Legal Translation Services Cost

Why are legal translations more expensive?

Before I get into the details of legal translation services cost, I want you to consider an example of legal text. The following comes from a summary judgement from Celotex Corp. v. Catrett – 477 U.S. 317 (1986). I selected a random paragraph so that we can see what legal translators have to work with on a daily basis.

“(c) No serious claim can be made that respondent was “railroaded” by a premature motion for summary judgment, since the motion was not filed until one year after the action was commenced, and since the parties had conducted discovery. Moreover, any potential problem with such premature motions can be adequately dealt with under Rule 56(f). P. 477 U. S. 326.”

Wow! The first thing I noticed was the complexity of sentences.

I had to read this a couple times and break it down to understand it. Secondly, there is the symbolic phrase, “railroaded,” to deal with. English is full of symbolic phrases, and a legal translator must relay the meaning exactly as it is written in the source text. That can be quite a handful, especially in cultures that are more disparate. Thirdly, the legal terms, themselves, can be very challenging to understand.

Now we are beginning to understand what level of education and specialization is required to understand a legal summary in one language. But wait, a legal translator has to be this fluent in 2 languages? And make no mistakes? For this reason, legal translation services require professionals with a very high level of education and specialized training.  That in and of itself increases the cost of legal translation.

What about mistakes?

With legal translations also comes liability. There can be serious and costly consequences if a legal translation is not accurate and complete. In an extreme scenario, the course of an entire trial could be changed by the mistranslation of a single word. Don’t believe me? Check out this page detailing some translation and interpreting errors in Canada with big consequences.

Why do legal translators need to be so specialized?

Technical translations require professional translators with industry specific training and experience. And the legal field can certainly be one of the most challenging subjects for any translator. In fact, very few people can readily understand legalese, the technical terminology of law practice, in their native language! Legal documents will frequently envelope other specialties, as well, such as engineering and diplomacy. To further complicate matters, great variances can occur across languages and cultures. Think, for example, of how different courts are operated in The US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. A Spanish > English translator with vast experience in Canadian law may not be qualified to translate document intended for use in a British court.

What situations call for a specialized legal translations?

We run into legal documents all the time in our everyday lives. Whenever you click ‘agree’ on those iTunes terms of use, you are entering into a legal agreement. Whenever you go to the doctor and the receptionist give you a copy of privacy practices, you are dealing with a legal document. These are highly technical documents, written by lawyers, in order to protect your rights and the rights of the other party.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In today’s global society, legal translations are everywhere. The Economistdetails some court cases that required a vast amount of translation here. Apple and Samsung have recently been involved in lawsuits with one another, and the terms involved in those particular cases require a translator skilled both in technology and law terminology.

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