Cancellation Policies for Court Interpreters

For one of our final posts of 2017 (time flies, doesn't it?), we wanted to discuss an important issue for court interpreters: cancellation policies. 

If you have worked as a court interpreter for any length of time, you will be familiar with a common phenomenon: depositions, arbitrations, mediations and other types of hearings get moved, cancelled, postponed, etc. It also happens in court, but many courts will  pay the interpreter for a cancellation that is received less than 24 hours ahead of time. For civil cases and in the private market, it's up to the interpreter to set and enforce cancellation policies. In general, as a profession, we can do a better job at enforcing this, and we have (anecdotal evidence here) noticed that colleagues can be timid about their cancellation policies. However, definining them and sticking to these policies can be key to preserving our earning potential. We recently heard from a dear colleague who doesn't like to take depositions anymore because so many of them get cancelled. She has a good point, but rather than not taking the work, we think the better approach is to draft a good cancellation policy. In fact, we like cancelled depositions and other hearings.

It's entirely reasonable to have a cancellation period. In fact, many professionals have it, including doctors, lawyers, and even massage therapists and hair stylists. Most people understand that you have relatively little opportunity to sell your time again to someone else if the first person, the one you had originally scheduled, cancels a few hours ahead of time. In addition to potential lost income, there's also the issue of professional courtesy: most of us are busy enough that once we have a slot booked we get inquiries for the same slot from other clients, which we turn down (if you operate on a first-come, first-served principle, like most of us do). It's reasonable to expect clients to give us plenty of notice so we can fill the slot once they discover they need to reschedule.

Our cancellation policy is 24 hours, and we have enforced it without major problems for years. Once in a while a client will ask us to cut them some slack if they cancel, say, 23 hours ahead of time, and depending on the client, we do. We are now thinking about changing our cancellation policy to 48 hours, because in our experience, it's quite difficult to fill cancellations within a day. What about you, dear colleagues? How have you handled this issue? We'd love to read your comments.


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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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