Home » News » How to Create A Standardized Process for Legal Translations

How to Create A Standardized Process for Legal Translations

Sirena Rubinoff

The following is a guest post by Sirena Rubinoff

Sirena is the Content Manager at Morningside Translations. She earned her B.A. and Master’s Degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. After completing her graduate degree, Sirena won an international fellowship as a Rotary Cultural Ambassador to Jerusalem. Sirena covers topics related to software and website localization, global business solutions, and the translation industry as a whole.

The global economy has complicated the legal world through a vast array of foreign regulations, local legal systems, and communication barriers. For litigation, the discovery process has moved beyond the standard collection of physical documents to a new branch of inquiry now called e-discovery, the collection of electronic communications.

Important materials for litigation can come in several languages in which the parties involved might not be fluent. In order to address this situation, retaining a legal translation agency to facilitate translation of materials into one’s first language has become a critical component of case preparation.

At the same time, litigation costs have risen, and managing the process of discovery and translation has become a pain point in cost management. Developing a decision-making process for translation needs will help in overall case management and keep costs within a reasonable framework.

Decide On Translation Methods

Translating documents can be accomplished through two methods: machine or human translation. Machine translation is a software approach in which original documents are scanned into a system that produces a literal translation of the material. The benefits are speed and low cost. The disadvantage is a too literal translation which does not account for context, nuance of language, or cultural considerations.

Human translation, on the other hand, provides a precise translation by experts knowledgeable in the legal field as well as in the local language and business environment. The downside, however, it the higher cost due to its inherent labor intensiveness.

To manage the costs while acquiring critical information requires the creation of a standardized process in order to select the best practices.

Consider Volume of Material

Any easy first step for legal translation consideration is the amount of legal material in need of translating. For small amounts of material, human translation is likely the best method. The per-word cost might be higher than machine translation, but the savings come from not needing to purchase machine software that might not provide an accurate translation. Using a language service provider will also eliminate the need to review a machine translation for further decisions on higher quality translation, saving time and money.

For situations with larger amounts of material, the decision-making becomes more complicated and nuanced. Developing an algorithm for decided what needs translation and the best method for each instance will enhance cost management.

Make A Decision Tree

decision tree for lawyers

Litigation materials tend to cover a vast array of subject matter. Creating a priority list by topic interest should be the first step in planning for translation needs. From there, one can hire a translation service to review documents in the original language for categorization and report back for further instruction. Alternatively, the entire set of materials could be sent through machine translation for review by the legal team for sorting material by relevancy for more precise translation.

These two main tracks can be reviewed for cost-benefit analysis. If your internal legal team can review machine translation documents more efficiently for selecting precise translation, then using human translators can be done on a more ad hoc basis. If the human translation service can provide summary reviews in the original language at a cheaper cost, relying on their expertise would be the way to go.

Choose Hybrid Approaches

The important goal is to have a system in place to guide translation decisions. Everyone within the firm can consult the decision-making guidelines and avoid multiple approaches that might increase costs unnecessarily.

A professional legal translator is also an excellent resource for the planning stages of the process. They can consult on the tools available, the costs of translations, the overall process, and other critical cross-border issues for consideration during discovery.


About the author

Nick Hastreiter

I write about the future of business. I approach this by interviewing founders, CEO's, and other game changers to share their vision for the future of their industry.