Legal document translation

Common Requirements for Legal Document Translation

It can be said that translating a legal document is the most difficult of all translation work because of the complex nature of legalese which varies by country. Due to certain aspects of laws, a legal translation must be accurate and expeditious. 

There are many types of legal translations, and it is essential that you choose a translation agency with experience in legal translations and that has qualified legal translators available.  These translators should have a legal academic background and an in-depth knowledge of both the target country’s legal system and the legal system of the source country. 

The meaning of the translated document must exactly match that of the source document because even minor errors could cause catastrophic consequences for the legal case as well as your business.

Types of Legal Translation and Their Requirements

The source document is structured to conform to the culture and legal language of that legal system. In contrast, the target document will be read by another person that is familiar with another language and legal system.

That being said, it is usually either a certified or a notarized translation that is required. A certified translation means that the translator has provided a signed statement that the translation is accurate. Once a translation is certified, it becomes a legal record.

The following are examples of areas where certified translation is required for legal documents.

Court Documents

Certified translations are almost always required for legal paperwork, such as documentation used in trials or hearings which may include: 

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

Government Agencies

Any document that is submitted to a legal or government body is likely required to be a certified translation such as:  

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


Another area that usually requires certified translation is immigration. In fact, certified translations are the standard U.S. requirement for all immigration purposes. Applications for residency or temporary visitor’s permit (or visa) in a foreign country usually require that all submitted documents must be in the country’s official language such as: 

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

Business and Corporate Dealings

Typically, certified translations are required for corporations that have multiple international offices or that are seeking to increase their visibility on the international stage. 

Business-related documents that usually require certified translation include: 

  • financial reports 
  • patent filings 
  • financial statements 
  • business contracts 
  • corporate & government proposals 
  • confidentiality agreements 
  • bank deposits
  • legal disclaimers and terms of service

Businesses looking to hire foreign candidates may require certified translations of specific documents from their applicants, such as:

  • medical records
  • bank statements
  • passports or visas

Legal Translator Requirements

In general, a certified translation and a certified translator are not the same things. A certified translator is a professional translator who has received certification from an organization like the American Translators Association by passing an exam. It is important to note, however, that a translator does not need to be certified to provide a certified translation.

Hire a legal expert who is fluent in both the original language of your document and the language into which your legal document will be translated. The translator must be able to accurately reflect the meaning and intention of the original material in the target translation using the appropriate legal terminology and writing style.

They should also be well-versed in statutory requirements and the legal intricacies of foreign cultural and legal systems. In other words, they should be part legal scholar, part detective, and possess many years of legal translation expertise.

5 Critical Factors to Consider with Legal Translation

There is no room for error when it comes to legal translation. Keep these factors in mind when you need legal translation.

  1. Deadlines: With legal translation comes strict deadlines. For instance, when the translated documents are needed in court, a delay could render the document null and void. Thus, you need professionals who have the experience to provide a quick and accurate translation of documents as necessary.
  2. Confidentiality: Confidentiality is a critical issue because most legal documents contain highly sensitive data.  For this reason, it is vital to hire a trustworthy translation agency with security features to avoid sensitive materials falling into the wrong hands.
  3. Tone: The translation must retain the same tone as the original. For example, if an urgent legal notice is not communicated severely enough, the reader may not understand the severity of the situation and fail to act accordingly.
  4. Linguistic Structures: Sometimes the linguistic structures of the source language might not have direct equivalents in the target language. Therefore, the translator must be able to find a suitable language structure that is similar to the source material.
  5. Laws Change:  The law is constantly changing and evolving. Thus, it is essential to use translators who keep up-to-date with legal developments.

Get Help Translating Your Legal Documents

If the translator you hired does not have a legal degree, then consult a lawyer to find out what is required for a legal document in the U.S.  Contacting professionals in the legal field will prove invaluable.

When you need a certified legal translation you should always turn to a qualified translation company like LinguaLinx. Our network of professional translators includes attorneys, patent agents, paralegals, and NCRA™ certified court reporters who are well-equipped to meet your needs.

You know you're in good hands with our ISO 17100 compliance, twenty years of professional translation experience, and the organizations whose trust we've earned.

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