A Lawyer’s Approach to Legal Translation: Outline

Every year, a vast array of legal documentation is generated by international businesses working in Japan and by Japanese businesses working internationally. This drives an increasing demand for legal translation: of correspondence, contracts, discovery files, court submissions, judgments and arbitration rulings, to name but a few.

Taken out of context, legal documents such as these can easily be mis-translated. For example, a contract may contain defined terms, which are ignored, legal concepts couched in ordinary language, which are not recognized, citations that are misinterpreted, and cross-references that are omitted. However, with a basic understanding of the underlying law, an insight into the function of the agreement and a grasp of common Japanese legal terminology and its English equivalent, even the general translator can produce an accurate and meaningful legal translation.

Using worked examples I shall illustrate some of the ways in which a translator can adapt their skills to produce legal translations that are of value to their clients, and set out ways in which those who may not have considered it before can gain access to this very interesting area of translation. I will also consider how those of us already working as legal translators can enhance our performance.