Best Negotiating Strategies from Women Who Shaped America.

A gift in honor of  International Women’s Day. Wednesday March 8, 2017

http://womenwatch.unwomen.org/international-womens-day-history

You want to learn from people who have achieved success on a path similar to yours. You can be encouraged by people who have faced and overcome obstacles that you fear.  I learned a lot and I was very inspired and encouraged reading the in depth accounts of women who ultimately shaped my country, The United States.   The lessons I learned from the trailblazers of the past were reinforced by the interviews of women who are trailblazing today. The toughest part of success is negotiating successfully.  My gift to all women in business are these best negotiating strategies by a few women for whom negotiating became pivotal in American history. I quote directly from this fabulous book:

American Heroines. The Spirited Women Who Shaped America by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson https://www.amazon.com/American-Heroines-Spirited-Shaped-Country/dp/0060566361

Ann Legendre Armstrong: First woman US Ambassador to the Court of St. James.

“Learn as much as you can about the person you are negotiating with and then look at things from his or her point of view.”

Dr. Antonia Novello: First woman and first Hispanic American to serve as Surgeon General.

“I use the element of surprise as my best negotiating strategy – knowing the pros and cons of an issue before I even enter the room”.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee:  Track and Field Olympian and Sports Illustrated Woman Athlete of the 20th Century.

“Always go in there with a game plan and know what outcome you want.”

Geraldine Ferraro: First woman to win the nomination for Vice President of a major political party.

“I think the most important thing is to listen to both sides. You’re trying to be the person in the center.”

Sandra Day O Connor:  First woman Justice appointed to the Supreme Court.

“I think the most important thing there is to learn is how to listen to people with an open mind and then weigh things subjectively and see what you can put together.”

Condoleezza Rice: First African American woman to serve as National Security Advisor.

“Be absolutely certain where you want to come out. Know where your true red lines are and don’t keep moving them.”

Powerful Words of Change

The Day The US Government Ordered the Overhaul of the Court.

GovernmentThe sense of a contentious divide in the United States today concerns me.  But I found comfort while volunteering to preserve historical documents at the Historical Document Room  at the Harris County courthouse, (Houston, Texas). I came across this soul stirring entry in the minutes of the court, made at the end of the Civil War.  These are the words of the Judge who had just received the order from the US Government mandating the overthrow of the Judges, Supreme Court Justices, Jurors and instilling new laws with which to rule on cases already filed in the court.

I could feel the anxiety of the court clerk as he wrote the words spoken by the Judge. I could imagine the agitation of the Confederate Judge who knew he was being unseated.   I could imagine the sense of uncertainty of everyone in the courtroom who heard them.  Events show that in order to fulfill this order the new Union Judge and the Confederate Judge worked together on the cases before the court to preserve the primary principles  of our country.  See how our justice system flows in the best and the worst times of history.

Book K. Minutes of the 11th District Court of Harris County, Texas. 

Thursday,  June 1, 1865.

At our early day of  the present term, it was announced that an order would be made to call for trial at the next term, all civil cases filed since January 1862.  And but since the events in the history of the country have transpired which render it unnecessary to limit the call to any particular portion of the docket.

It is therefore ordered that at the next term of the court, the civil and criminal docket will be called for trial and disposition in full as in ordinary times.  This order is entered now that all parties in interest have due notice.

Judge James A. Baker.  Presiding Judge of the 11th District Court of Harris County Texas. 

The importance of the dates noted in this order:

January 1862   Texas seceded from the United States on March 2, 1861 and became a Confederate State on March 23, 1861, which was during the first term of the court under the Confederacy and the new laws under the Confederate constitution. The Judge of the 11th Court, Judge  James Addison Baker was an elected Judge. His great-great grandson, James Baker III would be US Secretary of State.

