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What is Legal Translation?

The term legal translation refers to the translation of any text used within the legal system. As documents used for legal purposes are generally required to be submitted in the official language of a relevant jurisdiction the term can encompass a wide variety of texts including, but not limited to, witness statements, legal rulings and precedents, filed patents, transcripts, official reports, financial documents and identity documentation. A wide variety of other sources of information can also be subject to legal translation depending on their contextualised relationship to legal proceedings. For example the Will and testament of an expatriate may be subject to translation into the language of the jurisdiction in which they have died in order for a probate lawyer to begin the process of executing the instructions contained therein. Generally legal translation services are only undertaken by those with specialist knowledge as mistranslations, especially of contracts, can carry significant financial and legal consequences.

The means of regulating legal translators vary from country to country. In many countries specific degrees are offered in Legal and Business Translation. Some states (such as Argentina and Brazil) require the use of state-certified public translators whilst a majority of states, including Spain, Sweden and The Netherlands stipulate that legal translators swear legal oaths and are centrally regulated and examined in order to ensure proficiency and good practice (this is also known as a sworn translation). Furthermore other legislations (such as Italy) require legal translations to be notarised (i.e. certified) by a relevant legal professional. Read more