When you watch the evening news or visit news websites and read about that story that involves Brexit which involves almost all of Europe, or the murder trial in Italy where an American was on trial, there was a lot of translation happening just to bring you the story. Imagine what needs to happen in the government offices or law offices so these events can take place. Without the benefit of translation, much of our international law processes would be conducted in a vacuum.
Law firms often need documents translated. Many times, they are letters or briefs that are not too long and can be handled by human translators. When these documents are client-facing or going to be used in court, it is necessary to have a human translator who specializes in law to do the legal translation. This aids accuracy and clarity while also eliminating errors in vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. Just a small mistranslation can turn a verdict so you’ll want a good professional translator with the right experience on your side.
Sometimes we need an alternative to professional human translation due to the length of the material or limits on budget or time.
For example, during the discovery phase of a case, a law firm might need to deal with numerous documents that need translation and review but time is of the essence. Discovery is a pre-trial, information-gathering process meant to dig deep into the details of what is important to the legal matter at hand. Each party can obtain evidence from the other party or parties by means of discovery, this involves requests for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions and depositions. Scope and depth of research and inquiry will differ from project to project, but the results are the same: valuable data that needs to be ready on time.
Recently we had a law firm that was working on an international law case ask us what their options were for document translation. In the initial discovery phase where information is gathered, they received over 100 documents in French and it was estimated that the word count was more than 426,000. They needed the translation quickly so they could get on with the actual discovery work. All this would cost over $80,000.
A good metric to use is that for any language a good professional translator can translate anywhere from 2000 to 2500 new words per day. This includes any research they may have to do to find the right translation. This case involved law and specialized terminology related to the mining industry and would take one translator 213 business days, which would be about nine months. If we split the files between a few translators, it would still take a few months, still much too long!
Do we have any other options for the translation process? As this was for internal use and understanding only, we recommended automatic or machine translation. Machine translation, as it is called in the trade, is more than just Google translate. Advanced programs have improved it greatly and for the major European languages, it is quite good for documents like the one described in our case.
Not long ago, machine translation was generally of poor quality, therefore, unhelpful. Now, advanced programs have emerged from large institutions and universities with capabilities for specialized terminology and regular updates. Some can be improved with glossaries and rules. We would never recommend machine translation for Shakespeare, but it can be used when the documents for translation are not client-facing and is just for understanding purposes.
Legal Translation is a common and important request at our translation company. Legal document translation is a critical and time sensitive task, and often, deadlines and budget limitations represent another challenge to balance during the process.
Legal matters travel quickly these days and to help with that, machine translation or automatic Translation can have a role. If it is for official court purposes, then the benefit of a human translator is definitely preferred. However, for a mountain of legal documents that need to be reviewed quickly and won’t go any further than the office, machine translation is worth considering. But always work with a Translation Company that has the resources, technology, experience and know how to advise and reacts quickly to problems that come during the critical process of legal document translation.