June 1, 1865   The Civil War had already ended on April 1865. But Confederate General E. Kirby Smith, didn’t surrender in Galveston, Texas until May. A Proclamation of Peace between the US and Texas wasn’t  declared until August 20, 1866 over two months after the court order. Judge James A. Baker was the last district court judge in Harris County to serve under the Confederacy. The court’s docket had remained inactive from 1861 to the spring term of 1865 because of the war, so only five criminal cases and no civil ones were tried in Harris County. In Texas, the transition from the Confederacy to Reconstruction was anything but “ordinary.” Slavery was overturned , federal troops occupied Texas, and for the very first time the constitutional rights of former slaves were protected by  the amended federal constitution.

What followed :

In August 1865, Judge James A. Baker is removed and replaced with  Judge Colbert Coldwell by the Military Governor of Texas, Andrew Jackson Hamilton. The minutes show that all sitting Jurors were replaced with Union loyalists.  All of the Supreme Court justices were  removed from office as “impediments to Reconstruction” and replaced by order of the occupying Union government.

Judge Coldwell spent six days a week, pouring over a docket of disputes filed over the previous four years of the Civil War. Together he and Judge Baker bridged the legislative crevasse between the old and new constitutions. All this took place in the aftershock of a nation that had been at war with itself.

You can see these documents online at http://www.hcdistrictclerk.com/Common/HistoricalDocument/HistoricalDocuments.aspx

Sources:  Texas State Library and Archive Commission  https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ref/abouttx/secession/index.html) and Texas Historical Commission http://www.thc.texas.gov/public/upload/publications/tx-in-civil-war.pdf

The Confederacy’s Collapse  and Houston’s Reconstruction By David Furlow http://www.hbaappellatelawyer.org/2014/03/the-confederacys-collapse-juneteenth.html

Skip These Seven Hassles for a Serenely Successful 2017

 

 

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  1. Skip the stressful “offer “ of  insulting rates and oppressive terms .

Introduce yourself with you rates and  terms backed up with your certification and training. If being offered an assignment , ask for acknowledgement and acceptance in writing of your rates and terms  Add a dose of manners by offering to answer any questions they may have.

 Stress Buster : Develop a couple of templates of polite  responses for  when unacceptably low     rates are offered. Save them in your drafts and you will avoid the irritation felt when  writing a new one every time.

   2  Skip the embarrassment of being taken advantage of.

Research the market and  match your experience and qualifications for equal ranking of pay.

  1. Skip the stress of hearing that the prospective client that wants you won’t pay what you’re worth.

Look up their website and see how they promote themselves to the market If they claim to have the lowest rates then how do you think they make a profit.

Inquire from colleagues on professional forums, on both Linked In and Face Book , what kind of an experience  anyone has had with said a client. Share your experience in return.

  1. Skip the stress of a job with terminology and procedures that stump you.

Don’t accept an assignment you have never done before until you have observed the interpreted proceeding in person or reviewed a few source and target translations of the same subject matter. Do this until you are comfortable that you can perform quality work.

  1. Skip the stress of hassles caused by a client uneducated in your work.

Look for the red flags waving: when translator and interpreter is used interchangeably, when your availability is asked without  identification of the proceeding, whenever a translation has no word count or deadline…  And my favorite when you are asked to be at a location over 100 miles away in a half an hour.  Decide the value of your time required in “babysitting” this kind of client.

  1. Skip the embarrassment of being labeled as unqualified and unprofessional.

Research the market and  match your experience and qualifications for equal ranking of pay.

  1. Skip the stress of payment disputes.

Send your rates and terms ( learn what these are) in writing and ask for acknowledgement and acceptance in writing.  Add a dose of manners by offering to answer any questions they may have.

Inquire from colleagues on professional forums, on both Linked In and Face Book , what kind of an experience  anyone has had with said a client. Share your experience in return.

Assess the client agency by their reputation among their employees and contractors. Listen and weigh both the accolades and the complaints. Complaints reflect poor management and instability and that leads to non-payment of freelancer’s invoices .

I Tip My Hat To: helping freelance interpreters get paid.

a-tip-pf-the-hat-toI Tip My Hat To…

The Association of Independent Judicial Interpreters of California (AIJIC) http://aijic.org/

 

For their dedicated support helping a freelance interpreter collect the pay she earned and was duly owed.

