A good day for husbands and wives

wills and trusts

What happens to your money when you die without a Will?

For the past nine decades the answer, at least in the UK, hasn’t varied significantly. But today that changes.

Today, the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill comes into force, the first major change to British inheritance law since 1925. From now on, if a married person with no children dies without a Will, their surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit everything. When someone dies without a Will and leaves a spouse and children, their surviving partner will receive a Statutory Legacy of £250,000 and half of their estate, with the children sharing the rest in a trust until they turn eighteen.

I doubt that too many people saying “I do” in recent weeks had this thought uppermost in their minds, but any change in the law affecting how our loved ones are provided for is bound to impact on our lives.

It emphasises the importance of clear communication in legal matters, and in a multicultural Britain where 49 languages have at least 15,000 speakers each, it also emphasises the importance of accurate legal translation.

Legal translators and interpreters need to demonstrate just as much aptitude as the solicitors and barristers they support. They need competence in legal writing style and verbal communication, thorough grounding in the terminology of their specialism and a working knowledge of the legal systems of both source and target languages. This isn’t simply a question of translating words on a page. It’s a question of conveying meaning with pinpoint precision. It takes someone very talented indeed to work with a source text designed to follow one legal system and convert it into a target text suitable for another.

The right translation partner will tick all of these boxes and more, and before doing anything else they will establish exactly what the final translation will be used for and why. Tone, sentence construction, terminology and phraseology will then be balanced to your exact needs.

At Language Connect we work with professionals whose understanding of legal language is sophisticated, specialised and constantly refreshed. When the smallest mistake can have measureless consequences, you can hardly settle for less. Two summers ago a single translation phrasing error almost threw Sri Lanka into chaos. A certified English translation of the constitution of the Tamil National Alliance mistakenly called for Sri Lanka to be divided into two separate sovereign countries, one Tamil and one Muslim. Sri Lanka’s Constitution bans political parties from seeking the establishment of a separate State. Until the mistake was retracted, there was a genuine danger of conflict and bloodshed.

Whatever problems may arise between husbands and wives, we hope civil war won’t be among the consequences. But unnecessary conflict and unnecessary confusion can be sidestepped when you choose your partners wisely. It’s a good day for everyone when they put their trust in a professional translation service.

David Jones

The Voice

interpreting

Today is international translation day. On September 30th each year we celebrate the work of linguists all over the world who strive to break down communication barriers.

These celebrations aren’t confined to a single day, and last Friday the British Library hosted the International Translation Day symposium. Representatives of the British Centre for Literary Translation, the Translators’ Association, Literature Across Frontiers and Wales Literature Exchange gathered to discuss industry developments. Among the topics was continuing professional development for linguists, and that’s always something worth discussing.

There has been a lot of negative publicity around interpreting services in the UK in recent years. I’d like to assure readers that the expertise and commitment of interpreters in this country are beyond reproach. Every day Language Connect works with gifted professionals who constantly seek to improve their skills and add value for their clients. Constantly refining their understanding of technique and subject matter, because simply speaking a second language isn’t enough. Being bilingual doesn’t make you an interpreter, any more than passing your driving test makes you a Formula One driver. An interpreter will listen attentively, process language, understand its nuances, idioms and cultural quirks, then find and deliver precisely the right words in the target language, all in a fraction of a second.

They will use their expertise to communicate across any boundary. Earlier this month Language Connect was delighted to support the Tate Modern with an innovative performance featuring artists who perform as a dance partnership while in different countries.

Sister and brother Selma and Sofiane Ouissi use Skype to practice and perform “together”. Their work is a fascinating marriage of technology and human artistry.

Their performance at the Tate Modern, as part of the BMW Tate Series, concluded with a live question and answer session, accompanied by an interpreter. When artists invest so much of themselves into what they do, any explanation of it needs to be conveyed with the utmost accuracy. When the client confirmed that our interpreter had done this impeccably, keeping a cool head and paying close attention to detail, it made all the hard work worthwhile. By putting in the effort to understand the client’s needs and select the right person, we made a contribution and gave people their voice.

We’re in the business of bringing people together. Whether it’s a group of “C” level executives at an industry conference, a doctor and patient in an emergency room or artists seeking to share their vision with an audience, we believe in giving everyone a voice. When we celebrate international translation day we’re celebrating the talent and dedication of linguists all over the world who help us do that.

To all of them I say thank you and happy international translation day.

Amy Lovejoy

Do It Yourself?

social justice

 

Need a lawyer?

For an increasing number of people embroiled in legal action in the UK the answer may still be yes, but it’s the question that needs updating.

