Five Career Boosting Lessons I learned from Attorneys

 I have worked with some of the best attorneys and Judges in the nation.  And I love watching them work.  Sometimes I am lucky enough when on subsequent cases, they reflect back on a trial or a proceeding and they explain to me what they were doing and why. These  lessons can be applied to  any interaction, conversation or discussion you have .

1.   The Value of Preparation

  •    Knowing the answer before you ask the question gives you the opportunity to observe and learn about the person you are questioning and allows you to stay on top of the conversation.

 

2.   Poise Under Pressure

  • People are more inclined to listen to you and believe you when you are calm and collected.

 

3.   Integrating the rules into your standard routine. 

  • The rules governing a Q&A are inherently agreed upon when opposing sides are brought together. Therefore, no matter how much disagreement there is, basing your statements on that point of agreement maintains a reminder of a potential agreement on more contentious points.

 

4.   Patience

  •   Never be impatient with a long-winded client or fact witness. If you wait long enough you will hear what you need to hear.

 

  •   Take the time to word critical questions and run them by someone before you put them on the record and the respondent hears them. Having to restate or deflect objections is a sloppy dance that shows you as unprepared and out of control.

 

5.   Balance client representation with judicial ethics.

  • Filter all the needs and requests of a client through the ethical rules that govern your work. It is only a matter of time before those rules will be the judge of your performance.

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 .

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.

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.

The Inevitable for Freelancers .The Client Decides if You Get the Assignment.

R1-03652-018A     The closest a freelancer comes to dictating a full schedule of assignments is the cattle calls some agencies make to get an assignment filled. This is when they send out a mass email inquiring about availability which they admit is based on the first to respond will be the first to consider. The pivotal word in these inquiries is consider. The client (usually an agency) will take into consideration your rate and the reputation of your performance with that agency. Once your rates and terms are favored, inevitably what occurs next is if you are personally favored by the scheduler. Granted the more professional the agency, the less this behavior takes place. But in the high pressure job that schedulers face every day; the freelancer who is low maintenance and reliable is recalled fondly.

Learn the professional tone of how your client does business and work with them in that same tone or better. This rule is applied across the full range of clients from a single individual who contracts you to a small law firm or a multinational firm through a court system or agency. In each situation your performance and behavior decides how they judge you. Are they so busy that your repeated questions would bother them? Do you need to have them send back your invoices to be corrected? Do you expect them to research your assignments for additional information you need? These are common complaints among schedulers.

How much power does the attorney or judge have in deciding who is assigned to interpret? That depends on the feedback given to the attorney by his or her secretary. If the court is hiring you directly the judge can tell his or her court clerk who to use or not to use. Agencies do get some feedback but mostly, only when it is bad. The agency is most likely going to act on bad feedback if the relationship with the client is on the line. The more professional agencies take into consideration the context of the complaint about the freelancer and interview both parties before acting. If an agency passes on a complaint about you and is going to limit your assignments, be honest if you were improper or unprofessional. If you weren’t, ask to have it investigated with the client telling them that you want to rectify the situation. If it is not proven to be poor interpreting performance, the agency can easily avoid assigning you with that attorney or Judge and everyone is happy.