Legal Trouble

You wouldn't leave a four-year old in charge of a newborn infant or ask your elderly grandmother to do some computer programming for you just because they were the most accessible (or inexpensive) candidates available, would you? Trusting your legal translation work to anyone other than an experienced legal translation professional can be just as dangerous as leaving a young child in charge of a baby. Francisco Avalos, in a lecture at San Diego State University in 1998, explained the puzzling fact that sometimes "A law firm will be willing to spend thousands of dollars in Federal Expressing documents around the world, but will be reluctant to pay hundreds of dollars for a quality translation." Why dedicate extensive time and effort to ensuring that a legal document says exactly what you mean, only to have it be unclear to your foreign-speaking associates? Legal translation is especially difficult because systems differ vastly. The U.S. uses a common law system, while most of the countries with which it does business have systems of the civil law variety. Each country's unique system has evolved over the years to meet its needs and represents, as Avalos puts it, "the concentrated expression of the history, culture, social values and the general conscious and perceptions of a people." Since legal translation involves transferring concepts between unrelated systems using technical legal language while accounting for each culture's differences, it's easy to see why a person well-versed in both the source and target countries' systems, cultures and languages is needed to handle this delicate conversion. Taking certain risks has always been part of running a company. The quality of your legal translations shouldn't be one of them.