point is that a reasonable, sensible business party expects its counterparties to negotiate until a reasonably mutually satisfactory deal is possible.

This is not about being altruistic — skipping opportunities because you're too rigid to do business with people hurts your business.

Neil Coffey wrote:

Agree -- if there's something you find unreasonable in the contract, propose the change that you would like to make. If they accept it, sign; if they don't, don't. If they're insisting on unreasonable conditions, then you don't want to work with them anyway, do you?

That said, this is why I tend to wait until an actual job offer is on the table before messing about with contracts -- it's happened to me before that I've wasted time re-drafting a contract with an "admin-hungry" agency only to find that this effort resulted in a negligible amount of work.


The problem is not that they are a zombie farm you don't want to work with anyway. The problem is that many agencies, including those with a good BB record, have developed the idea that life is simpler if everybody just signs their 10 pages of stuff with no negotiating. So they hand down non-negotiable PDF contracts and refuse to even talk if you don't sign it whole.

Which is both incredibly disrespectful and plain dumb, business-wise.

[Edited at 2014-05-05 20:07 GMT]


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:19
French to English
+ ...
I wonder if you've been unlucky? May 6, 2014

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
The problem is not that they are a zombie farm you don't want to work with anyway. The problem is that many agencies, including those with a good BB record, have developed the idea that life is simpler if everybody just signs their 10 pages of stuff with no negotiating.


I must admit I haven't experienced this particularly. In my experience, the agencies that are a pain in the horse with contracts are the ones that are also a total pain in the horse in various other respects -- mass-mailing and picking the first translator to respond on a job, requiring a thousand-word test (which they won't even send before you've scanned multiple documents), discounts if a sentence has too many identical vowels in it, deadlines that challenge Einstein's theory of relativity, etc etc...

I guess people's mileage differs, but in my experience, where an agency has sensible business practices generally, this extends to their contacts, and vice versa.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 02:19
Chinese to English
So if the party that draws them up is never us... May 6, 2014

philgoddard wrote:

If they're asking you to accept grossly unreasonable clauses, decline to work for them. But contracts are usually weighted in favour of the party that draws them up. It's no big deal.


I don't really accept this - I mean, I know it's true, but it's not something we should accept lying down. This is the reason why consumer protection laws exist: because companies have big legal departments and consumers don't. Of course, we are offering B2B services, but the fact remains that we are individuals, and agencies are generally organizations. I don't think we should just shrug off that imbalance.

Lukasz, I've seen this problem, too. I think one of the reasons for it is that contract drafters face a genuinely difficult problem: it's a B2B contract but it's with an individual; it has to be effective in international litigation; it has to describe and allow for the subtleties of a highly subjective, highly complex business service. I don't think the current solutions are good ones. But we should recognise why it happens. If we want a change, I think it's kind of up to us. How about an international translation tribunal set up in The Hague, with model contracts widely adopted by translators?


 

Terry Richards
France
Local time: 20:19
French to English
+ ...
Like! May 6, 2014

Neil Coffey wrote:
I guess people's mileage differs, but in my experience, where an agency has sensible business practices generally, this extends to their contacts, and vice versa.


This is why we need a like button!


 

Adrian MM. (X)
Local time: 20:19
French to English
+ ...
Standard contract = Take it or leave it, so leave it May 6, 2014

I agree. If the translation agency or TC expects a translator or interpreter to accept a 'confidentiality agreement' or Terms and Conditions wholesale, so lock, stock and barrel without any changes - especially surrendering copyright without any payment for the translation - then it's take it or leave it, rather than give and take.

Having worked in law offices myself in another life, so used to negotiating contracts, partnership agreements, plus commercial and residential leases with other lawyers and the clients themselves, I also expect more respect and indulgence.

[Edited at 2014-05-07 01:05 GMT]


 

Stuart Dowell  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:19
Member (2007)
Polish to English
+ ...
How credible is it that an will negotiate its agreements individually? May 6, 2014

A business party should have more knowledge and maturity than that and stop wasting people's time. It's not smart.


