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Legal Document Translation Services and When to Use Them

Author: Olafs Berzins

Legal Document Translation Services and When to Use Them

Quality first and foremost, high attention to detail and huge responsibility both from the linguist and an LSP are just some of the key phrases that can describe legal document translation. Just one mistranslated word can make a document translation unusable, which in turn can end a deal, lose a court battle, or damage a reputation. To paraphrase an old saying: “It takes years to build a reputation, but it can take one badly translated word in a legal document to damage it irreversibly.”

That is why legal translators are not just linguists with education in linguistics. These professionals are lawyers turned linguists or linguists with a passion for law and legal language. It takes years of study, specific legal knowledge, and exceptional language skills to be able to translate legal documents. Not all legal document translators can translate all legal documents. Some are specialized in court decisions, some in EU legislation, others in procurement documents. And that is the reason why an LSP is the best choice for your legal document translation needs. Because it has linguists for all these document types.

Definition: Legal Document Translation Service - is a translation, editing, and revision of documents that have been drawn up by lawyers.

Why a Poor Legal Document Translation May be Costly for your Business

In one of our previous blogs covering the topic of Translation History, we already learned what the cost of a poor translation could be (hint: related to Hiroshima). It is feasible that if a company chooses to save on its document translation, then the consequences may be as devastating as an atomic bomb. Let’s list the possible situations where a poor translation of a legal document can have a high cost:

  • You as a company want to participate in a tender in a foreign country that requires its tenderers to submit their documents in the state language of the country issuing the tender. All documents are of a legal nature, and they are going to be examined by legal representatives. Your documents contain translation errors that not only impact your chances of getting the desired tender but also damage your business’ brand in this particular country.
  • You are a representative of a company that plans to invest in another company overseas. Your company’s and the company’s documents need to be translated in order to complete the investment and sign the necessary contracts. However, both your company’s and the company’s documents contain errors that make them worthless. This, again, results in lost time and money and damages your brand image.
  • Now let’s imagine you are the government of an independent country that has spent years at the negotiation table in order to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with an economic superpower. Everything has been put on the table for discussion, a middle ground has been reached and an agreement has been drafted. The only thing left is the translation of the FTA. Your country chooses to save on translation. You end up with more than 200 translation mistakes that not only cost billions for your country’s businesses but also damage your reputation and image in the eyes of the economic superpower and those of your own citizens.

The last point is partly funny and partly sad. It is true and something like that has really happened. However, you should be safe to bet your money on the other two as well.

Legal Document Translation Requires Specific Knowledge and Skills

It is not enough to know a target language to be a good legal linguist. LSPs that provide legal translation services employ linguists who not only have the necessary education* but also years of experience. Theory and practice tell us that a legal translator needs advanced linguistic skills, as well as good knowledge of the judicial systems of the countries where the respective source and target languages are used.

For example, if you need your documents translated from German to Swedish, the linguist needs to know the ins and outs of both the German and Swedish legal systems when translating contracts or other legal documents between these languages. This is because of legal equivalence. A legal term or a legal concept has to have the same effect in both languages.

Different countries have different labor, criminal, civil, and administrative laws. Therefore, knowledge of these differences, sources of information, and the style of legal language are gained only through years of experience and specific education that LSPs look for in their vendors.

*A Legal Translator: Preferably a person who 1) holds a Bachelor’s degree in law and a Master’s or Bachelor’s degree in linguistics, and has at least two years of translation experience in this field; 2) holds a Bachelor’s degree in linguistics and has at least five years of experience in the translation of legal texts.

Why an LSP is the Best Choice for Legal Document Translation

One legal translator is not able to cover all types of legal documents. They may specialize in procurement documents, but if a business is in need of a court decision translation then a different legal translator would be a wise decision.

This is why an LSP that provides legal document translation services is the best choice for your business. It has a database of experienced legal linguists who are able to cover all your legal document translation requests. If today you need your procurement documents translated, but tomorrow a document with references to EU legislation, then an LSP will have just the right linguists for you.

With legal matters, time is of great importance. It matters when you reply to a court, when you submit your procurement documents, and when you submit your contract to an investor. And due to the nature of legal documents and the accountability that comes with them, the translations’ quality will not be diminished.

It is also important to note that an LSP can assure rapid delivery and consistency of the terminology through the use of a centralized glossary and translation memory, decrease the time required to complete the job, and find different legal subject matter specialists in each country to assure quality and speed to meet tight deadlines.

The Bottom Line

When a business expands into new markets, it participates in tenders or deals with supplier disputes, legal document translation comes into play. Due to legal equivalence when a legal document in one language has to have the same legal effect in the other legal document translation is one of the most complex translation fields. Because of this complex nature legal linguists have to have basic legal knowledge of their language combination countries and exceptional linguistic skills. Since even one mistranslated word can make a legal document unusable.

One legal linguist does not have the knowledge or the capability of covering all legal document types. And here is where LSPs can shine. An LSP has many experienced and tested legal linguists that can cover various language combinations and document types. Also, depending on your business needs, an LSP can provide translation, editing, and/or revision of your documents in a timeframe of your choosing, all while not diminishing the quality of your request. Legal document translation services require experience, precision, and quality.

AD VERBUM is your perfect choice for Legal Translation Services.

Learn more about the ways that we, an international translation company with years of legal document translation experience can help your business by reading more of our articles. Remember to subscribe to our newsletter, so you don’t miss any new insights on how you can spend less and gain exceptional legal translations.

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