Since drastic Legal Aid cutbacks were implemented in April 2013, more and more people have to ask themselves whether or not they can afford a lawyer. For those who can’t the options and the consequences can be ugly. The impact in England and Wales has been telling. Year on year, the number of people representing themselves in Welsh courtrooms almost doubled between 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Crispin Masterman, a former family judge in South East Wales has recently drawn attention to the damage this can do to the family unit. Mr Masterman and many others in the profession are convinced that removing lawyers from the legal process directly causes delays, and where proceedings concern family law he fears that children often suffer most,

“The damage that’s done is both emotional and probably, in some cases, psychological as well, and the difficulty is that parents don’t see this, they’re so tied up in their own issues that they forget that the child’s welfare is the paramount issue.”

Anticipating this increase in “per se” representation, the Bar Council of England and Wales published a detailed guide for anyone considering this route when the funding cuts were first announced. Well-intentioned as this was, can untrained, unqualified private citizens really be expected to represent themselves adequately in a highly-charged courtroom setting?

The National Justice Committee certainly doesn’t think so. Comprising the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, the Justice Alliance and the Criminal Bar Association, this group has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the cutbacks. Its members believe a fundamental principle – and the concept of social justice in this country – has been compromised.  

The legal profession hasn’t always been portrayed flatteringly in the media or in popular culture. For every Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird there are many more John Miltons, portrayed by Al Pacino in The Devils’ Advocate as not only a venal attorney but the devil incarnate. Many people question the motives and even the necessity of lawyers. Professionals on both sides of the Atlantic would no doubt prefer to identify with the slogan of the 1996 American Bar Association’s national convention:

“Freedom, Justice, Liberty — without lawyers they’re just words.”

Language service providers can easily identify with the lawyers they support. Where Google offers a cheap substitute for professional translation, self-representation is the budget alternative to skilled professional advocacy. In both examples, important details will be lost along the way. We sympathise with those who have no alternative to self-representation and we applaud the lawyers who continue to stand up for their rights, but the message is clear. Professionals get the job done. Just as language issues need to be resolved by a professional translator, the courtroom is an arena for the lawyer.

 

The perils of being a nonentity

nobody

The rapid growth in China’s economy and its propensity to trade in the 21st century has brought teething problems along with opportunities. Not least among the issues has been the navigation of a legal framework geared up for regulation, not commercial activity. China’s commercial law and indeed its legal system as a whole have traditionally been viewed as part of the apparatus of government.

While China’s lawmakers have shown signs of flexibility by adopting certain Western practices and concepts, non-compliant companies have faced severe sanctions. And those who’ve chosen to set up shop in China without even securing their status as legal entities can hardly complain when their hosts throw the book at them.

Better by far to get the right advice and play by the rules from day one. What are the options for overseas companies seeking to establish a legally recognised presence in this lucrative market?

A representative office offers a minimal legal presence, an intermediary equipped and entitled to assess market opportunities. Representative offices are low-cost and low-maintenance, but as a rule they won’t be allowed to engage in sales activity, sign binding contracts or issue invoices.

A joint venture between a foreign operation and a Chinese company offers a presence and a degree of local knowledge and credibility, but entering into this type of agreement inevitably means relinquishing a level of control, and differences in working practices can sour a partnership very quickly.

A wholly foreign owned enterprise (WFOE) offers 100 percent ownership to foreign shareholders, allowing them to conduct business in China, enter into contracts, recruit local staff, engage in research, development and marketing, and to issue invoices and accept payment in Chinese currency. A WFOE must be clear about its scope and aims, and will usually be expected to stay within the boundaries set for it.  

Whichever option companies choose, accurate advice is of paramount importance. Not only in matters of law but in matters of language. Some have tried to cut corners by using bilingual lawyers to translate important contracts, and lived to regret it. Whatever their professional strengths, a bilingual lawyer is not a qualified translator any more than a person who owns a microwave oven is a qualified chef. The mistranslation of legal terminology in the courtrooms of Beijing and Shanghai has been a decisive factor in many cases. If you’re taking the trouble to establish yourself as a legal entity in this closely scrutinised market, why risk undoing your good work and good intentions by taking the cheap option?

Taking the decision to set up shop in China, the powerhouse economy of the 21st century, is far sighted and bold. To capitalise on this boldness and fulfil the long term vision, you need specialist help. That means listening to the most suitable legal advice, as well as putting your trust in the most suitable translation service.

