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The importance of speed to market in legal translations

The importance of speed to market in legal translations [Photo: -aniaostudio- via istock]
in Legal

Few sectors across the globe require such precise and quality translation services as the legal market. With the increasingly multinational nature of business and commerce, more companies than ever before are operating in a range of languages and dialects. This means having to have multiple different versions of various contracts, patents, tenders, deeds, agreements and court documents translated effectively.

When we consider the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates there are 50,000 multinational corporations in the world today, working with more than 450,000 affiliates, we see the true scale of the issue and start to understand just how many legal documents need translating every day.

However, when it comes to legal translations, there's more to the process than meets the eye. Of course, accuracy and clarity are absolutely crucial, but speed is also an important factor to consider for anyone carrying out legal translation.

Slow translation of contracts, offers and patents can hold companies back when it comes to growing internationally. Not being able to provide partners, clients and service providers in other countries with the requisite documents promptly means hurdles and delays in the process, which larger companies will simply not want to deal with.

Therefore, having translations that are executed quickly is priceless in the majority of cases. If a business is trying to push through a sale or a contract, the price they pay to have documentation quickly and accurately translated will be almost irrelevant when weighed up against the money they can bring in from quickly turning around deals.

Speed still requires quality

One problem this desire for a quick turnaround in legal translations can present centres around quality. While companies need compliance documents, contracts, as well as many others, translated quickly, they need this to be executed without a drop in the quality of the service being delivered.

As we know, there are already more than three-quarters of a billion cross-border legal disputes in business – according to the Economist – and this is something that can become more problematic when poor translation is executed, which is why quality matters.

With companies having so many documents to deal with in as many as ten or 15 different languages, the use of plain tone of voice, specialist sector-specific language and accurate legal jargon is vital to getting it right. Most importantly, the quality of translation must never be compromised when delivering speedy translations.


One of the main reasons certain sectors will need legal documents translated at a quick pace is that law is a fluid entity. Regulations and guidelines in some areas can be changed at the click of a finger, rendering a document that had previously been very useful obsolete in a matter of months.

This often means having to turnaround a translation quickly so that documents no longer useful can be updated for international use to fall into line with a country's new legal standpoint.

An example of where this would have been of use recently was in the UK's property market. Many overseas companies invest in rental homes in the nation but recently had the carpet pulled out from under them by the Chancellor George Osborne, when it was announced with a mere two weeks notice that companies would not be exempt from the new tax charges that it was originally thought they would be.

The regulatory change would have meant a scramble to update contracts, offers and deeds for many companies investing in UK property, and all before a tight deadline at the start of April, showing just how important speed needs to be in legal translation. The same problem permeates a range of industries where contract law, legal issues and regulations are ever changing and fluid, and it's here where the importance of speed, quality, clarity and accuracy in legal translations is paramount.

Understanding the nature of what matters to a client is the single most important aspect of legal translation. The legal translator must have a deep appreciation not only for the need to translate, but also that speed and quality matter in order to deliver the client a solution that is effective and impactful.

It's also vital that any translator has a real understanding of the law itself and sector-specific language that allows them to tailor their work to any company without compromising on quality. When this is combined with an appreciation of the last-minute deadlines that are part and parcel of the legal world, translators can provide the perfect solution to their clients in a timescale that matters to them. 

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