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What is the Real Meaning of Legal Translation?

The term “legal translation” sometimes confuses people. When you say something is legal, the first thing that comes to mind is that it is related to law. Although legal translation does handle law-related documents such as legal rulings, litigation papers, and wills, it also works on patents, transcripts, and financial reports.

Legal translation is defined as the translation of documents related to the regulation of legal relationships, including international relations and information dissemination among law practitioners in various countries.

Legal translation is one of the most difficult branches of translation services that require a high level of linguistic skills, excellent knowledge of local and international legislation, laws, standards, and cultural differences.

Legal translation

Legal translation is a multi-faceted specialized translation service. It covers various documents needed by the criminal justice and civil systems.

Legal translations require trained, subject matter experts. The translators must have an in-depth understanding of the laws of the source and target languages. High levels of accuracy are imperative in legal translations. Legal texts can have several meanings depending on the choice of words. Thus, legal translators must be knowledgeable in legal terminology of the source and target languages, aside from knowing regional and cultural differences.

Do you see how complex legal translation is? The service demands so much more from the legal translator than just linguistic skills. They should be able to translate concepts correctly. Each word should be used with care because ambiguity can render a legal document void, and even a small mistake can have costly implications.

Legal English is usually long and complicated. Often the statutory text is written in the passive voice, whereas many target languages use active voice. The licensing of legal translators differs by country. In some countries, they should have a legal translation degree and a business degree, while in other countries, they need certification from their state or federal court. In the United States, for example, certification programs are offered by the American Translators Association.

Differences between legal translation and certified translation

Many people are confused between certified translation and legal translation, and some people think the two are the same. The truth is there are differences between these two branches of translation service.

Legal translation

Legal translation deals with translating text concerning legal documents that are often prepared by lawyers and professionals involved in law practice. This concerns a long list of documents such as court and witness transcripts, depositions, legal disclaimers, affidavits, regulations, laws, government and legal ruling reports, legal certifications and statements, technical documents to support litigation efforts, and litigation and arbitration documents, among other.

Legal translation also involves corporate and business documents such as patent filings, contracts, letters of credit, licenses, registration documents, powers of attorney, partnership deeds, sales contracts, trademarks and copyrights, service agreements, distribution agreements, personal documents, and more.

The European Commission and the United Nations are international institutions that often require legal translation services. Outside of the international organizations, most legal translation works are requested by court registries, law firms, and various companies.

Certified translation

Certified translation, which may involve legal, scientific, literary or technical contents, is required when the translation must be submitted to an organization or entity that needs a certificate attesting to the accuracy of the translation. It is dated and signed by either the translator or the translation company.

In the U.S., for example, the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) requires immigration applicants to submit certified translations of all their supporting documents that are not written in English. Law firms, the U.S. courts, educational institutions, and some corporations may also require foreign nationals to provide certified translations of specific documents.

Documents that may require certified translations

Legal paperwork

  • court transcripts
  • litigation materials
  • evidence documents
  • witness statements
  • deposition records

Government or legal agencies

  • application letters
  • birth and death certificates
  • technical patent confirmation
  • wills and testaments
  • adoption agreements


  • immigration documents
  • birth certificates
  • driver’s licenses
  • marriage certificates

Corporate and business entities

  • business contracts
  • financial statements
  • patent filings
  • financial reports
  • legal disclaimers and terms of service
  • bank deposits
  • confidentiality agreements
  • corporate & government proposals
  • passports or visas (for overseas work applicants)
  • bank statements (for overseas work applicants)
  • medical records (for overseas work applicants)

Do I need a lawyer before I get a legal translation service done?

Technically, you do not need a lawyer to avail of legal translation services. You need a lawyer to prepare your legal documents. If you are going to submit your legal documents to entities that require all documents to be written in their language, what you need is a legal translator.

A legal translator is a linguist with expertise in legal matters. The translator could be someone who has experience in the legal industry and knows legal terminology. Some of them may specialize in different areas of law, such as banking and finance law, commercial law, corporate law, family law, criminal law, public law, and media law.

Each area has its set of terms. Thus, many legal translators specialize in their field of choice according to their knowledge and experience. Many legal translators get specialized training to become certified or continue their education to earn additional degrees.

Types of legal translation modern businesses need

Today’s business environment focuses on local and foreign target audiences. With the availability of various communication tools, it is necessary for a modern company to interact with different target markets effectively. They need to talk to their audience in their specific language.

The legal requirements of each overseas market are different, and companies have to understand their legal obligations. Modern businesses can benefit from legal translation in a variety of ways.

Translation of legal market research 

Each market has a unique set of regulations that apply to local and foreign companies. As an international brand, you should understand the legal requirements affecting your business operations within a country or territory. You should comply with local regulations that may affect corporate documentation, finance, refund policies, advertising and marketing campaigns, product safety, and consumer rights. The legal information should be available in the languages spoken by everyone who works in every department

Translation of intellectual property

As an international brand, every change and innovation you develop for your products have legal implications. For your protection, you should ensure the security of your intellectual property rights. It will prevent others from copying your brand or your product. It also gives you the right to take action against anyone who attempts to copy your product.

Translation of contracts

When you operate globally, you need to prepare various business contracts. Legal translation can help ensure that your contracts are accurate, and each party can clearly understand the content.

Translation of terms and conditions

Your legal team prepares terms and conditions. Consumers and other businesses and organizations should understand your terms and conditions in their language, as they pertain to your general business policies, services, and products. Consumers should understand their obligations when they purchase your products, consent to handle their private data and sign up for any of your services.

Entrust your legal translations with us at eTS

eTranslation Services is fully capable of providing you with professional legal translations. We have a team of native-speaking legal translation experts who specialize in different areas of legal translation. We assure you that see to that our legal translations are 100% accurate and pass our strict quality control procedure. Whenever you need legal translations, send us a message at [email protected] or call (800) 882-6058.

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