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Why Accurate Translations Are Key in the Discovery Process

One of the many challenges that law firms face nowadays is the tremendous amount of information involved in any particular case, especially when the cases involve several languages.

About a year ago, a state-owned Costa Rican insurance company sued a Florida-based broker for malpractice, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty for allegedly overcharging it .3 million in connection with its placement of reinsurance for a policy it provided for Costa Rica's state-owned electricity and telecommunications supplier. A Miami law firm that had presented documents only in English represented the Florida-based broker.

The district court agreed to reconsider a prior judgment based on new translations of key documents written in Spanish that the parties had previously submitted without any translation. In doing so, the court cautioned that it would not be "this lenient again with respect to post hoc translations" of foreign records and strongly encouraged the parties to "agree on some sort of protocol for translating relevant records."

In the case of criminal litigation, having a professional and certified interpreter when taking depositions is also key to setting the record straight from the beginning.

For example, there was a recent case that involved three defendants from Poland who only spoke a gypsy dialect and did not understand any English. To initiate the investigation, the police involved called an external officer who was born in Poland and had the questioning recorded. But after submitting all of the evidence and video recordings, the prosecutors later found out that the officer hadn't been to the country in years and his Polish was very rusty. Also, since the defendants spoke a gypsy dialect, the interpretation was completely unreliable.

Taking into account that the officer was not an interpreter, the defense attorney who took the case assigned its translation agency with the task of translating the transcription of the recording from both parties' irregular Polish into Polish, and then from Polish into English.

Not having a professional and certified interpreter from the beginning of the preparation of a case may cost more money and time for both lawyers and their clients.

Multilingual Cases

The best time to start preparing for trial is at the start of the case. Partnering with a specialized legal translation agency that has experience working in both civil and criminal litigations may be key to making or breaking your case.

There is a difference in goals between the criminal and civil discovery process. The goal of civil discovery is to ensure a level playing field for all parties. You can be required to provide depositions and release evidence, which could be used against you later at trial. The guidelines of civil procedure support reciprocity and equal access to evidence. In a criminal case, however, one of the main goals is the protection of a defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial. You are certainly not required to give evidence against your case so the state can use it against you later.

Generally speaking, discovery has become an industry practice. However, as companies become more globalized and integrated with foreign markets, very rarely will the case team find themselves handling a legal case in only one language.

In the state of Florida, for example, there are many cases related to the death penalty in which lawyers have to go through overwhelming amounts of data to initiate the mitigation process. A specialized translation agency can assist with the preparation in a pretrial stage by going through each piece of material to help identify what will be crucial for the case and at the same time what won't be necessary and doesn't need to be translated.

The translation process is usually treated as an afterthought instead of a key opportunity to help drive down the costs involved in discovery while maintaining quality of translations through a defensible process. A truly sophisticated translation agency will be able to find the right balance between the people managing the data, having an efficient process and combining them with the technology that will empower these first two elements.

Another great advantage of partnering with a translation agency that specializes in legal translations is that they will have the experience managing all types of cases and are used to receiving volumes of different types of materials for translation that can go from recordings of 911 calls to medical records, emails, video, etc. Additionally, they will understand the importance of a swift turnaround but also provide a completely accurate translation that will be admissible in court.

Unfortunately, the translation process has yet to become an integrated part of the overall litigation methodology. However, no lawyer wants to look like a fool in court, and having a specialized translation agency involved from the beginning of the process may help you know what you need to prove at trial and take the necessary steps to elicit that information.

Source: http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/


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