Translation Services for Legal Documents – When Do Firms Need Them?

In the legal profession, words are everything

Last Updated: July 4, 2019 8:21AM

How many ways do you work with language as a law firm?

You speak with clients and opposing council face-to-face in depositions and trials. You communicate via written documentation such as briefs, discovery documents, and court filings. There probably isn’t a billable moment in your day that doesn’t somehow include language.

And when you have a client or opposing party who speaks another language, managing these communications becomes more challenging. When does your law firm need translation services? Let us count the ways.

What is legal translation?

There are a wide range of translation services that support the legal industry. Legal translation services include document translation, certified translation, legal interpretation, on-site staffing, e-discovery support, document production, transcription, and legal localization. With Lionbridge, clients are paired with legal translation specialists who serve as partners in handling complex legal documentation.

Electronic discovery in foreign languages

Electronic discovery, commonly known as e-discovery, is the process of reviewing information that is or may become evidence in a litigation or investigation. It’s an integral part of a law firm’s activity. No matter your practice area, the bulk of documents you’ll review are usually digital. In the course of your discovery process, you need to be able to source and produce all kinds of electronic records, from computer-generated real estate documents to secure emails.

And you need to be able to review and process documents in any language.

Even if you only work with English-speaking clients, you may find that your clients communicate with people in other languages. To understand the evidence at hand, you need to translate multilingual e-discovery content.

For this, you need experienced legal translation services.

Document production

When you submit a written filing or piece of evidence, your client’s future may depend on its accuracy. But countless lawyers have spent hours arguing and litigating translation. Whose responsibility is it to translate a document—the requester’s or the sender’s?

At some point in your career, you may have to submit documentation for international disputes. If that involves translating materials into the court’s native language, you need to know you’re submitting an accurate translation.

In other cases, you may have to translate a document an opposing party has provided.

For example, in the United States, a requested document must be provided in a usable form, according to Rule 34(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. However, this rule specifically does not apply to translations from one spoken or written language into another.

If you receive a document in another language, you often bear the burden of translating it. You may have to pay the associated costs, but the responsibility of finding a good translator is still yours.

It makes sense. As an attorney, your client’s outcome is in your hands. When translating materials you’ve received from document production, make sure you’re partnered with the best.

Legal interpretation services

Attorneys frequently need to examine or take depositions from witnesses who speak other languages.

Correspondence and documentation need to be precise and accurate, regardless of the language in which they are delivered. The legal interpreter must deliver not only a translation of the speaker’s words, but also an indication of their tone of voice, nonverbal expressions, and the nuances of their meaning.

Any verbal testimony needs this level of precision, whether in or out of court. Meanwhile, the interpreter must be able to translate the high-level language of the courtroom into the witness’s native tongue. This requires an intimate familiarity with the translated language as well as legal English.

Legal localization services

Serving clients from different cultures makes for a rich and rewarding career. But communicating with your entire client base can be challenging, particularly when some clients are located in different countries.

The solution? Localization, which goes deeper than translation by allowing you to share your message with multilingual clients while preserving the cultural nuances and feel of the document as well as its precise meaning.

When you are marketing your legal services or publishing research in another language, you can’t afford to be misunderstood. You also can’t afford to have your public-facing material seem inaccessible or alien to your potential clients or colleagues in other regions.

A Multicultural Public

Think about it: if you’re looking to expand your real estate practice in China, can you cite your experience in a way that resonates with your target audience? Can you deliver content that meets the needs of real estate developers, investors, and practitioners in every locale from Shanghai to Shenzhen?

If you localize your content, you’ll come across as more relatable. Your material will look and sound like it’s native to your client’s culture, and that will help engender trust in your new market.

Certified translation services

When you have a certified document to present in court, you can’t take any chances with its accuracy. In the US, where the legal system doesn’t have a specific process for certifying translation services, it’s up to legal practitioners to do the work of finding an experienced translation team.

When certified documents are involved, this team should comprise multiple people. Certified translation is a multi-faceted process that involves several reviews of the translated document side-by-side with the original source. Professionals from several disciplines must work together to make that happen.

At Lionbridge, we employ experts who can translate legal documents into more than 350 languages. We have a dedicated team that not only translates but also submits a full quality evaluation of our work product. For certified material, an expert linguist weighs in with a line-by-line assessment to make sure that every aspect of the translated document is correct.

The Takeaways

In the legal profession, words are everything. An entire case can hinge on the nuances of a single word. This importance is only heightened when translation or interpretation is involved.

Years of litigation have resulted from seemingly minor errors. A skilled translator can save you all that trouble, as well as the resulting expenses—but you need to choose carefully. Lionbridge has been serving the legal profession for decades. We’ve served every one of the world’s top 75 firms. When clients need superior accuracy and speed, they know they can count on us.

Whether you need legal interpretation services for a trial, translation of critical documents, or on-site experts to help you navigate language barriers, you can trust us to provide high-quality work. Reach out today to learn more about how we can help you with your legal translation needs.