One thing to bear in mind is that an agency will sign agreements with hundreds if not more translators.

Is it really credible to suppose that an agency in that position will negotiate individually with each translator? I would guess that if the agreement was originally drawn up by an external law firm then each proposed change would have to be sent back to the lawyers for their opinion, thereby creating substantial costs.

You would have to be a translator that brings so much benefit to that agency over others that it would be worth their while negotiating individual terms.

I often hear the argument that the freelance translator is a business entity and in a B2B relationship X or Y should always happen. The truth is rather that each industry develops its own practices over time and just because something happens in one industry it doesn't mean that it has to happen in another.

I suppose in the end it comes down to power in the relationship and if you are not able to negotiate your own conditions it means you don't have any.





[Edited at 2014-05-06 10:22 GMT]


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:19
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Assumptions on the 'translator' character May 6, 2014

Neil Coffey wrote:

I must admit I haven't experienced this particularly. In my experience, the agencies that are a pain in the horse with contracts are the ones that are also a total pain in the horse in various other respects -- mass-mailing and picking the first translator to respond on a job, requiring a thousand-word test (which they won't even send before you've scanned multiple documents), discounts if a sentence has too many identical vowels in it, deadlines that challenge Einstein's theory of relativity, etc etc...


Check, Neil! Same here.

It all depends on the image a translation agency develops of their vendors.

Those agencies that develop long and leonine agreements tend to envision the translators who will work for them as bilingual people who have lost their job in a different area, can't find a new one, and are desperate to pay their bills.

So they ask a friendly lawyer to draw a draconian contract to limit their liability while hiring amateurs to provide what they sell as first grade professional translation work. Such transactions are based on the assumption that these desperate translators would sell their souls to the devil, if only the latter would pay cash.

They seem oblivion to the fact that free, immediate, online machine translation provides at least the same quality level they'll get for peanuts from these desperate translators.


Professional translation agencies are merely... professional! They professionally hire professional translators, and strive to make business relationships mutually rewarding and sustainable. Of course, this is easier said than done.

It takes some bad past experience(s) to make an end-client immediately shun an agency that overwhelmingly advertises their "unbeatable" low rates.


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:19
French to English
+ ...
The agencies you care about will negotiate May 6, 2014

Stuart Dowell wrote:
One thing to bear in mind is that an agency will sign agreements with hundreds if not more translators.

Is it really credible to suppose that an agency in that position will negotiate individually with each translator?


Let's put it like this: it is credible that an agency with good business practices will negotiate with translators they care about...


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:19
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Contracts May 6, 2014

Frequently these long contracts are sent by e-mail and we are asked to sign (on the last page) and fax/e-mail it back.

How binding is a contract when only the last page is signed? After all, they could attach that last signed page to any contract they choose.


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. May 6, 2014

Terry Richards wrote:
This is why we need a like button!


Sadly, ProZ has declined to implement one on the grounds that the forums are a place for debate, and a Like button would stifle the free exchange of opinion. Whatever that means.


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 02:19
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
What? May 7, 2014

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

Frequently these long contracts are sent by e-mail and we are asked to sign (on the last page) and fax/e-mail it back.

How binding is a contract when only the last page is signed? After all, they could attach that last signed page to any contract they choose.

You might as well never sign any contract ever then, in translation or otherwise.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:19
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... May 7, 2014

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

Frequently these long contracts are sent by e-mail and we are asked to sign (on the last page) and fax/e-mail it back.

How binding is a contract when only the last page is signed? After all, they could attach that last signed page to any contract they choose.


The court won't know that you'd signed only the last page unless you've kept e-mails and the court will admit them as proof. If they hypothetically attached the last page to something different, the court wouldn't necessarily have ways of finding out, especially in fast-track proceedings (summary, small claims and such like). So I'd be careful.

And get a version with their own signature on it. They won't normally think about that because they're acting in the interest of their own safety, not yours, and can't really be blamed for not giving much thought to your own protection, but once you ask they have no business declining the request (that'd be more than just a red flag).


 
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