 

David Jones

 

 

Educate, Motivate, Comply

compliance

 

“Every company is just one bad decision or one ‘bad employee’ away from scandal, one scandal away from a salacious headline, and one headline away from a flood of lawsuits.”

William Lytton

As general counsel of fire safety and security specialists Tyco International, William Lytton was well aware of the threat posed to corporate solvency and indeed to human life by flouting of the rules.

With each new territory we seek to trade in, that threat grows more acute. The pitfalls of trading in China were discussed in detail last week at the offices of K&L Gates in Seattle. Speakers at “Anticorruption Compliance in China” outlined the struggles of multinational companies to abide by China’s rules, and in some cases even to understand them. One message repeated was that the Chinese government is on a purge, internally and externally. In 2013 alone, 31,000 of its own officials were convicted on corruption charges. And more and more local investigations of foreign multinationals are targeting what in some cases are long-standing industry practices. What is commonly followed in one country might be considered unethical or even criminal in another. It may not console GlaxoSmithKline to know it, but they have plenty of company on Beijing’s list of offenders.

Closer to home, the UK Bribery Act, passed into law in July 2011, has brought clarity and discipline to the subject and is generally viewed as the most stringent anti-corruption legislation in the world. Information technology law is moving forward under the guidance of the EU, with European data protection reform signalling the first major changes since the birth of the internet. This is a good time to know the rules, and a very bad time to flout them.

Employers across all sectors are alert to the risks. International law firms recruiting lawyers from different jurisdictions and with different professional education experience need to have everyone’s skills and knowledge aligned. Manufacturing companies whose products comfortably meet a standard in one territory but may fall short in another need key staff to be aware of the disparity and of the consequences.

When it comes to maintaining knowledge and skill levels across a diverse workforce, the advantages of e-learning are increasingly clear. The single largest cost organisations face in staff training isn’t the cost of the trainer or the materials. It’s the cost of their own staff attending the course. Take away that cost and inconvenience and the picture changes. Add the benefits that online brings to consistency and scalability and the fact that learners can move at their own pace and it’s not surprising that this has become an education medium of choice.

The best e-learning providers will look not only at delivery but at learning outcomes. Whatever you’re seeking to achieve, they will be your partner in achieving it. Long standing market leaders such as BYG Systems have a track record of breathing life and relevance into any subject matter for any industry, boosting information retention rates and constantly focusing on the client’s end goal. Sometimes that goal will be an induction that makes employees feel part of a team from day one. And sometimes it will be a detailed explanation of policies and procedures that keeps you in profit and out of the courtroom.

Compliance managers and the people who support them are the equivalent of sports referees. When their diligence nips problems in the bud, they can go unthanked and unnoticed. But take that diligence away and the consequences can be measureless. Potential loss of revenue, of credibility, even of personal freedom loom over companies and their key decision makers.

But the story doesn’t have to end that way. There is a better path to follow, and skilled partners available to help us follow it. The message is clear; educate, motivate, comply.

 

David Jones

See the sights. Catch a show. Get a divorce…

divorce

 

Paris – the city of love. 

Rome – the eternal city. 

New York – the city that never sleeps. 

London – divorce capital of the world. 

 

While the UK’s capital might have hoped for a more romantic association, its lawyers could hardly have asked for a more lucrative one. For a range of reasons, the UK in general and London in particular has become a magnet for the super-rich who are falling out of love.

International visitors value the even-handed approach and discretionary elements of English divorce law. And they will be aware of the eye-catching financial settlements of recent years:

  • In 2006 insurance broker John Charman was ordered to pay his wife Beverly £48m.
  • In 2008 Heather Mills was awarded £24.3m in her highly publicized split from Sir Paul McCartney.
  • In 2011 Russian oligarch Boris Berezowsky is believed to have agreed a payment of £220m to his wife of 20 years, Galina Berashova.

More international and commercial arbitrations take place in London under English law than in any other city in the world. Added to this, the Times has reported that one case in every six that come before courts in England and Wales include an international element. With so much at stake, financially and personally, there’s no room for error in the presentation of evidence. Every word and every nuance matters. When a client’s native language isn’t English, translation and interpreting from a proven legal specialist will convey information precisely, in sense and spirit, giving other professionals the platform to do their jobs equally well. 

Those seeking to end a marriage in the UK will find few jurisdictional barriers in their way. It’s not necessary for either spouse to be British born or British domiciled to file divorce proceedings under English law. Jurisdiction can be established through residence of either party, or sometimes simply by the proof of a commercial connection to the country. And for both parties, there are firm arguments in favour of a London settlement.

