How to avoid common pitfalls in legal translation

As the world grows smaller thanks to the Internet, cross-border legal issues become more and more common. The Economist estimates that there are about 750 million e-commerce disputes a year with an international dimension. Clearly, legal translation is an important tool to help resolve them. However, since every country has its own laws and its own legal language, there are several pitfalls that can trap the unwary. To ensure your international legal dispute is resolved satisfactorily, you should always engage the services of a professional legal translation agency.

Specialist legal knowledge

Legal translation is more than just translating the words of a contract. An experienced legal translator will ensue that all the legal jargon and specific terminology has been translated accurately and correctly. Sometimes, there can be ambiguity in a legal document and the legal translator must highlight this to ensure the foreign lawyer or judge reads the legal translation in the same way as the original.

Different legal approaches

Unlike financial translations, which use a great deal of standardised terminology, legal language is often unique to a particular country. In the financial world, there are many international agreements and global standards that regulate the industry, so documents from all over the world can be interpreted in a consistent manner. In the legal sector, however, every country does things differently. A judgement handed down by an English court will look and read very differently from one issued out of a German court. Similarly, even legislative references and cases are cited differently, which can catch out the unwary.

Untranslatable legal concepts

In law, some words have a very distinct meaning that may not be readily understood once translated. The term ‘consideration’ in English contract law, for example, appears to be quite straightforward. However, many civil law countries like Germany, France or Spain do not have the same concept. Therefore, a professional legal translator will need to add a detailed explanation or leave the English term untranslated to ensure that the legal translation is accurate and appropriate.

Choose a professional legal translation company

The legal services industry is one of Britain’s biggest success stories. With many London law firms rated as some of the best legal practices in the world, it is important to choose a specialist legal translation agency to ensure this reputation is preserved. Given that legal translation is such a minefield, law firms are well advised only to engage the services of professional legal translators to ensure their interests, and those of their clients, are best protected.

Dot Comma is a translation agency in London, SE1 that is run by a team of lawyer-linguists. Having in-house legal translators and a dedicated network of freelancers, many of whom are lawyers themselves, means that we can provide top-quality legal translations quickly and cost-effectively. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation quotation to translate your legal document.