This was posted originally on a private Facebook page for certified interpreters. I was so impressed with the news that I asked for and was granted  permission to reprint it by the poster.

As an AIJIC board member, I thought this was a Small Claims story worth sharing. It all started with a $200 unpaid invoice owed to one of our members by an agency with a very bad reputation.

Early this year, AIJIC sent a demand letter to the owner of the agency on behalf of our colleague with a deadline to pay. The agency owner (whom I’ll call Ms. Deadbeat) ignored the demand letter, after which AIJIC assisted our member with suing in Small Claims.

In her claim, our member demanded the original amount owed plus an additional half day of lost work due to the appearance in court. Since Ms. Deadbeat didn’t appear in court for the trial date, a default judgment was entered in favor of our member. She was awarded $470, which included court and process server costs.

After waiting the mandatory 30 days to see if Ms. Deadbeat would appeal the ruling (she didn’t) the next step was to collect the judgment. California law allows creditors with a court judgment to place a levy on the debtor’s bank account through the Sheriff’s office, which is what we assisted our member with. After months of wait, she finally received a check for the amount she was owed, plus the sheriff’s fee for the bank levy for a total of $516.86.

Although there are no guaranteed results when a person goes to court, it often pays off if you’re willing to persist. Letting delinquent agencies repeatedly burn interpreters with no consequences only encourages them to keep doing it.

It’s important to send a message that we’re professionals and that we expect to be treated as such.

This advocacy of the freelance interpreter by an organization is truly needed today and is to be commended.  They are tackling the decades old disrespect shown by unprofessional members of our market to freelance interpreters who work so hard to perform professionally. I really wish we had such an organization in Texas. Here are just a few services they provide:

AIJIC Mission Statement

The Association of Independent Judicial Interpreters of California (AIJIC) is a nonprofit trade association started by a group of certified court interpreters who saw the need to take action in order to protect the legal interpreting profession in the private sector, which has been steadily deteriorating in recent years.

  • Educate the legal community and agencies about the current laws governing court interpreters, which require certified court interpreters to be used for civil, criminal or juvenile proceedings, including depositions for civil cases.
  • Encourage other interpreters to report use of non-certified interpreters hired for court proceedings and explore a way to take action by lobbying for the enforcement of Sections 68560.5 and 68561 of the Government Code.
  • Educate new interpreters about matters related to the profession.
  • Share information among ourselves about agencies.
  • Representing the interests of independent court interpreters before the Judicial Council of California and in Sacramento in order to have a voice in matters that directly affect our profession
  • Eventually exploring the possibility of establishing a licensing procedure as an essential step towards self-regulation for court interpreters.
  • Helping our members with collection issues.

Join me in commending their work. Contact the AIJIC and tip your hat to them.

 

Hey, we cancelled you. Why are you invoicing us?

It is Tuesday, the day after the Labor Day. I just learned that the deposition interpreting assignment I am about to leave for was cancelled yesterday.  Confirmed with the Court Reporting firm on Friday, I had to turn down two other jobs after booking this one.  The scheduler‘s message closed with “Please call as soon as you get this message”.  Well, at the moment they called, I was in thigh high waders slogging through protected wetlands, photographing an elusive Ibis.  I was not working.  My voicemail recording noted the holiday, that I would return calls on the next business day.  All of this was in my Rates and Terms Sheet they had accepted when they assigned me.  I returned the call, mentioning I would have to invoice due to less than 24 hour business day cancellation.  The scheduler responded “But, I emailed you on Sunday”.  No, you emailed Monday and either way, Saturday, Sunday and holidays are not business days.  I was more disappointed in her reaction than in the cancellation.

We freelance professional court interpreters have standard terms that cover cancellations.  I present them in writing and ask that they be acknowledged and accepted in writing before I accept an assignment. The danceScan

Sometimes they are dismissed as unnecessary.  When I invoice, I’m sometimes told it’s unfair.

