Understanding Costs in Legal Translation

by neilpayne on November 26, 2013

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The demand for translation services within the UK legal sector has grown year on year. Lawyers are dealing with international clients as well as a multicultural domestic market; this has driven the need for documents to be translated; everything from witness statements to evidence to personal documentation now needs translating between English and foreign languages.

Costs are important to understand for lawyers – crucial in fact. Understanding how best to manage these costs is even more important. In this blog we will look at how charges work for translation, levels set by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) and how to reduce costs on translation work.

How do translation costs work?
Whether you use an agency or a translator, the majority will charge based on the following factors:
•    Language pair
•    Number of words
•    Deadline
•    Readability
•    Format
•    Technicality

A translator will usually ask to see the document(s) prior to quoting you. Costs are usually presented on a “per word” or “per 1000 words” basis. In fact, this is the same model the LSC use for their legal aid rates. The LSC stipulate £109 per 1000 words (regardless of language) however within London this is dramatically cut down to £55 per 1000 words which is almost impossible if a professional translation is needed.

Certifying and Sworn Translations

If translations are needed for court purposes and must therefore be sworn or certified, there is usually an extra charge. This is due to the extra time it takes for the translator/agency to prepare, print, sign and dispatch documentation. Similarly if a sworn translation is needed, the translator will have to travel to a notary which adds costs.

How to Reduce your Translation Costs

Everybody wants to save money; so here are some tips most agencies won’t want you to know about which can help you save on translation costs.

1. Reduce Your Word Count

As outlined above, most translators use the word count system to base their costs upon. A quick way to save on costs is to simply reduce the number of words in your document. Before sending a document or text to a translator look at how you can edit it to shorten it. Condense sentences and paragraphs, remove text that isn’t needed and identify any repetitions or duplications.

2. Use Plain English

Although translators are talented linguists, they won’t know every single word in the language they are translating into; especially specialist legal terms. Texts of a technical nature are much of the time charged at higher rates.  Review your documents and try to simplify them. Carry out a process of “jargon busting” by simplifying vocabulary. The less technical the better.

3. Create a Glossary

Where technical terms can’t be edited from a text, help the translator by providing them with a glossary. This is a document which contains all your technical jargon, explaining what the words mean and if possible capturing any translations that already exist which the translator can use. This helps standardise your translations, creating a more robust final product as well as saving the translator time and yourself money.

4. Context is Crucial

One of the biggest headaches for translators is a lack of context. How would you translate “green light” if there was no context to guide you? Is it a light that is the colour green? If so, is it a traffic light or a bulb? Could it mean “go” or “start”? Give translators context in the form of explanations and examples.

5. Accessible Formats
Sending documents for translation that are images (such as scanned documents), handwritten, or in “read-only” formats should be avoided where possible. This makes it very difficult to a) get a word count for and b) to work with. As a result, charges are usually higher. To keep your costs to a minimum, ensure the text in your files is accessible.

Neil Payne is the Founder of Kwintessential - an agency specialising in language services for business. 45% of their work is for the legal sector.

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