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What are some options that a Law Firm has for Legal Translation Services?

legal translation options for law firms

Legal Translation for Law firms

 How does Legal Translation Services Work for a Law Firm

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.

There are OPTIONS When there is not enough time for Legal  Translation done by a human

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.

  • We sent the law firm a sample to see if machine translation would suit their needs. And it did!
  • The docs were done in batches and as they were processed, we saw that some of them just could not be done by machine translation. Machine translation needs a fairly clean document, lined up on the page, any extra marks such as official stamps or initials do not overlay the text, and no fold marks or creases. Some of the docs were old, hard to read by humans, much less by a machine. These we had to send to human translators, but as these documents were small in number and small in size, it did not impact the timeline.
  • In some of the larger documents, there were areas that machine translation did not handle the job well, and these were sent to human translators as well and then inserted into the machine translated document. What would have taken months was accomplished in two weeks. And the cost was less than $15,000, which was much more agreeable to the client as well.
  • Each document was reviewed to see that there were no missing translations, any odd formatting that interfered with legibility, and checked number formatting as there were a lot of banking documents. We did not review for grammar or vocabulary due to the large size of the documents. Machine translation has improved greatly for many languages, but it is not perfect. We did offer human post-editing if needed, but the machine translation was good enough for the discovery phase.

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.

Work with a Translation Company for Your Legal Translation Needs

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.

Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie was born in Venezuela and has a BS in computer engineering. As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments. She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs. 20 Years of experience in marketing Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.