Qualities of a Good Legal Translation Agency

Legal_TranslationsA solidly trained legal translator faces major obstacles with every translation of a legal document he or she must undertake. Because hundreds of countries and legal systems exist in the world today, not only must the language and code of the text be taken into account, but also the variations in tone, syntax and legal terminology.

Accurate legal translations are a must if the case being processed is important for an individual, a business or government agency. But what should you look for in a legal translation provider? Read on to find out the seven aspects you should look for in a quality legal translation service.

A Strong Knowledge of the Law

A legal translator undertaking a project must intimately be informed about the legal codes of the two countries involved in the work. Not only should the translator be strongly skilled in translating legal terminology, he or she must be able to understand and communicate the tone of voice, application and culture of the text in the target language. Legal documents in English, for instance, are decidedly formal and regularly use the passive voice. A legal translator working with a target language that uses the active voice, for example, Italian, must be sensitive to the tone when translating.

The translator must also be careful with feminine and masculine noun use in the target language. As an example, a UK company was given a translated proceeding by an Italian company regarding patent rights that regularly referred to “the actress”.

This stumped the British firm since there was no referral to the cinema or theater in the document topic. The translator had stuck to a strict, straight-forward translation by translating the Italian word “attore” which means “actor” but also “claimant or plaintiff.” Since the company in question was a “societa”, a feminine gender noun, the translator used the feminine version of the word “actor”.


Law firm deadlines for the translation of M&A documentation, patents, arbitration and litigation documents are often firm. The service itself can be expensive when the project is big. In this instance, the lengthly document is often scanned and sent to the legal translation provider in scanned data files or bundles, or, as is typical in arbitration or litigation cases, in multiple email attachments that contain repetitive segments.

With such projects, work with a legal translation agency that can affordably offer scalability so that the delivery of the translated document will be delivered on time and within budget.

A good translation agency will assign the work to a seasoned team of legal translators, proofreaders and editors to split up and take care of the project. Such a team would be able to translate thousands of words a day and work towards consistency across all segments of the text.

Stay In Touch

When you regularly inform the translation agency of upcoming projects that need to be translated, you are assuring a smooth translation and delivery of the finished translated work. Warning an agency of upcoming work is essential if the agency is to make sure the translation team will be free and available to process the text when it finally arrives.

Because long-term projects often require transcription and interpreting on top of the translation, having your law firm hand over reference materials and key term glossaries beforehand will better prepare the translation team for the provision of a quality service. If working with a new agency, ask to receive a translation sample so that you can evaluate the quality of the work and provide feedback on style and terminology before handing over the full text to translate.

Look for the Right Agency

Getting your document expertly translated means you will have to find the right translation partner — one that can put together an efficient team of translators, interpreters, proofreaders and project managers who can process your document quickly.

Research the firms you find and look up reviews left by other customers. If the agency has a high trust rating and offers documents that are verified and certified, you are on the right track to finding a partner who can offer you the translation services you require.

By Sean Patrick Hopwood, Founder of

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