Lost In Translation Services

Law firms can spend up to half-a-million pounds a year on translating documents and demand is only going to rise as business spreads further across the globe. By Patrick EVE
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Translation Memory
Patrick Eve


Paris - Paris - France

April 28, 2008 - PRLog -- The demand for translation, services is growing rapidly among law firms, thanks to today’s globalised business world. With this increase in demand, comes increased pressure on the suppliers of these services to meet tighter deadlines, reduce prices, maintain word-perfect accuracy and respect client confidentiallity. Law firms are starting to realise the importance of this area of the business and study its performance with greater diligence. A procurement team at one of the UK’s leading law firms recently undertook an analysis of its expenditure and current business practices in this field.
An initial study found that annual spend on ‘language services’ totalled about £250,000 a year and that all translation requirements were being managed through the information services helpdesk which shipped the documents out to local country offices for translation by a local employee. When local employees were not available, they turned to a handful of trusted freelancers.
On closer analysis, however, they discovered that there was also a large volume of work that was not going through formal channels but was being sourced directly by the individual in the firm (the ‘Google it and put it on the company credit card’ scenario). By the end of the study, they concluded that annual spend was actually nearer to £450,000 a year and was growing at a rate of 5% to 10% annually.

With all the facts at hand, the procurement department set out to implement a business practice that would achieve four main goals. Firstly, it aimed to reduce the use of indirect cost of using local employees for translations. Secondly, it wanted to reduce the number of freelancers involved to one single supplier, in order to obtain better corporate rates and standardised service levels. A third and unexpected result of the firm’s study was that it discovered that without sufficient monthly reporting tools, many jobs were being carried out but the firm was failing to pass this cost on to their final client.
And finally, the firm wanted to look at what technology was available in order to ensure speed, accuracy, service and confidentiality were all maximised.
The study found that technology could play an important role in two areas. The first is workflow — the handling of the entire process from the moment the document is sent for translation right through the translation, proof-reading and amendments stages as well as the invoicing and management information reporting stages.
For this, the company opted for a web-based platform that gives employees access to a customised online extranet where documents can be uploaded and allocated to an approved translator in a secure environment from anywhere and at any time.
Here the client has the advantage that they are not only working with a translator who is already familiar with that client’s work and has been vetted for quality and security purposes, but can also be in a time zone that ensures that they start work immediately on that job so that the document is back in the client’s inbox by morning.
At the end of the month, the client receives a report outlining exactly who has spent what on translation in that period and can seamlessly identify to which client or project this cost should this transferred. The report also outlines all service level commitments in terms of percentage of deadlines met and time saved as well as overall cost savings.
The second key role that technology can play for law firms in the translations field is in the use of translation memory databases. In simplistic terms, translation memory databases are shared glossaries, compiled and accessed by the firm’s team of dedicated translators. This saves the translator from re-translating the phrase and therefore allows them to offer the client a discount on that work. It also significantly reduces the time taken for the translation and ensures consistency in the use of terms.
The translations agency implements and maintains the translation memory databases on the client’s behalf so that there is no interference with the firm’s existing IT infrastructure yet noticeable improvements in speed of turnaround, cost reduction, accuracy and consistency are achieved.

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Patrick Eve is managing director of TRANSLATEMEDIA, a translation agency proposing high-end translations solutions to demanding law firms. www.translatemedia.com. For further information call +33 1 75 43 92 55 or contact jose@translatemedia.com.
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