Baden-Württemberg case report on translator’s invoice

Two German court decisions on the Internet about translators’ charges. These are based on charges to the court itself, where the court instructed the translator and the statute ZuSEG applies.

The most recent was a decision in May 2002 by the Landesarbeitsgericht Baden-Württemberg (the court of second instance in labour law). file number is 4 Ta 18/02. The translation was of some pleadings to be served on the defendant in Portugal. The translator was successful on most points.,
One point was the rate per line. The court found a line rate higher than the minimum justified for a number of reasons: the text contained a number of legal terms of art, and the translator, ‘who is not a lawyer’, therefore has to produce a translation of a particular quality.

(But what does it matter if the translator is a lawyer or not? He or she shouldn’t be doing these translations without legal knowledge; and in addition, who says a lawyer can translate a legal text into Portuguese particularly well? – However, it’s true that to become a sworn translator you don’t have to take law as a special subject).)Another factor the court liked was the fact that the layout of the Portuguese text resembled that of the German text. That meant that the recipient, who has both the German and the Portuguese version, can better identify which part corresponde to which).

(It’s true that we usually copy layout in sworn translations, but I’m surprised it would be a factor justifying a higher price here. It’s more important with birth certificates etc. than it is with legal pleadings, however).

Another point seems to have been the line count. The translator charged 390.6 lines at DM 3.50, whereas the labour court of first instance found there were 177 lines at DM 3.50 and 14 lines for DM 2.00.

The court held that lines that were considerably longer than 50 characters should be counted as more than one line. (Here we have the problem of counting texts that are printouts). The court holds that an average line length is intended.

However, spaces are not to be counted. The number of keystrokes was 18,838, including spaces. This should be divided not by 50, but by 15% more: 57.5. This gives a number of 328 lines.

There is some discussion of other costs – expenses of writing (Schreibauslagen, 4.99 DM per pages, copy for translator 3.00 DM, postage 3,00 DM. I don’t know if there’s a list online anywhere of these odd little additional things you can charge the court.

This case was quoted in a publication (page 7) of the German translators’ society Aticom.

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