As a career, translating opens the door to opportunities for both variety and specialisation. On the one hand, no two projects will ever be alike; you’ll encounter many different documents with unique deadlines and information. But on the other hand, translators tend to focus on a subject matter so that they can concentrate on becoming an expert in particular types of translation.

With a specialisation in law, you’ll focus on documents such as contracts, patents, and rulings. But unlike general documents, these translations require extensive training and experience before joining a legal translation team.

While it’s always a good idea to compare what each legal translation agency requires of its legal translators, here are some general things to consider before submitting your CV.

Undergo Specialised Training

If you don’t already, it’s time to get specialised training.

While most general translation agencies will expect you to have a Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) before they add you to their roster, you’ll need a concentration in legal translation before you can join the ranks of a legal translation company.

Having practical experience in the field wouldn’t hurt either. That’s because, unlike general projects, legal documents require a holistic understanding of the law and its unique language.

This training helps you unpack some of the most complicated language in the world. It’s so complex, in fact, that the average layperson reading a contract would say it’s written in legalese, not English. Beyond its dense terminologies and grammatical rules, it also adheres to byzantine legal systems that allow for zero margin for error.

Mistranslations in legal document translation can result in filing incorrect evidence or misinterpreting the law — either of which can cause costly problems for your client—which is why you may need to upgrade your qualifications before you apply.

Volunteer or Intern

On top of formal training, volunteering or interning at an organization can help you develop the skills and experience an agency wants to see.

If you aren’t sure where to spend your time, the organizations below are always looking for volunteers:

Share Your Language Story

You’ll want to highlight the languages you speak, how you became fluent, and where you live. These details can increase the chances of joining an agency as a freelancer.

Freelance work is a boon to both translator and translation agency. For you, it means you can work remotely from wherever you call home. For the agency, it means they have native speakers stationed all over the world in their professional roster.

Translation agencies will always prioritize native speakers. These individuals have a more profound understanding of the target language than someone who learned it as their second, third, or even fourth language.

Having freelancers stationed in several countries can also help these agencies pick the right professional for the job.

Take, for example, a project from Colombia that requires a Spanish to English translation. With limited resources, an agency may have to assign this task to a translator from Spain and risk minor mistakes in translation due to the differences in dialects. But with an international roster, they can choose a Colombian freelancer with first-hand experience with the country’s legal system.

Bottom Line

The legal industry can provide an exciting and enriching career for translators, but there are unique concerns, skills, and training you need to consider before you can start. Remember these tips as you pursue opportunities with a legal translation agency.

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