Beginner’s guide to legal translation

As the name suggests – legal translation deals with texts within the realm of the law. Legal matters vary from country to country, so only professional translators who specialise in the legal field should work on these documents. The translated work should be exact, as a single mistranslation could result in serious consequences including financial losses or lawsuits.

Although the legal industry is becoming increasingly global, it is still heavily regulated. Clear and concise communication with clients is of paramount importance, especially when dealing with their sensitive or personal information.

Translation or interpreting?

Legal translation services can cover many different areas including contracts and agreements, immigration documents, witnesses statements, court orders, depositions, patents, litigation documents, articles of incorporation, and property labels, for example. It is not just written documents that require legal translation though – the attendance of an interpreter in a court-room for example could also be required in some cases.



The process of converting written text from one language to another.



The process of converting the spoken word from one language to another.

What skills does a legal translator need?

Legal translation is a highly specialised field, and cannot be carried out by a translator who does not have expertise in this industry. A legal translator requires several skills, such as:

It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to legal language – each area of the law requires different terminology.

The legal language

It could be said that ‘legal speak’ is a whole language of its own. Like science and religion, legal language requires coherence, precision, and a respect for tradition.

All of our translators are aware of the cultural, social and linguistic equivalence of both of their languages. As well as conforming to the specific legal language, the translator must always keep in mind that every phrase, hidden meaning and nuance should be kept as accurate as possible. What’s more, legal systems, rights and regulations will differ across countries and cultures, so it is very important the translator has a thorough understanding of the legal system in each respective country.

Legal translation services are required by a range of different industries, ranging from technology and media to finance, life sciences and manufacturing. It is also important to consider that all law firms have different practice areas such as banking, dispute resolution, employment and benefits, insurance, intellectual property, private equity, real estate and litigation.

Legal translation is one of the toughest nuts to crack, but working with a professional and reputable language service provider will assure your translations are accurate, timely and secure.

Applying technology to speed up the process

Combining translation technology with language experts can help to improve turnaround times, reduce cost and maintain a high level of quality. We use a variety of tools to help the translation process be as seamless as possible. Find out more about some of our technology tools:

Machine translation - Beginner’s guide to legal translation

SmartMATE Machine Translation

Custom built engines can be integrated into the process, increasing productivity, whilst reducing costs and turnaround times

SmartMATE PDF - Beginner’s guide to legal translation

SmartMATE PDF Processing

Evaluate and convert PDF documents into translatable files, addressing any possible issues with the source content

Quality - Beginner’s guide to legal translation

SmartMATE Quality Checker

Measure the quality of source files quickly and easily, before the start of the project


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Lawyers can numerous challenges face when dealing with multilingual documents in the litigation process, including adhering to strict deadlines and security requirements.

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