Legal translation: do you have to be a lawyer to translate legal acts?

Legal translation: do you have to be a lawyer to translate legal acts? 


Legal translation is an exercise of undeniable complexity, and this idea is often found, implying that a lawyer's knowledge would be more relevant than that of a translator in carrying out this exercise.

To date, very few courses offer a dual course in translation and law, so there are two streams: one is in favour of "translators-lawyers", the other in favour of experienced translators, and the other in the middle are legal translators. 


What are the requirements for translating a legal document? 


Legal translation requires significant knowledge of both law and translation, so the reasoning of a translator will be different from that of a lawyer when the latter, in addition to understanding the terms to be translated, knows how to locate them legally in the same way (if the legislation allows it) or by equivalent through translation. 


Thus, if the objective of a translator is to produce identical content at the beginning and end of the translation process, the main purpose of the lawyer will be to transpose the rule recognised by the law of the original text to the legislation specific to the target text. 

For example, an act subject to Algerian law, written in Arabic, relating to the donation must be examined first with regard to Algerian law and then, in a second stage, transposed in accordance with the provisions of French law. 

Naturally, this implies a good legal culture in order to understand the implications of each provision of the act to be translated. 


When should a legal translator be used? 


Not all documents translated by you or your organisation require a high level of legal and translation expertise, but at the same time, it is essential to use a legal translator for the translation of certain legal acts, as the stakes involved can be very high. 

A legal translator ensures that your translation is correct and accurate, and that he or she carries out the tasks you entrust to him or her with diligence, so that urgent translations are carried out within the deadlines required by your particular situation. 

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