Best practices for legal translation

Best Practices

legal translation

Just as your firm pays great attention to detail when producing legal papers, legal translation requires careful handling by specialized professional translators.

Poorly translated documents – whether there are errors in meaning, language or formatting – can pose serious risks to business negotiations, to the strength of a court case or to a legal firm’s credibility with international clients and partners.

The good news is that these translations can be entrusted to language service providers that understand the need to comply with local norms and regulations and that work with specialized and highly trained professionals.

Here are a few best practices that good translation service provider will take into account when working with your legal documents:

1. Ensuring data confidentiality

The first rule of handling legal paperwork and court documents is confidentiality. It is essential to choose a language partner with strong data security policies and translators who have signed NDAs to ensure that sensitive information is kept safe.

Translation agencies make good use of software, such as translation platforms, in order to work more quickly and efficiently. These databases are kept highly secure to protect clients’ data.

2. Working to tight deadlines

In legal departments and law firms, work is fast-paced and time-sensitive, so it is important to find a language service provider that can keep up. Here are a few elements to look for when selecting a translation provider:

Fast response times

  • Responding quickly to translation requests and providing a quote within the hour

Quick turnarounds

  • Translation projects can be completed to tight deadlines, according to your project’s requirements

Always available

  • Teams that are available 24/7

To find out more about the translation technology we use, read our e-book about legal and financial translation

3. Certification for translated legal documents

Many legal translations will need to be certified. The process of certification varies from country to country and, in some cases, means using a sworn translator who has been verified by the courts of the country where the translation will be used.

In some countries, translation is not as heavily regulated, so ‘sworn’ translators do not exist, though the translated document may still need to be notarized. In any case, it is very important that the translator has good credentials to ensure a high quality translation that does not risk being rejected by the end user.

4. Expert linguists 

Any translation project should be undertaken by a highly skilled native speaker of the target language, so that nuances of meaning are expressed accurately. Maintaining an impeccable quality of language is particularly important when it comes to translating legal documents, as the importance of these subtle differences in meaning is amplified in a legal context.

5. Subject specialists

The issue of accuracy in legal translation is not only a matter of language proficiency, but also of subject expertise. Professional legal translators have in-depth knowledge of the legal system of the country for which they produce translated documents. Legal translators are often highly specialized in a particular area of law, such as corporate law, real estate, intellectual property law, etc.

6. Correct formatting protocol

Formatting can be a challenge when translating certain legal documents. Where necessary, translators may insert explanatory notes to give details on formatting or translation decisions. Where elements of an original document cannot be translated, such as a signature, this may be indicated with a word or phrase in brackets, rather than copying and pasting the original.

Confidentiality, tight deadlines, certification, linguistic expertise, specialization, protocol… these are all good reasons why your legal translation project is best entrusted to an experienced and professional language service provider.


Does your firm require translation for legal documents? Download our free e-book on ‘How to adapt your legal and financial documents for international markets’.