5 reasons your agency shouldn’t hire me for legal translations

5 reasons your agency shouldn’t hire me for legal translations

It might seem counterintuitive for me to tell you why you shouldn’t hire me, but it saves us both time.

Because if you tick one of the boxes below, there’s no need to keep reading. We wouldn’t be a good fit for each other. No hard feelings; that’s business.

You might also wonder why a lawyer-linguist with over two decades of experience in law and translation works with agencies.

The answer is simple: I welcome what a good translation agency can take off my hands, freeing up my day to focus on what I do best. And contrary to the constant slagging off of agencies I see on social media, I know good agencies exist because I work with some of them. We’ve delivered hundreds of thousands of words together to repeat clients over the years.

So let’s look at reasons not to hire me:

1. You throw mud and see what sticks

Your agency offers translation services in every conceivable language combination. “And you need this petition for bankruptcy translated from Danish to Armenian? By tomorrow morning? No problem, we’ve got you covered!”

Except you haven’t. Checking your database is a lost cause, so you turn to translation platforms and cast your net wider. Nobody bites. You repost the job using a bridging language and eventually find two translators: one to translate from Danish into English and one from English into Armenian. Neither is a specialist legal translator, but the clock is ticking. You skip in-house revision because none of you understands Armenian and you’ve already blown the budget using two translators. The next day, a judge in Yerevan raises his eyebrows about the quality of the legal writing and dismisses your client’s petition.

When I work with a translation agency, I’m part of a team, one of their go-to translators; not twiddling my thumbs hoping to be chosen in an online auction. I work with agencies whose in-house staff speak my source and target languages – Dutch or Portuguese and English. Agencies that employ project managers trained to carefully match the right translator to the right job. Because that produces the best results and guarantees repeat business. And that’s what I’m interested in: lasting business relationships, not making a quick buck out of one-off clients.

2. You’re a Jack of all trades, master of none

If your agency doesn’t specialise in legal translation and related areas, there’s little point in contacting me. You aren’t likely to provide a steady flow of work or have the expertise to revise specialist translations, deal efficiently with queries, or attract quality legal clients. Besides, I don’t translate outside my specialist field of law and intersecting areas like finance, pensions, and insurance. I know my limitations.

As I provide high-end legal translations that help attract repeat business, I need to focus on agencies that will use my work to do just that – so that it’s a win-win situation for both of us.

3. You act as a mere conduit

A client sends a document for translation, and you farm out the job to the cheapest translator in your database. The translator returns the translation; your project manager gives the file a fleeting glance (if that) to check everything seems in order; you deliver and invoice your client. Sound familiar? If that’s how your agency works – whatever you advertise to the contrary – we won’t be a good match.

Why? Because I work with agencies only if they add value to the process. Not paper pushers. Agencies that do what it says on the tin: project management.

From where I’m sitting, that means:

  • prepping files
  • providing any client reference materials
  • TM housekeeping to eliminate inconsistencies
  • obtaining answers from the end-client if I have queries
  • trying to help with unexpected CAT tool or formatting issues
  • revising in-house or using a qualified external reviser
  • filtering what queries to send me
  • giving constructive feedback

and, most important, treating me as your business partner, not a disposable resource.

Am I asking too much? No, because I don’t need mollycoddling. Automated systems don’t bother me as long as they lead to productivity gains. I know you’re busy; I am too. But acknowledging receipt of all emailed translations is a must. And forwarding the odd word of praise for a challenging job from your reviser or end-client costs nothing and boosts morale no end.

4. You confuse translators with moneylenders

If you’re not adequately capitalised and wait for your clients to pay you before you pay your translators, please don’t approach me. I don’t hold a banking licence, so I can’t grant you a bridging loan to tide you over until they do. And if you’d get ‘offended’ if I were to email shortly after due date to ask politely about my overdue payment, I’m not the right translator for you either. I do that as standard practice, as any business owner running a tight ship should. Like you’d rightly follow up if I were ever to miss a translation deadline with no notice. It works both ways.

I used to specialise in bankruptcies and liquidations, so I’ve heard every non-payment excuse in the book. But as a former partner in a firm of insolvency practitioners, I also appreciate that admin hiccups and short-term liquidity problems can occur. Give me a heads-up if that happens, and you’ll find me friendly, flexible even (to a point). If you make me chase you for payment, it won’t be quite as intense as my favourite scene from Taken, but let’s just say I always get my money.

5. You toss the word ‘urgent’ around like confetti

I enjoy the fast pace of legal translation, and I work well under pressure. I’m as close to unflappable as you can get when the clock is ticking, and the accurate volume I can produce in an emergency is impressive, even if I say so myself. My years in law taught me that much. But my years in law also taught me something else: the ability to distinguish between what is genuinely urgent and what is just the product of poor planning or too many middlemen.

If your deadline requests are constantly unrealistic and part of a race to the bottom that pervades this industry, count me out. While I keep some floating capacity, I reserve it for when it matters. So when it’s imperative to drop everything else, I can move mountains to help you meet a tight deadline.

Should your agency hire me?

That’s up to you, but if you’ve read this far, we’re likely on the same page.

So if you’re looking for a consummate professional who can help you attract and retain more legal translation clients at fair rates, email me and let’s discuss terms.