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Legal translation costs: How much does it cost to translate a legal document

Many legal professionals consider translation accuracy and the cost of the translation service to be the two most important factors when it comes to legal translation. How much does it cost to translate a legal document? As translation professionals, we have to offer the best advice and solution in every situation and for each translation job. Therefore, the question remains: can we reconcile time, cost and translation quality in legal translation services?

Translation quality vs. cost in legal translation services

Precision and accuracy are paramount in  legal translation services, and using the correct terminology is even more important – any mistranslations could seriously impede a case and have a large impact on the outcome. As in any industry, the focus of many businesses in recent years is to keep costs down. When it comes to translation, price calculations, breakdowns and analysis logs, there may be jargon that is confusing to those who are not familiar with the translation industry. 73% of translation companies believe that there is a direct link between translation quality and price (source: Common Sense Advisory)

Technology is the answer

The solution lies in the two technological developments in the translation world: Translation Memories (see our ActivaTM for more information) and machine translation. By making use of these technologies, translation costs can be reduced as similar sentences can be recalled from a database containing perfectly aligned sentences that have been previously translated. This is a perfect aid to ensure translation accuracy and consistency. In short, a Translation Memory (TM) collects translated lines as the human translator translates and approves them, then saves them in the database. Secure steps can be added so that these sentences enter an "intermediate TM" until a proofreader finally approves the whole of the text as a perfect and complete translation job. This not only improves consistency of all translated materials, but it also means lower legal translation costs as similar sentences can also be recalled and the translator only needs to update the different words in the sentence. The advantage of machine translation is similar in that it is exponentially faster than human translation and reduces costs. Texts that have been machine-translated can simply be post-edited by a professional legal translator, and this option will allow you to strike the perfect balance between time, cost and translation quality.

Delivering the perfect legal translation

Glossaries can also be imported, meaning preferred terms can be used, and the finished translation is perfectly matched to its purpose. TMs are best suited to documents that contain repeated phrases and similar content such as commercial contracts.

The Quality Conundrum

You can have your cake and eat it too – not only should translations be of high quality and at an appropriate cost, they should be delivered on time. This can be a tricky triangle to balance though, as one factor usually takes precedence over another. For more information, read our blog on The Quality Triangle.

Jessica Hinds, our in-house Legal Translation Expert.

Jessica Hinds, our in-house Legal Translation Expert.

Jessica Hinds is our Legal Translation Expert, majoring in Spanish and Portuguese. With both freelance and in-house experience of translating documents into English, her native language, she has a particular interest in the translation fields of law, education, marketing and literature.


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