Legal Translator

These language pros accurately translate important documents while making sure the legal meaning stays the same.

Schooling: 

University

Degree Required: 

Training in law or translation

Job Prospects: 

Good

Skills Needed: 

Strong writing skills
Analytical skills
Attention to detail

Description

A lot of people see legal translators as multilingual robots that spew out documents in different languages. But legal translators are certainly not machines! They are communication experts. They translate legal documents, making sure the legal meaning stays the same.

Legal translators play an important role in a country where two official languages live side by side. Also, globalization means that people will need to know about the laws of other countries. So there will be a lot of work for legal translators.

Legal translators translate legal documents, such as contracts, laws and court decisions, from one language to another. With their language skills, they can also write, revise and correct documents.

Legal translators must understand the documents they translate. They need good analytical and research skills. They must also know how to use specialized language tools. They must pay attention to detail, be interested in learning new things and have good general knowledge.

Day-to-Day Work

Main Duties

  • analyze documents to understand exactly what they mean
  • do research in specialized fields and use language tools
  • accurately translate legal documents from one language to another while making sure their legal meaning stays the same
  • revise translations done by other translators
  • correct texts to make sure they are well written

Work Environment

Legal translators work for the government, in companies, law firms and translation agencies. Many are self-employed.

The Translation Bureau of the Government of Canada is the largest employer of translators in the country. This federal body does translation work for the federal government and some private companies.  

The work environment is pretty much the same no matter where legal translators work. Most work quietly in an office using a computer.

Training

There are different ways to become a legal translator. These are the two most common:

  • Some begin by studying translation or languages, usually in university. Then they specialize in law. 
  • Others begin by studying law and then study translation. Sometimes lawyers develop translation skills on the job and later specialize in legal translation. 

Several Quebec universities offer a bachelor’s degree or certificate programs in translation and a bachelor’s degree in law. 

To be a certified translator you must become a member of the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec (association of translators, terminologists and interpreters). You don’t need this certification to work as a legal translator, but some employers think it’s an advantage. Visit the OTTIAQ website for more information.

Salary

Translators’ salaries depend on where they work.

For translators who work in a company, their salary is based on their experience, skills and level of education.

The salary of self-employed translators depends on the number of contracts they get and on the fees they charge.  

Translators usually charge a fee based on the number of words in the document. Since legal translation is very specialized, the price per word is higher than it is for general translation. 

To learn more

The Service Canada website has information about translators, terminologists and interpreters. They also give statistics and job prospects.

The website of the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec (association of translators, terminologists and interpreters) explains what translators, terminologists and interpreters do. It also lists the steps for becoming a member of the association.

The Canadian Association of Legal Translators (French only) is an association of translators who specialize in legal translation.