There are many different avenues that you can pursue to become a translator. Rather than settle for general translation, you can diversify by specializing in a specific field such as legal or medical translation.

Legal translation defined

Legal translation refers to the process of replacing source language with the target language. In short, legal translation refers to the translation of any written text within the legal system. Documents that are utilized in legal proceedings or for legal purposes are generally required to be submitted in the official language of the jurisdiction in charge. Legal documents can vary but may include:

  • Legal rulings and precedents
  • Legal transcripts
  • Official reports
  • Financial documents
  • Documents referring to identity
  • Government documents, etc.

Other documents may also be subject to legal translation depending on the context of the legal proceedings in question. For instance, the last will and testament of an expatriate may need to be translated into the language of the jurisdiction that the expatriate died in before any of the proceedings to start.

Overall, legal translations should only be undertaken by a legal translator that has legal knowledge and background. The slightest mistakes when translating legal documents can cause debilitating effects that can carry serious financial and legal consequences.

The profile of a legal translator

Legal translators are usually commissioned to translate complicated and technical documents into the native language in the query. Because legal documents are typically sensitive in nature, having a graduate degree or a masters degree in law could be helpful, although it is not a pre-requisite.

That said, a background in law or expertise in the legal profession carries weight because the field of legal translation is not one that an individual can fall into easily unless one has the experience needed. Accordingly, a legal translator should also have the passion for the job, as well as genuine interest in the legal subject if one is to become an asset rather than a liability.

Personal attributes of a legal translator

A legal translator must be able to adjust to situations quickly and as they happen. Additionally, one must have the skills to absorb and engage with materials and legal documents quickly in order to be able to effectively deliver accurate results in line with the criteria provided.

A legal translator must also be able to work under pressure and under strict guidelines. A lot of assignments that are given to legal translators tend to be urgent and they require a quick turnaround.

Necessary skills for a translator

  • A deep understanding of the inner legal workings of the nations involved.
  • Commanding knowledge of the native tongue and an equal level of authority with the second or third language.
  • A high level of understanding and expertise of legal matters of at least 2 countries.
  • Specialist knowledge of specific branches and disciplines of law.