Legal Translation: Approach and Case Studies

March 31, 2022 |

Legal Translation Approach and Case StudiesThe demand for multilingual translation in legal departments and law firms is on the rise. Global law firms and international companies frequently need support from outside service and technology firms to meet their global needs. Multilingual support is often required in various areas such as court reporting, e-discovery for litigation, and virtual data rooms for mergers and acquisitions and bankruptcy cases. In every case, achieving fast turnaround times with error-free results is of utmost importance to the firm and its clients.

For companies and firms conducting business in multiple international regions, translation presents steep challenges related to cost and efficiency. Overcoming those challenges requires the right mix of technological and human support.

Faced with any case involving foreign language issues, lawyers should be aware of the main options for translation and when to employ each one. A translation solutions partner can design an appropriate workflow with a rapid human and technological resource deployment for rapid review of astronomical amounts of data and offer a team of experienced, human experts or document reviewers for more accurate, thorough translation and review of the most critical documents involved in discovery.Legal translation is probably one of the most complicated types of translation in this day and age. Anyone who has skimmed over any legal document will know that the writing style used is not the easiest to grasp without years of study and practice. Beyond that, there are a number of other factors that end up making translating a legal text into another language quite the challenge. This is why only the best and most qualified translators should be hired to do this sort of translation work.

Quality legal translation can mean the difference between success and failure. That is why so many lawyers and their support team choose to work with selected Language Service Providers on key cases:

  • Contracts
  • Constitutions, laws, and decrees
  • Judgments and arbitration rulings
  • Legal commentaries
  • Evidence files (including handwritten documents)
  • Expert reports on human rights law, governance reform, and development
  • Patents and other technical documents
  • Correspondence for cross-border negotiations
  • Ministry documents, organization charts, and PowerPoint decks

The Unique Challenges of Legal Translation

Translating legal documents from across the world presents many issues, including:

Regional Differences. International legal systems have evolved in different directions over the decades. United States Legal Code, Islamic Shari’a, the Napoleonic Code, British common law, and Ottoman Kanun law have all influenced international legal systems over time. When it comes to legal terms and court systems there is no “one size fits all” approach. legal translators must not only be familiar with English legalese, but also how these terms apply in various states.

Many translators have a law degree or work in partnership with a lawyer who is knowledgeable of the foreign legal system and terminology.

Same Word, Different Meaning. Another challenge with legal translation is that words mean different things in a legal context. Mistranslating words such as “petition,” and “motion” can reverse the meaning. This can cause major legal headaches down the road. For example, translating the French term quiproquo with the English expression Quid pro quo” will inevitably lead to misunderstandings. The English word “ Charge” can carry the financial meaning of a fee for service, a formal criminal charge, or a lien but it has a very different meaning in French (load). Each of these meanings requires a different legal term in each language.

Handwritten Documents. While the translation industry is going digital, many documents in some countries remain in longhand. In some countries, most depositions, witness testimony, police reports, and other official legal documents are handwritten. These documents are often photocopied hastily, leaving source materials hard to read.

Stylistic Challenges. Foreign language court rulings are written in a style that is sometimes hard to unpack. Rulings often contain the arguments of both parties, case law excerpts, and the judge’s opinion, all rolled into a single, page-long sentence. Needless to say, these complex forms must be broken into shorter English sentences. It is critical that translators understand the underlying case, and not translate mechanically.

Certified Translation: Legal documents often require certified translation. This means that the translation company stamps each page of the translation and provides a notarized, signed affidavit attesting to the translation’s accuracy.

Legal Translation Case Studies

Translation of a 230-page Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from English to French

Translation of 6,000 pages of legal documentation following a Request for International Judicial Assistance in a terrorism case in French, and Dutch.

Translation of a handwritten police report with autopsy.  We translated dozens of pages of handwritten police report with evidence materials and autopsy from Haitian French and Creole to English for a criminal court case involving a murder case in Haiti.

Translation of 8,000 pages of legal documents for a request for extradition in a criminal case, into French Dutch and vice versa.

Translation of massive amounts of legal documents from the United States Court of Appeals, and various branches of the Department of justice (petitions, opinions, court orders from foreign courts relating to double jeopardy treaty provisions, specialty and dual criminality treaty provision in US law and foreign legislations.

Category: Translation Services

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