3 legal translation challenges you have to overcome

Published on October 17th, 2016


The majority of legal translation never takes place in the courtroom. In fact, most of it is designed to keep you out of there in the first place. In modern business, the main role of legal translation is to keep you operating within the law as you expand into new markets – and protect you from lawsuits.

Mistakes are costly, too. Even the smallest mistranslation can get you into trouble, void your legal documents or leave you culpable in the eyes of the law.

So this is one area where you can’t afford to make mistakes, which is easier said than done. To achieve this, you’ll need to overcome the three big challenges associated with legal translation.

Challenge #1: Accuracy

As with any translation project, accuracy is the first and most important challenge. This is particularly difficult with legal translation though. First of all, mistakes can have serious legal and financial ramifications – both of which tend to be drawn out for an excruciatingly long time. So the stakes are high to begin with.

This is made even more challenging by the fact that legal terminology can be some of the most difficult to translate. Even if there’s a direct translation (which there often isn’t), capturing the same meaning requires careful consideration.

Naturally, this becomes even more complex with every country or region you operate in – which brings us onto our next point.

Challenge #2: Working in different legal systems

When it comes to any specialist translation service (legal, medical, financial, etc.), you need more than just a language expert. You also need someone with expertise in that specific field – in this case law – to guarantee your finished documents are up to industry standards.

The problem is that law varies from country to country, and you also have continental trade agreements to adhere to. If you’re already operating in the EU, you’ll know how much red tape there can be. Meanwhile, nobody knows yet what kind of legal processes will be in place for trading in the EU once Britain officially leaves the bloc.

Either way, international businesses have some of the most demanding translation needs of all – not only from a linguistic point of view, but also legally.

Challenge #3: Speed

We always make it clear that quality comes before speed, and this is especially true for legal translation. Take the quick or easy option and the risk of expensive mistakes is drastically multiplied.

That said, turnaround time is still important, and deadlines for legal documents aren’t something you want to mess around with. Which means we have to get 100% accuracy in a timely manner. Yes, it’s demanding, but those are the requirements of legal translation and you shouldn’t accept anything less when you approach a translation agency.

So how do we get accuracy and speed into the same demanding project?

How to cope with the challenges of legal translation

When you’re approaching translation agencies for legal purposes, make sure they have the right team. Check they have proven experience in legal projects for the languages you need to cover. Remember, it’s not only the standard of translation you need to look out for, but also the legal expertise and understanding of your key markets.

The key to getting fast, accurate legal translations is experience, especially when you first start working with an agency. So be sure to ask them how they overcome the three big challenges of legal translation – you’ll soon see which ones have the experience you need.

Posted on: October 17th, 2016