What is Legal Translation and How Does it Work?

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Alex Parr, Managing Director at Wolfestone, explains what legal translation is and how it works. 

Legal translation can be a fairly dry term for what is a complicated procedure of creative meeting technical. Legal issues can easily arise from incorrect term usage due to its ambiguity or perhaps by being too specific and not cover what is intended. Legal translation may also be one of the challenges that perhaps you believe is out of your budget.

Not necessarily. Legal translation is something that can benefit from a partial machine translation service due to the translation memory method of clever tools such as our Synergy X. This can lead to significant savings month on month once you’ve built up a repeat glossary of terms or key legal phrases.

Before we get to that, it is first key to address what legal translation is and how it works.

What is Legal Translation?

Legal translation does not apply only to the legal sector. Each company requires legal work, from employee contracts to branching out into new territories. All of these take part in a language of its own – legalese, if you will.

That’s why all linguists need to be legal experts in designated fields. Not only that, the translator should be culturally aware to help avoid mistranslations or colloquial errors that can be more than a simple mistake, it can be a lawsuit, a loss in a case, a court delay or cause a huge contractual obligation that could cost thousands.

With experience in this area, this can be avoided due to understanding the delicate and sensitive nature of legal document translation as a service. If you know the importance of language in the legal sector, then your translator will be even more cautious when adapting to ensure that no clause, ambiguity or overt specificity remains.

How Does Legal Translation Work?

Translation is not as simple as putting one language into another; if you carry it over literally then you will lose flow, context and sometimes even sense.

Therefore, you need the creative side to recreate sentences with the legal equivalence and structure. Sometimes the translator needs to put an appendix to go further into detail about the possible issues that may arise with this translation.

What is necessary for these translators who are industry experts is that they stay up to date in their respective fields. Regular access to important tools like legal dictionaries, online databases, libraries, journals and all the material that facilitates the translator, allow them to remain on top of their game to deliver the best quality translation.

As briefly mentioned in the intro of this article, legal translation can also benefit from a partial machine translation service due to the repetitive nature of the wording in contracts, which allows when matched with our smart translation technology tools, for great time and cost savings due to repetitions. 

Finally, LSPs should all provide their services with security in mind; through extensive NDAs to protect your information to sophisticated cloud-based hosting so no files are stored locally to prevent leaking.

Why Choose Wolfestone?

There are several things to look for when selecting a language services provider. It’s important to have a supplier that can keep up the pace and help you deliver your projects on time and on budget. More than that, you need a company that understands the legal sector before it can begin operating within it. After years of experience collaborating with legal partners, local and global, Wolfestone doesn’t just understand the legal sector, it’s a part of it. 

Language services providers (LSPs) need to be equipped in highly-qualified industry specialists to carry out the translation. At Wolfestone, we have these in over 200 languages – including rare languages – to ensure that you find the right translator, linguist or interpreter with the right amount of qualifications, experience and maintains the high-quality we strive to achieve. As we say: language drives us, excellence defines us. 

Wolfestone is the trusted provider of several companies within the legal sector. In 2016, we translated nearly three million words for the legal industry. Not only that, our commitment to providing the best services was illustrated last year (2016) as our customer satisfaction was 10% higher than the industry average at 99.6%. 

Legal translation is a curious case of technical meeting the creative and it requires a specific skillset to ensure the translation is as secure as the original. When choosing a partner, look for an experienced, knowledgeable and collaborative provider who understands your specific needs.  


To find out more about how Wolfestone can support you with your legal translations please email hello@wolfestone.co.uk or visit the team on stand L422.