We have the great fortune this month to meet Richard Lackey, a London-born translator, specialised in legal translations from French and Spanish to English.
NAME: Richard Lackey
WORK LANGUAGES: Spanish and French to English
PLACE OF RESIDENCE AND WORK: Granada, Spain / London, UK
What kind of translation work do you do and what type of clients do you work with?
Legal translation is my main area, in particular all types of commercial law and contract translation. I’ll take a contract any day over anything else! It might seem strange to many but when you’ve been working in one area for a while and have taken time to research your terminology, it’s almost second nature. My clients include agency clients, work for fellow translators and direct clients.
Can you provide a brief description of a typical work day?
In the run up to the ITI Conference this month, it doesn’t feel like I have many typical work days! But let’s try. Usually, I wake up around 8am, have breakfast and walk over to my co-working office. Three years ago I decided that I needed to separate my home and work life so I started hiring a desk in a local co-working office. I haven’t looked back! Since then, my personal life has taken me to various major European cities and each time I arrived in a new place I sought out a co-working space. I’ve worked from Liverpool, Granada, Grenoble, London and Berlin.
Usually I will answer a few emails before starting the day. After that, I tend to concentrate quite hard on what I’m doing. Using Pomodoro technique, I work in 30 minute bursts with 5-10 minute breaks in between. I have lunch at around 1.30pm and then do an afternoon session until around 5pm.
What aspects of your profession do you enjoy most?
The independence, trust and responsibility. I love the feeling that comes with receiving an important file to translate and then delivering my best work. There’s a sense of achievement that is hard to beat!
Which aspects do you least enjoy?
Tight deadlines, but it comes with the territory and I have streamlined my workflow in preparation. For instance, my glossary is rapidly growing and now includes around 7,000 common legal terms from contracts and other legal documents. I also try to use technology as much as possible such as SDL Trados Studio 2017, voice recognition software (Dragon NaturallySpeaking), and automated editing checks (PerfectIt). Staying up to date with these programs is just as important and I regularly attend the SDL Roadshows in London or Madrid.
How long have you been working as a translator?
July will mark six years as a freelance translator.
Does this work fit with your initial studies? Did you in fact study to become a translator?
Translation was never on my radar as a student, although even at a young age I always had a keen interest in languages. Looking back, French was my favourite subject in high school. I went on exchanges to northern France, we read the war-time novel Un sac de billes by Joseph Joffo, and we even had heated debates in French about politics, drugs and economics! I suppose I was inspired by my mother who had lived and worked in France and Spain aged 17-20 and then went on to work at the foreign language bookshop Grant & Cutler in London. My grandfather spoke French too and was an interpreter in WWII for the Free French Airforce, helping to train pilots who had escaped France and, later, coordinating raids over Europe.
I went on to study my second-best subject, psychology, at the University of Liverpool although I took all the classes for first-year French too. Ultimately, I feel I have benefited from my psychology degree by gaining strong writing and analytical skills. And, as it turned out, I managed to develop my language skills by living abroad in France, Spain and Colombia for around five years after my degree.
What is your career path? Why did you make the decision to work as a translator?
Having lived abroad and developed my language skills, I decided I wanted to put them to good use. Based in Bogotá in 2011, I was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of Colombia’s booming economy. Oil prices were high, investment was pouring in and there were very few native English speakers to handle the high demand for Spanish to English translations. Working together with a translator friend initially, I then went on to work closely with local agencies and started to build contacts. Within six months, I was making a decent living from translation.
After moving to Spain in 2013 when my partner started her geology PhD, I started to work more with clients in Europe. I also became aware of the huge offering of translation conferences, courses and networking opportunities. I joined the ITI in 2015, took a one-year preparation course for the DPSI (Law) exams in Liverpool in 2015-16, and attended my first-ever translation conference at the Mediterranean Editors & Translators Meeting 2016. Earlier this year, I gave a talk to translation students at the University of Granada Translation Faculty about my experience in legal translation. This week I’m attending the ITI Conference and giving a talk on co-working. The more opportunities I see for collaboration, the more excited I get about this profession. My talk will highlight co-working as a means to encourage networking and peer-to-peer sharing of knowledge. Join me in Cardiff at my talk Co-working our way to a stronger future.
Is translation your sole professional work? If not, in what other fields are you involved?
My work includes translation, reviewing translations, and editing non-native English. I also do some other work which could broadly be defined as ‘summary translations’ – essentially pointing out the key information in documents so that English speakers can find what they need. I am also training in interpreting and hope to build a mix of translation and interpreting into my schedule in the near future.
English and Spanish > French translator
French and Spanish teacher (face-to-face/Skype)