English Courts recognise that there should be no discrimination between the contributions of a homemaker and breadwinner in a marriage, so the starting assumption in all cases is an equal division of matrimonial assets. While this has been refined to allow exceptions, it remains a compelling point.

Crucially, Pre-Nuptial and Pre-Marital Agreements have no statutory force in England and Wales. They may be looked at on a case by case basis as part of the tapestry of a marriage, but won’t be given the weight they receive in other territories.

It’s also fair to say that overseas citizens seeking legal representation may be attracted to the UK by the quality of the professionals who practice there. Long standing leaders such as Farrer & Co continue to balance their clients’ emotional and economic interests with consummate skill, while Stowe Family Law have proved for decades that London has no monopoly on quality. The firm has a London presence along with five offices in the north of England, and is home to some of the country’s most respected practitioners. 

Divorce capital of the world may not be the most romantic title, but when it signifies fairness and professional competence it’s nothing to shy away from.

 

David Jones

South America – Risk and Reward

pros and cons

 

International business opportunities invariably come with potential pitfalls. Where the rewards outweigh the legal and financial risks, we move forward. But to make that judgement we first need to be aware of what lies ahead and have a solid risk management strategy.

Clients across all sectors face the same key risk and reward questions time and time again, and the answers will go a long way towards shaping their financial future.

Do your credit and payment arrangements adequately protect your interests? What are the possibilities of non-payment, and where would that leave you financially?

Are your products satisfactory for this new market? Are there quality stipulations that you haven’t taken into consideration?

Are there exchange controls or trade controls between countries that might impede you? Might there be in the future?

In the most fundamental terms, can you move your goods from A to B safely intact? It’s sometimes easier said than done.

Again, in the most fundamental terms, do you have sufficient funding to cover your trading cycle? If you have a potential credit risk, how will that affect this funding?

Is your website localised?  Are your marketing and technical materials suitably targeted? Having invested time and money perfecting your product and identifying a suitable new market, have you taken that crucial final step to make sure your message is conveyed as effectively as possible?

South America is rich in natural resources, and fresh reminders of the continent’s potential greet us with each news cycle. It’s estimated that $131 billion will be invested in copper mining opportunities in Peru and Chile by the end of this decade, and Brazil’s oil reserves are set to make it a global energy power within the same timeframe.

What of Argentina? South America’s second largest economy and the 22nd largest in the world, is already home to over 100 UK companies. Over 30 FTSE 100 companies have a base in the country, and the attractions are clear.

Argentina’s energy reserves haven’t been trumpeted as loudly as Brazil’s, but it has the third largest deposits of shale gas and fourth largest deposits of shale oil in the world. Add to the equation its largely untapped reserves of lithium, copper and gold, as well as the silver that gave Argentina its name, and the country’s atlas begins to resemble a treasure map.

Moving away from natural resources, opportunities exist in education and information technology.

Four million laptops and netbooks have been given to children throughout Argentina as part of a national educational programme, and nationwide demand exists for educational software and English language teaching materials. It’s a also notable that Argentina has bought into the concept of ‘big data’. It has the highest proportion of mobile phones per head of population in the Americas, and a higher proportion than the UK. And by the end of next year its fibre-optic broadband network is forecast to increase by 300%. Opportunities are emerging for the supply of mobile phone technology and content for the broadband networks.

Among the challenges are import restrictions which can be convoluted, high inflation and low growth. A decade of impressive growth stalled in 2012, but vast potential remains.

And UK companies that commit to this market can benefit from a double taxation agreement which allows tax paid in one country to be claimed back in the other.

As always, good legal advice is crucial. While UK firms have built impressive links with counterparts throughout Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, limited connections have been made in Argentina. But there are exceptions to the rule.

Verification of documents for use in different territories is a crucial element of any international growth strategy, and the signature and seal of a Notary with specialist understanding of a country’s law can open doors and keep them open.

With a twenty year track record of impeccable service, Saville & Co offer industry expertise for sectors including shipping, banking and insurance, and country expertise that spans Europe and South America. Two of the firm’s notaries have studied and worked in Argentina, bringing perspective and credibility to all that they do. Skilled professional notaries supported by a skilled professional language service deliver skilled professional advice, adding value where and when it’s needed most.

As with all business development activity, international trade is a balance of risk and reward. But it doesn’t have to be a lottery. There are sensible steps you can follow to protect your legal and financial interests, and when it comes to cultural credibility there are reliable partners who can make sure you’re always speaking to your target audience in a language they’ll understand.

Legally, financially and linguistically, it pays to balance risk and reward.

 

Vanessa Vander