Lawyer in the US
Thread poster: Geraldine Oudin

Geraldine Oudin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Japanese to French
+ ...
Feb 22, 2010

Good morning,

For the first time, I am having a serious non-payment issue with a client.
This agency, located in the US, has been a regular client for over a year and has always paid within 30 days.

But suddenly, things changed. The September bill was paid late, and I am still waiting on the October bill, which is why I have stopped working for them.

The agency regularly sends emails saying how satisfied of my work they are, but they insist on saying that the end client is not paying them and that they don't have the money to pay me at the moment. I have politely but firmly told them that my contract is with them and cannot be affected with alleged non payment from the end client (which I have no way to check), talked about getting a lawyer who would in turn contact the end client. They keep apologizing but they don't pay.

Since we are talking about a couple of thousands USD, I think it may be worth taking a lawyer. I guess there wouldn't be much left after I have paid the lawyer, but it is a matter of principles.

So the questions are: what kind of lawyer should I be looking for? What would be the cost? Is there anyone in particular you would recommend (by PM)? Do I need to talk to a lawyer in the US, or would an Australian lawyer be just as fine?

For the moment, I have contacted several debt collection agencies in California to see what they offer me.

[Modifié le 2010-02-22 03:23 GMT]


 

Tokyo_Moscow  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 18:01
Japanese to Russian
+ ...
Note sure about the lawyer Feb 22, 2010

Geraldine, I am not sure about the US lawyer, but I would suggest you raising up the issue at BBB (Better Business Bureau) first if you did not yet. Very powerful organization, at least in my experience. This helped me a lot a couple of times and the US companies paid what they owed as soon as I applied. Even if the company is not BBB accredited, I guess it is possible to list their record there and BBB checks the process.
Also, a few US firms were late with payments last year, but this year they said the situation has improved and they did pay in time as before. Hope you get your money back soon. Good luck!


 

Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Credit Recovery Companies Feb 22, 2010

Hi, I know that you can use the services of some credit recovery companies, but the problem is that they charge up to 50% of the sum your clients owe you...I also forgot to mention that Proz often can help with these issues, if your agency is listed in Proz Website. Just write them a support ticket.

[Modificato alle 2010-02-22 05:52 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:01
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Go easy on the expenditure Feb 22, 2010

Everything in your post screams that these people are unable to pay, rather than unwilling to pay.

If they are indeed unable to pay you could just be throwing good money after bad by paying a lawyer to try to recover it. My advice would be to pay someone (possibly a lawyer, or maybe even a private detective, I'm not sure) simply to find out if this company is solvent and what its prospects of recovery are. Probably you could do that yourself if the client were in Australia - perhaps someone here can tell you how it is done in the US.

If they are really going under, then it would be worth retaining a lawyer to see that your interests are considered in the share-out of their assets (if there are any). That shouldn't be very expensive as it's just a set of formalities.

If they seem OK then you will be in a stronger position to approach the client yourself and negotiate terms of payment.

Are you demanding payment immediately and in full? Perhaps this is asking too much. I quite agree that there is no justification for linking their invoice with yours, but it may simply seem to them to be fairer to use their limited finances to pay for those translations for which they have received payment themselves, rather than keeping other translators waiting.

Have you tried suggesting payment over several months? If your investigations point to the agency having a short-term financial crisis but good long-term prospects then this approach could see both of you over this problem, and still doing business together.

Remember, if you go in guns blazing with a debt recovery agency or a lawyer then you will never work with them again, even if you get some of your money. They seem like a really nice, reliable setup (until now, that is) so perhaps they are being completely straight with you.


 

Geraldine Oudin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Japanese to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Feb 22, 2010

I have offered them countless times to pay in instalments, but they have not reacted at all which makes me wonder if they really can't pay or if they just don't want to.

They just keep on asking me to wait. Every month they promise they will pay by the end of the month, and I am getting slightly tired of it. I am not sure I would like to work with them again in the future, even though their emails are always friendly and apologetic.

It could be a simple cash flow problem, but it is far to find out the truth when they are so far away.

I am going to start by filing a complaint with the BBB and see what happens.

In Australia there is a national listing for bad payers, and people really don't want to be on that list as it would make it impossible for them to borrow money or even rent a house. I wonder if there is something similar in the US, I haven't found anything.

[Modifié le 2010-02-22 12:13 GMT]

[Modifié le 2010-02-22 12:14 GMT]


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:01
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Threaten to contact their client Feb 22, 2010

Hi Geraldine,

Are you able to ascertain the name of the law firm from the documents you translated (addresses, letterhead, etc.)? If so, I would contact the agency and inform them that unless they pay you with x days, you will be contacting the client directly and that you will be informing them that you were not paid for your services and that you retain full ownership and copyright to the translation. If necessary, you will also be filing a small claims case against both the agency as well as their client. In addition, inform the agency that you will be posting an entry on the BlueBoard, the Payment Practices Group, etc. That should get you an immediate response. Even if you do not know the client's name, you could just say that you do.



[Edited at 2010-02-22 15:05 GMT]


 

Geraldine Oudin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Japanese to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Threats Feb 23, 2010

Dear Jeff,

I have indeed tried that several times without success.

Following Tokyo-Moscow's advice, I filed a complaint with the BBB Yesterday and sent a copy to the agency, who replied within 5 minutes. They seem willing to do something about their debt within a week.

Let's wait and see if it's true...


 


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