Legal Translation

July 8th, 2010

Legal translation means translating documents that come under the purview of law. The document could involve contracts, complaints, judgments, summons, legal proceedings and the like. Legal translation requires specialized knowledge and it is not a job for novice. Any mistakes can cost time and money and lead to lawsuits. Legal translation is particularly difficult because framing of laws is dependent upon the local culture. The wordings have to be very accurate with no ambiguity. Since the terminology is culture dependent, textual conventions in the source and target languages may differ. There may not be direct equivalents of language structures or they may be hard to find. The translator has to be well versed in both the languages in order to identify functional equivalents. There may also be lexical or terminological gaps in the laws framed in the countries where the source and target languages are spoken. Some of the documents that may require legal translation include wills, trusts, partnership deeds, real estate and leases, company incorporation / LLC and dissolution, marriage and divorce related, power of attorney, licenses and permits, insurance policies, affidavits and certificates, judicial orders / judgements, immigration papers, papers related to adoption, sales contracts, trademarks and copyrights, service agreements, escrow instructions, distribution agreements, arbitration clauses, business and general forms, etc. Bilingual law dictionaries are usually used as reference while translation legal documents. But many of them are of poor quality and may lead to mistranslation. Any error in judgment can have serious consequences like huge cost, unnecessary litigation, frustration, loss of trust etc. Legal translation may also require confidentiality agreements with the translation agency as the documents may be of classified in nature as far as the client is concerned. They may contain company secrets and a standard non-disclosure agreement (NDA) may be required before proceeding with the translation project. The translators may also need to be well versed in different branches of law like administrative law, competition law, antitrust law, arbitration and mediation, banking laws, civil law, bankruptcy law, constitutional law, corporation law, property law, intellectual property law, environmental law, tax law, criminal law, copyrights law, contracts law, internet or cyber law, labour law, litigation, merger and acquisition law, etc. There may also be need for certified legal translation i.e. the translated documents may have to be authenticated / notarized before they are accepted under the target country’s laws. Such certifications make the documents legally or officially binding. This may involve additional costs depending on the target country’s laws. Thus legal translation is a complicated process which only professional translation services are capable of handling.

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