Whether you are a private individual with a foreign-language contract you need to understand or you are the representative of a law firm that requires the translation of evidence or a ruling from another country, legal translations are highly technical in nature, and their execution is best left to qualified professionals. Here are a few tips to help you choose a good language service provider for your legal translation.

  • Make sure to read the translation company’s website.
    This may seem obvious, but it bears mentioning: if you are considering a language service provider (LSP) and you find that legal translations are not offered prominently on its website, chances are that it does not have a strong reputation in the field. It may not even have access to linguists with a background in legal translations. Conversely, if the words “legal translation” or any variation thereof catch your eye within your first minute or so of looking over a translation company’s website, you may have struck gold. But don’t commit quite yet! Read on…
  • Ask the LSP’s representative specific questions.
    In the case of legal translations, it may not be enough to simply ask a translation company representative whether the translator the company intends to use for your project is a legal translator. Here are some more specific questions that might come in handy:
    • How much experience does the translator have with legal translations in particular?
      A good legal translation company will have translators who specialize in legal translations, either because they have a degree in law or a related field, or because they have many years of positively reviewed work experience under their belts.
    • Will a second experienced legal translator review the original translator’s work before I receive it?
      As the saying goes, a second pair of eyes is always helpful. In the case of a legal translation, a more accurate statement would be that a second pair of eyes is critical. Not only will reviewers ensure that a translation is free of ordinary typos and grammatical errors, but they will check to make sure that the very specific style of the legal document is correctly conveyed, and they will serve as an additional resource for the appropriate rendering of any particularly tricky terminology.
    • What informational resources does the LSP employ to ensure that a legal translation is accurate for the country or region where it will be used?
      These resources may take the form of legal dictionaries in the source and target languages, special online forums and dictionaries, and access to legal professionals from the country where the document was produced and the one in which it is to be used. This is particularly important when a legal text is written in a language spoken in multiple countries. For example, in nearly every Spanish-speaking country, the word amparo can simply be translated as appeal. However, in Mexico, amparo is also a special set of laws protecting citizens from corrupt government actions, usually simply translated as amparo law, with an explanatory note provided by the translator. Even a translator with a law degree from another Spanish-speaking country might miss this special meaning without access to the proper information.
    • What are the LSP’s confidentiality policies?
      Any LSP worth its salt will have general confidentiality policies already in place for all its translations: everyone who comes into contact with any translation will have signed an agreement preventing them from disclosing the content of the document to a third party. However, a truly quality legal translation firm will offer other security measures to clients upon request (possibly for a fee). These may include guaranteeing that work is deleted from all computers after the project is complete, transferring only encrypted files to off-site workers, or even having translators work on a secure, in-house platform so that the documents never pass through an email system at all.
  • Look for an LSP’s associations with (and recommendations from) law firms.
    Most translation companies that offer legal translation services take pride in their high-profile clients, often advertising their projects with or recommendations from these clients on their website, with the clients’ permission. If you don’t see these on the website of an LSP you are considering for your legal translation, it might be worthwhile to ask your LSP contact person if they can provide you with references.
  • Don’t settle for less.
    Due to the education and research required to produce a high-quality product in this field, legal translations will be more expensive than most other types of translations. While it’s always good to compare services, this is not the time for bargain-basement prices. If you find a translation agency that offers legal translations for a much lower fee than that of other companies, it would be wise to ask some questions about its translators and review processes. Chances are that a cheap legal translation service will not offer the services of highly trained or qualified translators and reviewers, and the end product will be problematic, to the extent that you might even end up having to hire another company to re-translate your document.

Apex has more than 20 years’ experience providing legal translations of the highest standard in areas such as commercial and tax litigation, intellectual property law, antitrust issues, criminal proceedings, and contract law. For more information on Apex’s legal translations, click here. Or, if you’re ready, contact us for a free quote.