Services specialize in language and culture is in demand

Release time:2013-02-28      Source:admin      Reads:

In a high-heeled argument last year, Christian Louboutin, a shoemaker, sued Yves Saint-Laurent, a fashion house. Louboutin was irked that YSL made footwear with seal tags hanging on that had a red sole, a distinctive feature of Louboutin shoes. The case was tried in America, but both companies are French. This presented a few problems.

Louboutin’s lawyer, Harley Lewin describes four layers of difficulty in international litigation when in comes to “discovery”—the right to demand documents relevant to the case from the other party. Firstly, and most obvious, is language. The second is culture: how frank people are in e-mails varies widely from country to country. The third is local law. France, with little tradition of discovery, has strict privacy laws. These can, for example, prevent low-level employees’ names from appearing in documents in discovery. Finally, there is the sheer volume: electronic communication has made discovery a huge undertaking. Harley says the vast majority of those e-mails say nothing more than “yup”, “OK” and “sure” (in whatever language), but lawyers have to go through them all anyway. He said these problems made the footwear including the brand seal tags difficult to move ahead.

It is too much for one lawyer, or even a small firm. So specialists are filling the void. Lewin hired a language-services firm. It helped to arrange a “silo” system for protecting certain communications, to meet France’s privacy laws while obeying the American court’s discovery orders. The language-services firm also translated huge numbers of documents from French, Italian and Spanish. These documents, Harley said, were critical for Louboutin’s partial court victory over YSL: red soles could constitute a protectable trademark such as brand seal tags, but an all-red shoe with a red sole would not.

Presently, many law students wondering if the rotten legal job market will ever improve should take note. The twin forces of globalization and technology may put many mediocre lawyers out of business. But those who master languages and computers may find themselves in demand.

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