Rebecca Porwit Läänemägi, Legal and financial translator


What does a (good) legal translator need?

Picture of Rebecca Porwit Läänemägi

Rebecca Porwit Läänemägi

Legal, financial and academic translator.

¿Qué necesita un (buen) traductor jurídico?

Law is a vast and complex field. Legal language (often referred to as “legalese”) can be convoluted and obscure, full of archaic turns of phrase, specialised terminology, acronyms, abbreviations, set phrases, Latinisms, doublets and triplets…

Not only that – legal texts are important because they directly affect the rights and duties of both individuals and legal entities.

This means that legal translators move in a difficult terrain and assume a great responsibility when the client entrusts them with the translation of a document. They need many skills and tools to do the job well.

🔗 Subject-matter expertise

You’re working between two different legal frameworks. You need to understand how these systems work, each with its own laws and regulations, principles, case law, practices, terminology, etc.

💬 Language proficiency

Legal texts can be very complex, sometimes with endless and awkwardly-worded sentences. You need to have excellent command of your languages to disentangle these and convey them clearly in the target text.

👓 Specialisation

The law is a very, very broad field. Just like lawyers specialise in specific areas of the law, it’s recommendable for a legal translator to do the same (I work mostly on contracts, insurance reports and annual accounts).

🖊️ Translation techniques and strategies

You’ll often encounter concepts that don’t exist in the other system. You need strategies to name and explain this kind of concept, without erasing the fact that it’s foreign (legal translation is not localisation, where you don’t want the text to seem like a translation at all).

📚 Research skills

You can’t know everything – but what you don’t know, you must be able to find out. Research skills are essential for any translator.

🔎 Attention to detail

Minor errors can have significant consequences in legal texts, so you need to be incredibly precise and review your work carefully.

🔏 Confidentiality and security

You often handle sensitive and confidential information, so you must have adequate data protection practices in place.

📝 Writing skills

To convey the meaning of the original text clearly, accurately and with appropriate style, you need to be an excellent writer.

🔣 Terminology management

Legal texts contain many specialised terms. To avoid confusing the reader, these terms should always be translated consistently. To keep your translation consistent, you need a system to track how you’ve translated every term.

💻 IT tools

It’s perfectly possible to translate the old-fashioned way. But technology allows us to translate faster and with greater peace of mind (I always use my CAT tool and QA tools).

⛑️ Professional indemnity insurance

Legal translators work with important texts where small mistakes can have very real consequences for the client. You take on a lot of responsibility, so it’s best to be covered.

As you can see, legal translators require a lot of expertise. If you find one who meets the above criteria, don’t let them go!

If you need well-translated legal texts, I can help you.

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