July 13, 2012 § 11 Comments
One time a first-class translator friend of mine contacted me to see if I would be interested in collaborating for a big legal translation project of many court and expert documents from a ten-year long procedure in Mexico. The case was now being litigated in a federal court of the United States, and the American attorneys needed to know what exactly had happened with the case in Mexico.
The project seemed different and interesting, so I accepted the invitation. A few weeks later I received a mountain of documents that were the equivalent to one-half of the documents obtained from Mexico to this point. My colleague received the other half. I started reading the Mexican file and I soon realized that my colleague had received the older documents and I had the newer pile. After many days of reading and researching, and applying my legal background, because being an attorney sometimes comes in handy, I concluded that there were many missing documents, probably the equivalent to three more years following the most recent document I already had. I also realized that most of what I had read had been reversed by an appeals court and at this moment in time was irrelevant to the case.
As I was arriving to these conclusions, my translator colleague contacted me, told me a similar story, and we decided to meet in person to compare notes. After several hours of combing through the documents, we both decided that we needed to talk to the legal team and explain what we knew. A meeting took place, and it was decided that the rest of the documents had to be ordered from the Mexican courthouse, and that we should stop the translation until the new documents arrived, so we could again, analyze the new pleadings, and determine what needed to be translated. At that time I realized that our hard work as legal translators had saved time and money to the attorneys. The fact that we shared what we had with the legal team, gave them the elements needed to decide what should and should not be translated. I understand that my formation as an attorney gave us the possibility to understand better these pleadings, but the same could happen in any other field.
I believe that it is important that the legal translator be honest with the client. In this case, we protected our client, and guaranteed an attorney-translator/interpreter relationship for years to come. It is during these situations, when it could be so easy to translate thousands of useless pages, and still get paid, that in my opinion the real professional steps up to the plate and decides to let go. I was very fortunate to work with such a professional colleague who understood just as I did that the most important thing is to remain professional and honest with your client. I invite you to comment on this situation.