The Complexities of Legal Translation

Among various types of content translation, the most challenging one is legal translation.

Within language services, there is a huge demand for Legal Translation Services. Why? Because this is something that a simple native speaker cannot do. Along with language expertise, industry knowledge is also important. You need professional legal experts who are also multilingual. Without these two factors, you will never be able to achieve effective translation for legal documents.

Like every other industry,  the legal content includes industry-specific jargon that only the experts can understand. Therefore, to get a flawless and fluent translation, professional assistance is required. Before proceeding ahead and finding out what makes a legal translation document good or bad, it’s imperative to expound upon the complexities that are experienced during the process of legal translation.

Here are some of the factors that make legal translation difficult. Take a look!

The Difference in Legal Systems

Every sovereign state has its own legal system. The language in which the constitution is written strictly adheres to the legal system of that particular country. Hence, translating a legal document into another language can be a daunting challenge if you are unaware of the intricacies of their legal system. Because that specific law might be interpreted completely differently in your own home country or might not even exist. For instance, Continental law has no notion of equity present in it. Every legal rule associated with this notion is different. Hence, continental law has no equidistant to legal systems in other regions.

Thereby, the professional translation services you decide to go for must have a thorough concept and understanding of the variability factor of state legal laws. The service must ensure that there are no discrepancies or errors in the post-translation process.

Legal Jargon

One of the biggest challenges that occur while translating legal documents is to deal with legal terminologies. These phrases or legal jargon cannot be interpreted, understood, and then translated by ordinary native speakers who don’t have enough background knowledge of the industry. Rather, professional lawyers are the ones who can understand them. Since they spent a lot of time reviewing, reading, and writing legal files, lawyers have the highest comprehension of legal documents. Thereby, you need not worry about lawyers using their own words. Because they are in the position to translate better than any other non-legal professional.

Moreover, a lot of these legal documents contain sentences that are very complex in nature. The reason behind this complexity is that the subject matter of such legal documents is not constrained to only one subject. Rather it is the amalgamation of various niche topics, which can only be understood by legal experts having a robust conceptualization of legal terminologies.


Another complexity that people face during legal translation is the assurance of periodic quality checks. The quality assurance mechanism does not only relate to the translated legal document, rather it concerns the entire translation work process of the organization. The translation agency should have a proper recruitment mechanism in place for hiring professional legal translators. This may include doing a strong background check of the legal experts to ascertain whether they have done legal translations previously or not. If this quality is not maintained, the chances of getting translation errors will increase and it will jeopardize the brand image of the firm.

There are many translation agencies that offer legal translations on the side just to attract customers and enhance their brand image. However, you should always avoid such agencies that do not have a separate legal department that handles legal translations. But avail the service of a translation agency that has translators who specialize in translating legal documents.

Style and Tone of Legal Translation

Legal writing is different from other forms of writing majorly due to the fact that the style and tone of the legal document are completely discrete. One can assume that legal documents are highly formal in nature. Hence the reason legal translator experts prefer using an active voice in the grammatical structure of legal translations. This form of writing depicts certain characteristics that can only be used for legal documents. So what it does is that it tends to remove any sort of incertitude by naming the actor or the subject in a sentence. Thereby, the reader is clearly able to ascertain who will be executing the appointed duties.

Moreover, many translation agencies negate the idea of using precise and clear language and prefer to use difficult words in an attempt to impress their clients. This is an absolute mistake. Legal writing should never be redundant. And the use of adjectives should be kept to a minimum. Moreover, legal writing should never be in the past tense, rather a present tense. Ensure that the legal document conveys the message as if it is written for the current time frame. Because if you use the past tense, dealing with complex and tricky verb forms


Now you have a clear understanding of what complexities occur during the process of translating legal documents. These complexities will teach you one important thing and i.e. you should never opt for an agency unplanned. Make sure that you do the background check pertaining to the legal translation services provided by that organization. Within your background check make sure that the legal translators are aware of the different legal systems. Moreover, ensure that your agency is fluent in the use of legal jargon and does not compromise the effectiveness of the legal document by using passive voice and redundant words. Because you have to understand, one little error in a legal document can change the entire meaning of the sentence. And its consequences are a lot worse than a mistake made in any other document. In simple words; ‘You can face Legal Actions such suits or subpoena, or even go to jail. Thus, to be on the safe side, you can opt for certified translations for legal content. Always be careful and do your homework properly before availing of legal services.

Interesting Related Article: “The Importance of Translation in Business