Here’s why cancellation charges are reasonable and necessary:

  • I give you the chance to opt out from scheduling me when you are asked to review and accept my terms.  Equally, if your terms are unacceptable to me, I can opt to not accept assignments from you.
  • You can tell the law firm client about my terms and they can opt to try to find someone with different terms. When I accept your assignment it is a priority on my schedule.
  • I turn down other clients to take your job.
  • I cannot replace that income in less than 24 business days.
  • If I allow everybody to cancel without consequence, I could go for weeks without an income.
  • Emergency legal setting cancellations happen and can be accommodated but so do non-emergency cancellations caused by scheduling errors and uninformed witnesses.  Forgetting to notify us happens a lot.

Here’s the solution:

A professional interpreter will schedule in a professional manner.  You can count on us, you can know what costs are involved, and you can relax knowing we will be on time, respectful to your client and interpret with complete accuracy in accordance with our oath.  This is how we show our respect working in a respectful environment.

Make the time to ask for our terms or offer yours. Include your expectation of 24/7 accessibility.  Whether or not you are able financially to negotiate, be honest with us.  We share our experiences with agencies in professional networks.  Don’t be left stuck with only interpreters who will let you down.

Either Way, It’s The Same Horns. My Take Away from a Lawyer’s Rant.

Longhorn reciprocal scan0001Knowing what your client needs and expects from you is a baseline for providing a great product or service. But when you go a step further and learn the inner workings of your client’s work experience, you will be able to use that insight to resolve some tough problems and your own company will benefit.

My market is the judicial field. Non-paying or slow paying clients is the most common complaint I hear from colleagues, both freelance court interpreters and Translation and Interpreting agencies alike. I’m not immune to this experience. I have perfected rates and terms that meet and surpass the high standards set by the judiciary and lawyers. I deliver them whenever someone enquires about my services or availability and I politely require acceptance in writing before I accept an assignment. But as much as I study my client’s industry and keep up with their regulations and legislation, I haven’t found the magic tactic to guarantee on time payment.

Then I read the post by a lawyer who was really angry at clients who don’t pay him. http://lawfirmsuites.com/2013/10/shop-talk-deadbeat-clients/

He had me at the title of the post Clients Who Don’t Pay Piss Me Off. Notwithstanding the irony of the source of the complaint, after reading that post, I can honestly say I felt his pain.

I have heard a lot about the business of law and I have paid attention. I listen to shop talk by clients who are personal friends and I ask questions. I grew up in a family of lawyers that includes two Supreme Court Justices. In my continuing education classes, I teach interpreters to pay attention to the business of law. But the raw resentment expressed in this man’s post is exactly how I feel when I have to enter into the ugly phase of collecting a fairly earned fee. The fact that collecting from law firms is a regular component of doing business for me and my colleagues makes this lawyer’s perspective all that more valuable.

Every situation that he describes in his post has happened to me. I have endured clients not paying, delaying payment and not responding to late notices or phone calls, and even clients asking you to cut the already agreed upon rate after the assignment is completed, His sense of betrayal and having been disrespected is all too familiar. It is disrespectful to not be paid your hard earned fees.

When I read his advice to lawyers: You shouldn’t do business with clients who do not respect the value of your services, I wondered if he had read my articles or attended one of my classes.

My take away from that post was that I can now apply a layer of empathy to my terms policy. I can approach clients from a more shared experience. We are both giving our best services to the client. We are held to an oath and regulations most professionals wouldn’t tolerate. And we both truly respect the judicial system that we serve.

But the most significant take away I got from that post is knowing I can say to my client, ”I understand”.

Top Ten Signs that tell me I’m going to Love Working with this Agency

 

From the first point of contact, the Translation/Interpretation agency shows me the voyage I will go on if I chose to work with them.  The danceScan

They reveal their professionalism in this field and their respect for a good contractor  by how they speak to me, what they tell me about themselves and their operation and the contents of the all important contract and agreements. Some sound like sweat shops with supervisors who worked at the Gulag, others are working out of a dry cleaners with about as much knowledge of  court interpreting.  But when I match the criteria listed below,  I have found some T&I agencies that are so well run that I get excited about the mutually productive and enjoyable relationship we will have. And for some, it has been many years of a great experience working together.

