The growth of the global economy has brought with it a rise in cross-border litigation. Such litigation inherently will involve documents in multiple languages that will need to be collected, reviewed, and translated. As with any pre-trial discovery process, the volume of material can be substantial.

Determining what is relevant to a case becomes more complicated when working in foreign languages.

Studies show that up to 60% of the cost for pre-trial discovery of electronic documents is attributed to document review. Deciding what kind of legal translation service will provide the best options for accuracy and relevancy can save considerable time and money. The costs can be managed even further by developing an decision-making process for how to approach translation options.

How Much Material Needs Translation?

If you are dealing with just a few legal documents or even a few pages, the cost for a full legal translation by a language translation service would not be necessary, but are still recommended. Professional legal translators bring a level of subject matter expertise and experience in the local language and legal system that cannot be undervalued. For limited material, a full professional translation will ensure high accuracy and relevancy.

For larger cases, the amount of discovery material can be substantial and further complicated by several languages. Human translation can quickly become expensive and may result in significant amounts of material that might not be relevant to a case. A language translation service then becomes critical for assistance in reviewing material and reporting summary results for deciding actual translation needs. They can also employ machine translation tools where applicable for the most efficient outcome.

Language Translation Services Offer More than Translation

A legal translation service with local legal expertise can review discovery material in its original language. Working under the direction of your legal team, they can filter the documents for further translation or provide summary information for review by the legal team to decide. Once the appropriate documents are identified, they can be fully translated by the language service provider.

Alternatively, another way to save cost is to use machine language translation software to automatically translate all the material. Machine translation, however, is not yet sophisticated enough to provide precise translations and often fails at the nuances required for litigation. Once the machine language translation has been completed, however, the material will be in a readable format. These results can guide decisions about which original documents to select for a more accurate translation by a professional human translator.

Consider the Best of Both

It’s good to remember that legal language translation is not an either/or approach. Sometimes a professional language service provider is the best course. Other times, a simple machine translation will suffice. Occasionally, a combination of both methods can provide a good balance between cost and accuracy of translation.

Critical documents like contracts or license agreements should likely receive exacting translation only a person with legal expertise can provide. Machine translation might be perfectly sufficient for general memos or emails. Either a machine or human translation can be suitable for a general, first-step review. Incorporating a system to prioritize when to use either service should be a key component of your legal review process and translation.


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