Legal translation

How to Get a Quality Translation of Legal Documents?

You need a legal translation in many professional and private circumstances. In addition, there are numerous legal documents that need to be translated at one time or another. Note that it’s imperative that the translation of these contents be flawless, if only to have or maintain a legal content. So how do you get a quality translation of legal documents and ensure the validity of contents?

Our blog is here to provide all the useful clarifications on legal translation, in two points:

  • The different types of legal documents and legal translations
  • Specialized legal translators

The different types of legal documents and legal translations

Legal translation is necessary in many contexts of professional and personal life. There is a variety of motives, such as a partnership with a foreign country, a business expansion, an international event, a dispute, a move, and so on.

Each single event involves a series of steps that require the completion and translation of legal content. More often than not, the stakes are high. That’s why quality translation must be the goal. It is unthinkable to use a machine translation tool without using one –or more than one preferably– human translators. In law, it is well known that every word counts and even every comma… which has even led to lawsuits.

Here are different legal documents that will have to be translated depending on the circumstances:

  • Forms and Certificates: countless administrative forms for public bodies, legal forms (for administrative litigation, criminal, commercial or civil proceedings), and commercial forms (e.g. consent form);
  • Contracts: employment contract, user license agreement, distribution contract, cooperation contract, handling contract, service contract, general terms and conditions of sale (GTC), confidentiality clauses and policy or data protection declaration;
  • Partnerships and Audits: deed of retrocession, partnership or collaboration agreement, negotiations, arbitration, financial audit, quality certification audit, environmental audit, litigation, charter, sponsorship agreement, and company statutes.

For our clients –mostly companies– we translate these legal contents, as well as for example websites of law firms, and many other marketing and communication contents.

But that’s not all! In addition to regular translation, there is another type of translation: the sworn translation (sometimes also called certified or notarized translation in some countries). This is a type of translation required by administrations. In most countries, only a person who has followed a specific procedure can provide a sworn translation. This swearing serves as an official guarantee. Sworn translation does not exist in all countries, for example it is unknown in the UK. Secondly, the rules for becoming a sworn translator (or interpreter) for courts and other authorities vary from one country to another. These rules can also vary within a country, such as in Germany.

Specialized legal translators

It goes without saying that legal translation requires specialists. We all agree on this. But how do you know if the translators are indeed specialized and able to deliver a quality result?

First, they may have studied in a law school. They may even have completed a Master’s degree in law that included training in the translation of legislative texts from one or more languages. They may have worked as a legal advisor, lawyer, in-house legal expert, notary, tax specialist, legal writer or editor, to name a few. This is a reassuring sign that demonstrates the translators’ comprehensive legal knowledge.

Secondly, there are Master’s level courses (BAC +5) in legal translation sometimes coupled with another specialty, such as financial translation or commercial translation. Students take courses in the translation of legal documents, often taught by professionals such as lawyers. They learn legal terminology and practice on documents from various companies and international organizations. Awareness of codes of ethics and professional practice is often part of the curriculum. After graduation, these translators have often acquired initial professional experience in banks, law firms, financial services companies, consulting firms or international organizations.

Finally, professional associations and organizations provide training and conferences that include legal translation. Their goal: to master legal jargon and terminology standards in at least two languages –the source and target languages– and to find legal and official resources. This is the case of the SFT (Société française des traducteurs – French Society of Translators) which gives a course called “Horizon justice” which provides “keys to understanding the functioning of legal institutions” and “mastering the language of justice and legal professionals” (see details on the SFT website). Also in France, UNETICA (Union Nationale des Experts Traducteurs Interprètes près les Cours d’Appel – National Union of Expert Translators and Interpreters for the Courts of Appeal) also offers targeted training courses (you will find all information on the website). In the United States, through its annual conference, the ATA (American Translators Association) trains its members on specific legal topics and contexts.

In many other countries, there are associations specifically for legal translators. In Canada, for example, there is the CALT (Canadian Association of Legal Translators), in Italy there is AssITIG (Associazione Italiana Traduttori e Interpreti Giudiziari – Italian Association of Legal Translators and Interpreters), and in Great Britain there is a branch of the ITI called LIFT (Law, Insurance & Finance Network).

Instead of doing a tedious search to find and select a translator, it makes more sense to call on translation companies. An agency like Cultures Connection will recommend the right specialists for your project, depending on the language, the subject matter and the level of technicality of your documents. For example, it is often wise to use legal translators who are familiar with patents for translations in the field of intellectual property. To translate patents, it is necessary to be familiar with the process regulations, the procedures in intellectual property rights or even the possible litigation.

A translation agency is also a guarantee of confidentiality and security for sensitive documents. This includes signing a non-disclosure agreement between all parties involved in the project, i.e. the translation agency and the translators who will be translating the documents, if the translators do not work in-house for the agency but as independent contractors.

Learn more about our legal translation services in the United States, France and around the world!

This article has been written by Marilène Haroux

Marilène was previously an Academic and a Translator. At Cultures Connection she used to be the Vendor Manager as well as Bid Manager. Now Marilène is the Bid and Communications Manager.