When the client’s conduct is insulting. How much of it do you have to take?
March 20, 2012 § 3 Comments
I was having dinner with a colleague several weeks ago, and we were talking about a situation that had recently happened to her that I know happens to many of us. One day she was contacted by a State District Attorney’s office from one of the states in the U.S. They asked her to help with her expertise as a linguist and interpreter during a criminal trial. Because the trial was taking place in a different state from where she lived, it was agreed that the DA’s office would mail her a video of a police interview that apparently had been poorly interpreted. My colleague agreed, the conversation ended, and she hung up.
As the weeks went by, she did not hear from them and she got busy with other work. Finally, one day out of the blue she got an e-mail telling her that the video had been mailed and she should receive it in a couple of days. Again, after a waiting period that was quite lengthier than two days, the video arrived. My colleague opened the envelope and there was a video with no enclosure letter or any way to know what she was expected to do. She contacted this DA’s office and as a result she got an e-mail telling her what the interpreter on the video had done wrong. As soon as my colleague realized who the interpreter was, she knew the rendition would be less than satisfactory as this person has a “reputation” that transcends borders. However, everything that the Spanish- speaking paralegal at the DA’s office pointed out as serious mistakes seemed irrelevant in my colleague’s expert opinion.
Because of these irregularities she decided to e-mail the assistant DA to ask him what it was that they wanted her to do and to remind them of her fee. In other words, she did not want them to spend money for something that was probably unnecessary. The attorney answered back asking her to only listen to the relevant parts, and to listen only once to avoid a “hefty” bill. He then informed her that they wanted her to testify as an interpreter, not an expert, and that for this reason they believed that it was not necessary to pay her as an expert. Moreover, to add insult to injury, the attorney told her that they would subpoena her so that she had to appear in court at her own expense, this way avoiding payment of travel expenses.
Obviously, after taking a deep breath, and reacting in a way more civilized way than I would, she “suggested” they should look for another person within their state who would be willing to do that. She politely explained that she would not even watch the video, as this would generate “unnecessary expenses” to the DA’s office, and she sent them off, hopefully forever. Does the story sound familiar to many of you? It amazes me how such a specialized taskforce as the District Attorney’s office can be so ignorant about interpretation. The story reminded me of the reasons why I tend to stay away from court cases at the state level, as my patience is almost exhausted after all these years. I would like to hear what you have to say about this situation, and how you have handled similar scenarios when they have happened to you.