Translation and Language Industry Observations


3 Key Strategies for Mitigating Risks in Legal Translation Projects

by Charlie Fletcher

One of the benefits of the rise of the digital landscape is that there is greater potential for businesses to engage in international partnerships and projects. That said, these kinds of cross-border operations can also bring complex legal matters related to negotiations and contracts. If each party speaks different languages, this can add a level of complexity.

Whether you’re a business trading globally or a legal firm handling multinational projects, accuracy is vital when it comes to this kind of legal translation. Errors in terminology or clauses can not just impact the reputation of your business. You may also be legally liable for errors, making you vulnerable to lawsuits for omitting crucial information. This can be financially crippling.

We’re going to explore a few key strategies you can adopt to mitigate the risks involved with legal translation projects.

Find the Right Experts

One of the most important tools for mitigating risks associated with legal translation is to find the right translation experts to collaborate with. This begins with ensuring the translation company you’re using conforms to industry quality control standards. However, it’s also wise to remember that not all translators are created equal. Just as with any contractor, the nuances of their experience, qualifications, and perspectives will affect how effectively they contribute to your projects.

So, what can make for a solid translation expert?

Experience in legal translation

General translation is not the same as legal translation services. As you know, any contract and negotiation involves a significant amount of specific legal terminology. These terms don’t always translate literally. Therefore, to avoid costly errors and misunderstandings, you should aim to find a translation expert who has an understanding of the contextual meanings behind the jargon, so they can effectively adjust their translations. This often comes from experience in relevant fields and projects. You should look for translators who have degrees or other qualifications related to law.

Cultural knowledge

With something as complex as legal translation, it’s worth seeking out experts who are more than simply linguistic professionals. Having a deep knowledge of the culture related to the language they translate can also be vital for mitigating risks. Firstly, the translator can help you avoid communicating in ways that may be acceptable in the U.S., but might be considered rude or unprofessional in another culture. Importantly, there may be legal colloquialisms and processes that are present in the U.S. that are different in other countries. Cultural translation can help avoid issues here.

Be Mindful When Using Translation Tech

Remember that translation apps — such as Google Translate and Deepl — are not intended or particularly suitable for complex and nuanced documentation. These tools are often very literal in nature and don’t always recognize the context of documents and even conversation text.

Therefore, it’s often best to limit your use of these apps to situations where you need a quick translation of very basic information. For instance, when forming a courtesy reply to an email with a client. These can also be fine for a cursory look at contracts to understand the basic gist of them, before your human translator can provide the full details.

In addition, more legal firms are using artificial intelligence (AI) driven tools in various areas. This includes adopting analytics tools to perform more efficient contract analysis or summarize legal cases, and using generative AI to draft contracts. Some AI tools may offer options to not just create documents but also translate them. However, there are significant practical and ethical issues to bear in mind before engaging with this technology.

For instance, there’s the risk of translations being affected by the biases of programmers of AI algorithms. This can affect the accuracy of translations. This is why it is so important to have solid quality control measures in place. Be thorough in assessing the reliability and development processes of any AI software you want to use. If you’re drafting documents with generative AI, involve translation experts in reviewing and editing the outcomes.

Provide Project Clarity

In some instances, your relationships with translators won’t be on a document-by-document basis. You may well use them for more extensive projects, such as complex multinational legal cases or long-term partnership building. An important part of mitigating the potential risks in these scenarios is to provide your translation collaborators with clarity about the project itself and their role within it.

Some of the areas you should provide clarity in can include:

  • The goals of the project: When your translator fully understands the goals and intentions of a legal project, they can make better decisions about the level of contextual detail needed for each document and communication. Effectively, you want them to know why there’s a need for translation in this project and how their expertise makes a difference.
  • The parties involved: Who will be reading each translated document is important for your translation partner to understand. After all, if the recipients will only be legal experts, translators can keep jargon and terminology intact. However, if there are also laymen involved, the translation may also require explanations of terms and more simplistic language.

Producing a project scope document is a practical way to communicate the needs of a project to stakeholders, including translators. Alongside outlining the goals and time frames, this document also highlights the constraints and challenges. An effective project scope document is also highly specific to avoid misunderstandings and errors. Wherever possible, use visuals — such as diagrams — to aid clarity. Importantly, have discussions with your translator to make certain they understand the document and can raise any concerns or questions.


Accuracy in legal translation is vital for minimizing exposure to lawsuits and ensuring clear communication. Your approach should involve finding the right translation experts and taking a responsible approach to using technology. In some instances,  it can also be wise to consider bringing a legal translator on as full-time staff. Not only can they be a practical and convenient presence, but they can also help your team gain a better understanding of the cultural nuances of the clients your company interacts with. This both builds stronger business relationships and enriches your staff.

About the Author

Charlie Fletcher is an active writer and blogger with extensive experience in socio-political topics, education, health and wellness, business, HR & marketing, and lifestyle and family life. You can find out more on Charlie’s LinkedIn page.

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