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Machine Translation: The Future of Multilingual Legal Cases

How legal Machine Translation helps law firms save time, money, and improve efficiency in global legal cases

It’s common knowledge that the legal sector is slow to adopt new technology. While the use of Machine Translation (MT) has been on the rise across other fields, law firms relied on contract lawyers who spoke the language, until recently. These bilingual lawyers were tasked with reviewing large volumes of documents and translating a subset of relevant ones. Legal teams would then review the subset to determine which ones may be used in an official capacity and would require a certified translation

It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic upended international litigation that many firms began looking for alternative solutions for legal document translation. With borders closed, outsourcing became more difficult, which prompted them to use Machine Translation to ensure multilingual legal documents were prepared on time. Today, more firms than ever are using legal Machine Translation to save time, money, and improve efficiency — particularly when it comes to anti-trust and global litigation. 

Here’s a look at how you can use MT for your multilingual legal cases.    


What Is Machine Translation? 

Before we cover the benefits of Machine Translation, it’s important to understand what it is and how it works. Simply put, it’s an automated translation of text performed by a computer without human involvement. 

The two most common types are Statistical Machine Translation (SMT) and Neural Machine Translation (NMT). SMT relies on statistical models and large data sets to predict the best translation. NMT also uses data sets, but combines them with artificial intelligence (AI) and neural networks to render the outcome. With NMT, neural networks attempt to mimic the thought process of a translator instead of “guessing” the likely outcome. This method produces a more natural sounding translation than SMT, which is slowly being phased out. 

Three business people collaborating on a legal assignment

4 Types of Machine Translation Strategies

Organizations can incorporate MT into the translation process in a variety of ways. Here are four of the most popular strategies.   

  • Free MT Services. Free online tools such as Google Translate produce quick translations for small amounts of content. Yet these tools use the input to train the MT engines, which makes this strategy less than ideal when it comes to privacy and security.  
  • Cloud MT. Cloud services that are offered by large technology companies are a good option for organizations that need large scale deployments. Companies that choose this strategy must have in-house computational scientists or MT specialists who can train MT engines.
  • Best-of-the-Breed MT. This strategy integrates MT engines from different tech companies into one platform. It lets you select the best option based on content type or language pair, making it the most flexible strategy that increases quality and reduces costs.
  • On-premises MT. Like the name states, this strategy installs MT technology on the premises of the company using it. It’s a convenient solution for organizations that want complete control over their data. It requires an in-house MT server that must be trained and managed, making this the costliest strategy. 

The MT strategy that will work best for you depends on several factors including: the type of content, size of the project, budget, and internal resources. For example, free MT services may work well for short, generic texts, while Best-of-the-Breed MT would work better for large volumes of multilingual documents. However, for best results, human translators still need to refine MT output through post-editing services.   

The Benefits of Adding MT to the Legal Translation Process

As we mentioned above, MT helps law firms save a significant amount of time and money on legal document translation. That’s because it can: 

  • Quickly process thousands of multilingual legal documents simultaneously.
  • Complete the first review to determine which documents are relevant.
  • Reduce the number of contract lawyers needed.
  • Reduce the number of documents human translators need to prepare for a case.

Machine translation does this by using both subject matter and individual, case-specific data to train the engine. The more relevant data you add, the more relevant the legal translation output will be. This reduces the need for a large team of contract lawyers who can review the first set of foreign language documents, making translation more affordable. 

In addition to reducing translation costs and turn-around times, MT can integrate with e-discovery platforms to enable the secure transfer of data between parties. This streamlines the flow of content between law firms, clients, e-discovery vendors, and legal translation providers. You can easily flag documents within the e-discovery platform and automatically deliver them to customized MT engines. The engines automatically deliver the translated data back to the platform and map it to the source location. 

Person reviewing a legal document

Legal Translation at Lionbridge 

Now that you know how MT can transform your multilingual legal cases, it’s time to choose a translation service provider that can execute the process. At Lionbridge, we offer best-in-class Machine Translation that securely translates legal documents of any size at a fraction of the cost of human translation projects.

As your language services partner, we can:

  • Simplify the translation process and save you hundreds of hours of administration time. With just a few clicks, you can request — and receive — a Machine Translation in minutes.
  • Guarantee the security of legal translations using state-of-the art security and privacy features that ensure data is never stored, either on the cloud or on our servers. 
  • Provide e-discovery support by translating content into 350+ languages quickly and efficiently with our best-in-class e-discovery platform, Lionbridge for Relativity. 

To give you a better idea of what we can do, let’s take a look at a few projects. Here’s a quick overview of what we’ve accomplished while working in conjunction with clients and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

  • Translation of hundreds of thousands of documents for production to the DOJ for a second request.

    We developed a workflow, in consultation with our client and the DOJ antitrust division, where we process the files initially as Machine Translation. Upon request from the law firm or DOJ, we provide an enhanced translation of key documents that are reviewed by human translators.

    The DOJ noted to our client that our quality, including the initial Machine Translation, was “light years” ahead of what they received from another party. This workflow significantly speeds up the processing time for our client’s production and saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

  • Neural Machine Translation of 70k+ Excel and PowerPoint files, in multiple languages, for submission to the DOJ in connection with a merger in the automotive industry. 

    We were retained because the DOJ had rejected Machine Translations of Excel and PowerPoint files provided by our client’s e-discovery vendor.

  • Neural Machine Translation of 125+ million words, in six languages, for a large-scale merger in the agriculture and biotechnology industries. 

    Our team of localization engineers and NMT experts developed a customized workflow to facilitate rapid turnaround times and high-quality output. This allowed our client to ultimately gain DOJ approval for the transaction, while potentially saving millions of dollars in translation costs.

As you can see, we have the knowledge, experience, and technology you need to ensure smooth and efficient global legal proceedings. For more than 20 years, we have provided top-quality legal translation services to a multitude of global clients including 92% of Global 100 and AmLaw 100.

Get in touch

To learn more about what Lionbridge can do, get in touch today.

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