How To Translate Legal Documents

by Robert Loughry | Nov 27, 2018 2:40:00 PM | Litigation Services


From time to time, litigation firms must translate legal documents or get foreign language deposition services. Perhaps your client has a set of business documents that were drafted in a foreign language or a foreign estate plan that must be reviewed and translated. At A. William Roberts, Jr. & Associates, we offer expert court reporting and litigation services. Learn more about how to translate legal documents below, and schedule services for help with your next translation project.

Documents that May Need Translation

Common legal documents that may require translation include:

  • Foreign estate planning documents, such as wills, trusts, and advanced directives
  • Letters and correspondence drafted in a foreign language
  • Apostilles and foreign notaries
  • Foreign deeds and real estate documents
  • International contracts and agreements
  • Litigation and deposition transcripts

Practical Challenges With Translation Services

One major challenge law firms face when seeking to translate foreign documents and legal instruments written in foreign languages is making sure that the translation does not become a source of further dispute and litigation. For instance, if a corporate dispute involves a disagreement about contract language, the parties should be able to reasonably rely upon the quality and accuracy of translations so that interpretations and differences of opinion over terminology do not create new ambiguities for the parties.

Another major obstacle can be finding translators with the necessary dialect and vocabulary to interpret and effectively translate legal jargon and terminology. While many translation services may be able to translate standard materials, they may struggle with Latin expressions, which may or may not mean the same thing in a foreign court system. For instance, the terms res judicata and pro se have very specific meanings in American courts. However, these could easily be subject to a literal interpretation when translated, thereby losing their effective legal meaning.

Certification is Key

Perhaps the most important aspect of a proper legal translation is having a document certified. By doing this, courts and parties can rely on the accuracy and authenticity of the translation, thereby removing any potential disputes over the actual words of the document. This occurs in much the same way as a court reporter certifies that his or her transcript is a true and accurate account of what was spoken during a deposition. The certified translation is the translator’s sworn statement that the document is an exact duplication of the original into a foreign language.

Steps to Getting a Translation Certified

To begin the process of certifying a translation of a legal document, you will want to do the following:

  • Gather all necessary documents. Make sure you aren’t missing any important ancillary documents that would help the translator.
  • Special Requests. Will the translation be used abroad? If so, you may need to have it notarized, or you may require other forms of verification, as needed by international laws or treaties.
  • Select the Translator. Any translation service will claim to be able to translate a document, but only those who are experienced with legal documents will be able to do the job right.
  • Check Timing. Is there a deadline? Make sure to check with the translator or their company early. If it’s going to take 48 hours to complete, make sure you have everything to them in plenty of time.
  • Originals. Always make sure you keep an original in the primary language, and consider organizing a packet that includes both versions with the translator’s certification.

AWR Can Help

In addition to expert litigation services, visually appealing trial exhibits, and world class court reporting, A. William Roberts, Jr. & Associates can even help you select an appropriate legal translator. Schedule legal document translation or interpreting services with us today.

AWR News & Info