Tagalog v. Tagalong
“My client only speaks Tagalog, so let me know if you need a translator for the deposition.” This is the essence of an email I received two days before the scheduled deposition of the plaintiff. Unfortunately, my Tagalog is quite rusty. In fact, with no disrespect, I always thought a Tagalog was a Girl Scout cookie, not a language. Turns out, however, that a lot of people not only eat Tagalongs, but people speak Tagalog in the Philippines.
The ensuing email chain was bitter and nasty (quite the opposite of a delicious Tagalong cookie). At issue: Who would pay for the translator? After all, most state rules don’t specify who pays for or provides the translator. The plaintiff will claim the onus is on the defendant, who is taking the deposition. The defendant will claim the onus is on the plaintiff, who lives in the United States, filed a claim in the United States and intends to testify, presumably in English or through her own translator, at the eventual trial. The actual dollar amount at issue is only a few hundred dollars, which pales in comparison to the plaintiff’s overall demand.
As a young lawyer, I’ve come to learn that mini-battles like these are common and unavoidable. Which party takes the first deposition? Upon whose “turf” is the deposition hosted? And on and on. These petty disputes tend to salt the profession. It takes me back to high school—no, grade school, when we argued over whose crayons to use.
Regardless, I have a few simple tips to help diffuse the saltiness and infuse the sweetness.
1. Never assume. Basic advice, you’d think, but often forgotten. Never assume that anyone—including the opposing side or especially your client, will pay for anything. Any new or unexpected cost that arises should be addressed immediately—and politely.
2. In absence of rules, avoid putting your foot down. If there is no rule, statute or court order solving the situation, do not put your foot down too quickly. You will seem ridiculous and you will lose credibility. Simply acknowledge that the rules do not expressly provide for a solution and propose a reasonable solution. Do not demand.
3. Arm wrestle. If a compromise can’t be reached, offer a good old-fashioned arm wrestle. Or a coin flip. Or a duel. I joke. (But sometimes you may feel a duel is warranted.)
I may not know what I’m talking about, but I think you understand.
William Melater is a young associate attorney working at a firm focused on commercial litigation and transactional work. A self-described legal hunter and gatherer, Bill has accumulated a plethora of legal certificates and diplomas—all of which have been appropriately framed and hung behind his desk. Bill has a distaste for emails, suspenders, fake tans, paralegals who cry, sea urchins and attorneys who repeat the phrase “this is my bottom-line offer.” When irked, Bill blogs about his experiences at Attorney at Work.