Five Questions Lawyers Should Ask Before Hiring a Translator

Legal translation is more than a simple exchange of vowels and consonants. It is an emotionally charged practice because often these translated documents are the missing piece of a very important process. These can be contracts determining ownership or immigration records that determine green card eligibility.

With so much at stake, lawyers cannot cut corners on recruiting a translator. Here are five questions a lawyer should ask themselves during the hiring process:

  • Is the translator certified?

There are several types of certifications. American Translator’s Association (ATA) certification is achieved by passing a rigorous exam that has only an 8% pass rate for some languages. The ATA offers separate certifications when translating to and from English. For example, one certification is granted for Spanish to English translation, while another certification is granted for English to Spanish translation. Someone who passes both exams is doubly certified.

If an ATA certified translator is not necessary, there are also translators who have been certified by attending college/university translation programs. Likewise, there are certification programs outside of the United States. For example, Mexico has what is called a perito translation.

The key factor in deciding which one to choose is knowing the requirements of the court or government agency you will be submitting the documents to. There have been cases where lawyers have lost cases because the translation was deemed inadmissible.

  • How many years of legal and legal translation experience does the translator have?

Just because someone can translate the words doesn’t mean they can convey the legal meaning correctly. The translator must be trained in the legal profession and have at least five years of experience in the specific field of legal translations. I’ve heard horror stories of translators lacking legal training using the wrong terminology and jeopardizing a case. The lawyers were unaware that the terminology was incorrect because they expected it to be correct without the need for independent review. Independent reviews cost money and time; hire someone who has a good track record of accuracy, consistency and quality control in their translations. Before hiring a translation service, ask how they ensure the accuracy of the translation.

  • How quickly will the translator prepare your documents and what recourse will you have in the event of failure?

Imagine having a trial date in three weeks, but the translator you hired will take two months to translate your documents. It happens. Some freelance translators will guarantee they can meet your deadline and then fail. A lawyer who came to my office said, “The translator just kept my money and they said they were still working on it, and I didn’t get a response, but I can’t do anything about it. I’ll just dispute it with my credit card. So I’m just paying you to do the service because I can’t wait. In the end, the lawyer (and his client) paid thousands of dollars more than necessary because he failed to obtain recourse from the translator.

  • Does the translator guarantee acceptance by the requesting court or government agency?

Does the translator understand that the client may need original documents with wet ink certification on every page, signature in some way and phone number on every page? Some courts require notarization with the certified translation. In the United States, it is at the discretion of the court which translations are accepted and which are not. It is the client’s responsibility to verify court requirements; a good translator will want this information in advance. Likewise, does the translation service format the translated documents? Judges are not interested in treasure hunts. If they have to search for pages and sections, they will simply reject the documentation. Don’t give them that option.

  • Does the translator have a solid reputation?

The testimonials of other people who have used the services of the translator are important. Endorsements from other attorneys or legal organizations are a good measure of whether a translator is an expert capable of delivering the product a client needs or is simply someone who will use Google Translate, do some editing, and present it to you. as the final act.

A law firm’s reputation and the legal future of its clients are at stake when the firm hires a translator. It is essential that all translations are treated carefully and with the seriousness they deserve. Hiring a translation service that doesn’t understand this invites disaster.

Salvador Ordorica, CEO and Founder of The Spanish Group LLC, a certified translation agency based in Irvine, CA. Salvador has lived in many countries, is fluent in three languages ​​and brings value to his businesses through his understanding of cultures, market trends, technology and global issues.