See if your next agency contact shows you these signs.
1. Their entire staff has done professional interpreting or translating  work and they know the terminology, the expectations, the market and the work they are going to ask me to do.

2. They have read my resume and are familiar with my specialization and credentials.

3. They know the laws and regulations that I am bound to and that they are bound to.

4. They negotiate rates and terms instead of insisting I adhere to theirs.

5. They aren’t collecting resumes that they never read.

6. If they can’t afford my rates, they tell me instead of never calling me.

7. Their contract reflects correctly and specifically the interpreting proceedings or translating legal material work that they expect me to do.

8. Their contract is intelligently crafted to reflect a contractor –subcontractor relationship and does not include irrelevant responsibilities applicable to employees.

9. They are respectful and polite and never condescending. They show how they realize that with all the big money clients in the world, their company fails without good contractors who actually do the work.

10. They don’t ask me to find them another subcontractor for an assignment, also known as doing their job for which they are paid a salary .

In your experience, is there another sign?

DEAR AGENCY, I Remember You Well.

Dear Translation and Interpreting Agency,

At 7:00 this morning your office called me for a last minute “pop up” assignment for this afternoon or as you called it “an emergency” because another interpreter had backed out of a deposition. I was headed to a prove up hearing and I called you back as soon as I had parked at the courthouse. I quickly told you I would be available and to please send me the notice by email and I’d confirm once I got out of court. Your scheduler said she had my email address. Your company name rang a bell, and over the next hour, it gnawed at me, sounding more like a warning siren for a tornado.

As soon as I got back to my office I looked your name up in my files and sure enough you were there, in bright, bold red lettering – on my Restricted Agency List. And there was the report on you. We had history a few years back. You were scheduling me for work but you weren’t paying me on time, and you didn’t pay my late fees when you paid three months late. Yes, you had received, acknowledged, and agreed to my rates and terms in writing. You did not reply to and erased emails, then you avoided phone calls. I called colleagues in your state and learned you had several complaints from interpreters there. When I used a different phone, I finally spoke to the owner, and she was condescending and rude. She dismissed my request for payment saying,” she would pay me when she got around to it.”Longhorn reciprocal scan0001

I won’t work for you. I’m turning you down. You don’t respect subcontractors. We do the work you count on us to do and we count on you to pay us fairly and honestly. We are the fuel that keeps your business running. We expect you to manage your business professionally too.

Most probably that is the same reason the other interpreter backed out. And this is the consequence of your incompetence. You will hear “No” from the professional, licensed, and certified interpreters either because you disrespected them or they heard about your practices. You will have to send unskilled bilinguals on jobs because they will and not know how to expect to be treated right but they won’t know how to perform professionally either. Witnesses will lose the right to have their testimony heard due to the errors, which should matter above all else. Your clients will see their ineptitude and you will lose more and more clients.

Now, in the spirit of generosity, if you want to stay in this business, I will tell you how you can turn this around. You know who you have treated unfairly. Contact them and acknowledge your mistakes, apologize and make amends. Pay the full, agreed to payments that you owe. Be the better person and include interest. Prove that you know how to treat us respectfully. Then you can rejoin the ranks of the agencies for whom we gladly give our best efforts.

Sincerely yours,

The Freelance Interpreter.

You Made a Mistake. Time to Tour the Impact Zone.

You can’t shake the uneasiness. Maybe while you were interpreting in a deposition, an attorney objected and then asked to have the question and your interpretation read back. Then nothing more was said about it. Maybe in the translation you just finished, there was one unfamiliar phrase repeated throughout, but you made the deadline and it is already in the hands of the client. The more you think about it, the more you feel that you made a mistake. You aren’t sure if anyone caught it since you haven’t received a complaint…yet. At this point, your conscience won’t leave you alone.

