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abril 18, 2019 |

How Much Do Errors in Legal Translation Cost?

Sometimes they’re funny. On other occasions, inappropriate and unprofessional. Many translation errors go viral and generate buzz online, but they rarely harm anyone–until they do. For some types of translation services, such mistakes can have significant effects on people and organizations. Legal translation errors, for example, can influence the international economy, a business’ reputation, and even people’s lives.

Legal translations require native linguists with a solid background in law for increased accuracy. Specialists who translate legal documents or work as courtroom interpreters need in-depth knowledge of the topics discussed. Without this, they are unable to deliver high-quality translations or facilitate communication between parties.

Not only can legal translation errors have severe consequences in courtrooms, but they can also generate never-ending legal disputes between companies and countries. This sort of tension can cause substantial legal bills and generate unnecessary costs that are hard to quantify.

Legal Translation Errors in Documents

When it comes to legal documents, all versions should be identical, regardless of the number of languages they are translated into. Contracts, agreements, identification documents, or any other type of documentation should respect what is written in the source document.

Even minor legal translation errors have the potential to cause damages. Just think about personal documents that you’re translating because you’re applying for a job abroad or adopting a child from a foreign country. Any translation mistake can cost you that job or your dream of having a family.   

Moreover, for people who buy real estate or invest in startups overseas, translation errors can change the details of a transaction. This can result in capital loss and future legal actions that can drag on for years.

In commercial contracts, something as simple as a single inaccurate word can limit or extend the benefits of one party, rendering the papers useless. What may seem like a small incident can quickly escalate into chaos in business processes.

Imagine the difficulties when legal translation errors occur in paragraphs that settle the rights and obligations of business partners, or their share of costs, for example!

In 2011, translation errors caused several months of delays for signing the Free Trade Agreement between the EU and South Korea. The Korean version of the document contained over 200 translation errors, making it difficult for the Trade Minister to have the bill approved by the National Assembly.

It’s impossible to estimate how much Korean and European companies lost from not having the agreement in place for several months. But most of the hassle could have been avoided with an accurate translation.   

Putting Business Reputation at Risk

Mistakes in contracts and documentation often send unclear messages to readers, especially in corporate working environments. Mistranslations in legal documents can impact the overall brand image, as they affect the credibility of the company that owns the paper.  

Potential business partners may see legal translation errors as a lack of professionalism and seek to do business elsewhere. Even if you can convince companies to do business with you, there’s a high risk you’ll end up in court due to a mistranslation.

Some 5 percent of disputes between Chinese and foreign companies are caused by legal translation errors. Such events cause significant losses for both sides. Just imagine all the hours wasted in court, lawyers, penalties, and other related expenses.

On the other hand, high-quality document translation contributes to your good reputation in international markets. You present yourself as a reliable partner for both local and global companies.

Legal Expertise Minimizes Errors in Legal Translation

Law is one of the most challenging industries for translations. Without excellent language professionals on board, you won’t be able to make your way through rules, regulations and specific terminology.

That’s why most legal translators have the legal expertise and several years of experience in legal translation projects.

Every country has a specific legal business style and requirements when it comes to writing, approving, and using legal documentation. So, an expert’s help could make the difference between being compliant with local laws or performing illegal activities.

Furthermore, note that within this niche, translators often choose specific legal fields. Depending on your needs, you can choose to work with contract translators, labor law translators, corporate law translators, real estate translators, divorce proceeding translators, or even translators specializing in criminal procedures.

Many legal translators collaborate with lawyers who provide legal support in their mother tongue to avoid any possible misunderstanding.

Translation and Interpretation Mistakes in the Courtroom

Another place where legal translation errors can have significant consequences is in the courtroom.

Courtroom interpreters must be highly-specialized to keep errors to a minimum, as their errors can affect court proceedings. This can add thousands of dollars to existing legal bills and increase the costs of public services.

In the UK, for example, a collapsed trial due to errors in interpretation can cost up to $32,000 (£25,000). This is what happened when an interpreter with poor language skills mistranslated the statement of a Romanian defendant.

Besides the legal costs, misunderstanding in court can influence people’s lives. Mistranslations can change the course of legal procedures, keeping innocent people trapped in lengthy lawsuits or reducing the penalties for defendants who may get off on a mistrial.

Final Thoughts

Legal translation serves multiple purposes for both companies and individuals. Poor services in this niche can have serious consequences on the way you do business around the world. Not only can legal translation errors affect your company’s reputation and finances, but they can cause disadvantages to all parties involved.

Legal translation errors can turn into corporate liability faster than you think. If your business partners have agreed to specific terms and conditions, every change in your contract could have the deal lost for good.

When you have your legal documents professionally translated, you save time and resources. You make sure that your international processes proceed as smoothly as possible and that your reputation (and budget) remain intact.