Six Ideal Characteristics of a Legal Translator

Translating legal documents into other languages can be very difficult. Not only does each country have its own legal terminology, it also has its own legal and patent filing system. When translating legal materials, serious mistakes can trigger ramifications including costly legal action and loss of business. This is why it is so important to engage experienced, professional legal translators, ideally those who you can utilize on a regular basis and establish a long-term relationship with to manage your global legal portfolios.

A legal translator must have considerable experience and training in a number of areas:

  • Fluency in source language and native proficiency in target locale
  • Familiarity with legal terminology for relevant countries
  • Knowledge of technology and industry sector
  • Experience with appropriate area of law including patent, IP, trademark, and litigation

For example, when filing a foreign patent application relating to chemical or pharmaceutical compounds, the designated translator must have knowledge of patent application styles and rules and also understand the context of all chemical and pharmaceutical references and materials.

A professional legal translator is not just a linguist. They should also have recognized and vetted legal expertise with a focus in particular areas of the law that apply to the content material being translated. The translator has to understand where the translation will be used and be able to translate complex legal materials, phrases and diagrams. This applies even if the source text is not well written.

Anyone looking to integrate legal translations as part of their overall global legal process should partner with an established legal language services provider and should expect any translator assigned to them to have the following characteristics:

  1. Years of translation experience in a related field, such as patent work, as well as knowledge of the subject matter and on-going research and development in the field is important.
  2. Advanced proficiency in the source language and native proficiency in the target language, combined with excellent research skills and close familiarity with pertinent legal and technical resources.
  3. Familiarity with existing industry brands, products and company culture.
  4. Experience with and access to the latest translation tools and systems including management of translation memories (TMs), glossaries and terminology management, translation automation and language tools. Use of machine translation (MT) and post-editing can be especially useful in situations where there are high volumes of content and tight deadlines, for example a global litigation e-Discovery process.
  5. Ability to work under high pressure with often tight deadlines.
  6. A desire and love of international legal systems and linguistics! Having a hunger and enthusiasm to work with complex multilingual legal materials is an advantage!

Many smaller translation agencies will make themselves available at the last minute, charging inappropriate fees for last minute, rush work and often delivering low quality translation work that is not usable. Some firms may use their foreign associates, which can be extremely expensive and may also result in varying levels of quality and inconsistent terminology across countries.

Establishing a strategic relationship with a trusted legal translation specialist, like Park IP Translations, is the best option when you are depending consistency, quality, accuracy and language technology to put the right team, environment and set of processes in place for ongoing legal translations. Make sure any provider utilizes relevant certified quality assurance processes including ISO 9001:2008, to ensure every translation meets the highest quality standards.

Park IP Translations selects translation teams based on knowledge of language, subject matter and target audience. Experience working with Chief IP Counsel, top litigators, legal professionals in top law firms around the world, pays off for our  clients.  It enables us to scale to meet large influxes of material with tight deadlines, apply a very large qualified pool of legal translators.  It is the characteristics any global organization should come to expect when relying on them to protect their most valued assets.


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