Pepe’s Big Deal

Pepe was a successful lawyer in his late thirties.

With thick glasses and a shock of red hair that stood straight up like a bear’s fur on his head and a permanent smile.

You would not call him particularly handsome

but he was VERY charismatic….a real positive thinker

and he spoke excellent English.

Truth is…I enjoyed hanging out with him.

Pepe was waiting for an American client (let’s be nice and call him Mr. Grumpy)  who was about to close a  3 million dollar contract

…for a small boutique hotel he was buying.

Pepe was the broker/attorney for the buyer.

His commission was going to be $120,000.

A nice healthy payday.

He had a beautiful corner office with a stunning panoramic view of the  ocean.

We sat in his office…drank coffee…and made small talk

while we waited for Mr. Grumpy.

He seemed to radiate happiness as he pointed out a migrating Mamma whale

and her calf a mile out to sea.

We could see the rest of the pod of whales lazily swimming south.

From his luxury high-rise corner office we could see  cruise ships passing

far out to sea.

He could also see the parking lot right below…

…where Mr. Grumpy would be arriving.

I couldn’t help but notice that he seemed uncharacteristically nervous that morning.

He fidgeted with a thick green file on his desk

…while scanning the parking lot below between each sentence.

Then suddenly – as if he had an epiphany – he slid the file across the desk to me.

Pepe’s Nightmare

Would you mind taking a look at this contract?

I had mentioned to him at a school function that I was now doing freelance translating.

[You have to promote yourself to ANYONE you meet.]

Sure, who did the translation. You?  I joked with him.

He laughed.

No, my in-house translator. He does fast work. But he may have some typos. I want to make a good impression. 

He excused himself and left me alone in his office to look it over.

The contract was around 15 pages.

I first studied the cover letter.

Since that day – over  twenty years ago –

I have never had to correct  a more poorly translated document.

(BTW-proof reading is a specialized niche market within translating)

As it was written by the in-house translator…the cover letter proudly announced that Pepe’s law firm would

“…act against the best interest of the client at every opportunity…”.


Mr. Grumpy would not be happy to hear that!

The contract was littered with typographical errors.

Many word choices were awkward or flat out incorrect.

These were some SERIOUS MISTAKES!

Pepe asked if I could fix everything.

I was hired on the spot.

Given an office.

But, foolishly –I agreed to a three hour deadline.

What I Learned

If a restaurant has a poorly translated menu that offers you…

fish that is so fresh it is… “still alive”Well…

…you can take your chances and see how fresh it really is.

But legal offices live and die by the letter of the contracts they sign!

One mistake can alter the meaning of the contract completely.

Pepe had a deal breaker on his hands.



Continued…..(4 of 4)