Legal translation: Why outsourcing is critical

by Sajan on November 12, 2012

Few disciplines emphasize precision like the world of law. Every word must be accurate; every carefully phrased clause needs to be strictly upheld. The stakes are even higher when you’re spanning multiple borders.Anything less than sharp-edged precision can mean the difference between winning and losing. A series of objections versus sustained success on the international legal scene. Of course, you’re also subject to outside deadlines and filing due dates in multiple countries—whether your specialty is mergers and acquisitions, patents and trademarks, compliance, e-discovery for litigation or other legal matters.

Putting these all-important legal translation projects in the hands of your bilingual in-house staffer may seem like a cost-effective idea at first glance—but take a closer look, because it can end up costing you a great deal (literally and figuratively).

Objection #1: That bilingual clerk isn’t a native speaker

Possessing fluency is simply not enough. The translator absolutely must be a native speaker of the target language in order to detect cultural expressions and other regional linguistic nuances. As you can imagine, this is especially crucial when translating an emotional deposition or record of testimony. Only a native of the target country could adequately discern the colloquialisms and subtleties of meaning that naturally find their way into off-the-cuff speech.

Missing these aspects of language in your legal translation is unthinkable since mistakes and omissions could hurt your firm’s reputation and seriously undermine your efforts.

Objection #2: The individual in question lacks proper training or knowledge

Also imperative is making sure that the linguist has the necessary legal training—a court reporter, a paralegal with a patent law background, etc. A suitable linguist also must have native familiarity with the local laws, codes and regulations as your project requires.

This is particularly true for large translation initiatives in which corporations and their documents undergo intense scrutiny—such as when companies are involved in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigations or other compliance programs. Why entrust your firm’s integrity and success to anyone other than the most qualified individuals?

In fact, if a non-certified layperson completes legal translations, the opposition can easily call into question the integrity of the translation—leading to that piece of documentation possibly getting thrown out.

To ensure compliance and to protect your reputation, it makes sense to contract with a translation provider like Sajan, who has a pool of thousands of certified, in-country experts specializing in any branch of law that you require. A legal translation performed by a certified professional linguist will stand up to the strict mandates of the courts.

Objection #3: Inadequate translation project management

Imagine having 600 documents originating from nine different countries and, after completing your initial document review, it’s determined that you need to translate roughly half. Can your bilingual temp handle this? Or even a team of full-time paralegals (who won’t be spending as much time on their other responsibilities)? Who will manage the entire undertaking and perform due diligence on translation consistency and quality?

Juggling this initiative on your own is difficult at best. Serious consequences can arise if your legal translation documents are not 100 percent accurate. Fines and lawsuits may result, in addition to the merit and validity of the document getting called into question as mentioned earlier.

All of these quality controls and contingencies need to be planned for, which may not be feasible or cost-efficient for you.

An experienced language service provider can pilot any and all stages of legal translation, ensuring quality and managing the process so you can attend to other vital aspects of your project.

Making the case for translation technologies

To spare yourself some serious heartburn, you can instead entrust your foreign language materials with a reputable language service provider that specializes in legal content translation. They can centrally store and manage all of your content using a translation management system that all credentialed individuals can access anytime.  You can also generate on-demand quality reports on a number of factors.

On the cost savings front, translation memory software can reduce your spend by searching through your shored up translated content and reusing previously translated segments at a reduced rate.

You may also choose to utilize machine translation in e-discovery or other endeavors that require you to get a fast sense of which documents demand human-performed translation.

The technologies that are available today to streamline translation projects are particularly useful and relevant for legal professionals. Increased employee time efficiencies, a stronger ability to adapt to changing timelines and content volumes, quality assurances and cost controls are just a few reasons why translation technologies make good business sense for success in legal translation.

A favorable ruling on outsourced translations

Opting to work with a reputable language service provider can be your most cost- and time-efficient strategy. Whether you elect to send out a request-for-proposal for legal translation or some other method of procurement, be sure that the language service provider you ultimately choose has the expertise and technologies that align with your unique needs.

Are you part of a law firm or in-house corporate counsel that requires legal translation? Have some wisdom of your own to impart? Share with us below.

Sajan is a leading worldwide provider of language translation and localization services. One of our areas of specialization is the legal industry. For more relevant and useful advice to help you take your programs global, visit

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