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That is a good thing. That means you care about your work product. Embrace your conscience with a big Thank You.  I will walk you through what goes on after you’ve left the stage. Because the more you know about the impact of your work- good or bad; the more you’ll know how to improve. Look for two upcoming posts: what you can do to resolve a mistake and what to do when the client wrongly claims you made a mistake.
When a mistake is discovered, here’s what happens on the client’s end.
If you were working for an agency, they will hear the complaint from their client. A professional agency should give you a chance to tell your side, so they will contact you and ask you about the job. Some will test your honesty by not mentioning the complaint, to see if you will reveal the mistake to them. Others will be honest and tell you exactly what the client said. This allows you to help the agency rectify the problem and thus help them keep their client. If they keep that client, you have a better chance to stay on with the agency but it is likely you won’t be sent on assignments for their specific client. If the agency has to resolve the problem on their own you could easily lose the agency as your client. Often the agency will need to discount or not charge their fee to keep the client so there is a financial burden to them.
Fact: The agency can replace you with another freelancer much easier than they can replace a paying client.

If you were working directly for a client, you may not hear about the complaint until after they themselves have decided what to do about it. If this mistake has affected their client’s case, the firm has to act quickly and follow the rules of civil or criminal procedure. If they have to tell their client what happened, then your name takes another hit. Hell hath no fury like an attorney in damage control mode.

Fact: Most interpreters don’t realize the repercussions of misinterpreted testimony.
Unless you have a long term, exclusive relationship with this client, chances are you won’t hear about the complaint at all. Lawyers don’t like adding the task of questioning you to their agendas. You will begin to notice they don’t schedule you anymore and then your overall work load drops off. It is usually because they simply mentioned the experience with you to another lawyer, which snowballs, tarnishing your reputation.
Mistakes are ethical and procedural slip-ups too. Judicial professionals hold us to the same standards they are held to. Being late and delaying a deposition costs both parties time and money. Missing a deadline on a translation can set back the client’s production schedule. A breach of confidentiality or privilege can result in a mistrial. This is why clients react so strongly to these mistakes.
Reasons for mistakes never outweigh the repercussions. This awareness will give you the additional instinct to avoid them.

When to Buy into a Client’s Complaint.

The longer you freelance in this business, if you make the effort to keep getting training, you can count on five things to happen.
1. Your performance will get better and better.
2. What was once difficult will be easy.
3. Your confidence will get more and more solid.
4. You will enjoy the work every time.
5. You will also face a client’s complaint about your work that will take you right back to how nervous you felt when you were just starting out.
UnhappyrockScanSo when faced with a complaint about your work, when do you stand up for yourself and when do you just move on? The answer is when you know, without question, which of the following is true:
1. You did not make any mistakes or
2. The client is right and you made an error in your performance.

The only way to know is if you are distinctly aware of your performance by practicing constant and honest self-assessment.   Interpreters need to listen to what they themselves are saying and rely on the instant recall of the last interchange. Most professional interpreters have retention of the prior several seconds. All interpreters should truthfully acknowledge a check list of their own weaknesses, which most clients object to, including heavy accents, pronunciation and grammar mistakes and being late. Translators need to practice good time management and make mental notes of their word choices and the options they can choose from. We also need to invest in a good proofreader since fresh eyes can make or break your reputation. We also have to know the regulations and expectations of competitive professional interpreting or translation. That is the only way we can know if we made a mistake and were to blame or not.

I’ve learned that most interpreters and translators usually know when there was a grey area in their work product. We also know when our performance is at risk because of the environment or setting we are working in. An example would be when the interpreter faced with screaming attorneys and witnesses all talking over each other. The freelance translator can be uneasy when given a barely legible copy or a deadline that is moved up from the original one. But we do have the right to tell the client of the risk to our performance and ask that it be remedied. And we, as freelancers have the right to turn down any job.

But there is still the probability that the client is wrong in their accusation. My profession has an inexcusably low percentage of end user knowledge of the fundamentals skills required to be an interpreter and /or translator as well as our process and regulations. The biggest culprit is the client who feels they are more fluent than a licensed trained and qualified translator or interpreter.

Honest self-assessment can lead to fewer mistakes in your control. It happens to all of us. Every now and then a mistake slips into our normally impeccable work product. I have three more posts about this. One tells what happens when the client discovers a mistake, how to resolve it when you did make a mistake and how to handle the client wrongly claiming you made a mistake when you didn’t.