The global economy, coupled with the ease and speed of online communications, has made doing business internationally easier than ever. At the same time, the need for cross-border litigation has also increased.


Language barriers have complicated legal disputes, with foreign legal systems and the need to interpret for multiple languages slowing down the process. Fortunately, legal translation services have become more sophisticated in recent years. Learning how to leverage the assistance of language service providers (LSPs) can help law firms manage their international casework in more efficient, cost-effective ways.


For law firms beginning to work in cross-border cases, here are a few options to keep in mind when deciding when and how to work with professional translators:

Machine Translation Software


In the LSP world, machine translation refers to software programs that perform automated translations of material. The process is simple:


  • Hardcopy material is scanned into a digital format
  • The newly digitized material–along with any other electronic documents on hand–is loaded onto the platform
  • The translation program scans the documents and produces a new version in another language


Machine translation is fast and low-cost. It is particularly helpful for large volumes of material that need to reviewed for relevancy to a case without the need for labor-intensive human translation. The tradeoff, however, is a lower quality translation.


Machine translation takes a literal approach lacking in context, clarity, and interpretation. From a cost-management point of view, the “rough draft” translation can be used to decide what material truly needs a more expensive human translation.


LSPs utilize these programs to help law firms save money. They can even source programs that specialize in certain areas of business and law, if they do not already possess them already.

Terminology Glossaries and Databases


Regardless of locality, the legal field has its own jargon and specific legal terms. For consistency and clarity, these terms can be identified and preferred translations created. Whether a machine or human language translation approach is used, these terminology databases are referenced. This therefore reduces the need to translate them every time. An added benefit is that everyone involved in a case is using the same reference point, eliminating multiple interpretations that can confuse issues.

Many law firms working in cross-border situations have pre-existing terminology databases. If the need to hire an LSP arises, these databases can be integrated with the LSP’s software, thereby saving time and money by reducing redundant translations.

Translation Memory Databases


A higher level of terminology management is referred to as translation memory. Much like glossaries, translation memory software stores preferred translations of phrases and even whole blocks of text that appear repeatedly in legal documents. Translation memory can speed up the translation process, particularly when the option for human translation is being used.


Once the translation memory has made a match, a human translator can make quick work of confirming the translation is appropriate in each instance. The method is more time-efficient that requiring a human-generated, word-for-word translation every time.


Translation memory databases are particularly helpful for law firms that routinely work in specific local markets and language, and they can be archived and used for future cases as well.

LSPs Can Provide Cost-Management Services

Cross-border litigation has created a demand for quality language translation. Language service providers have risen to this challenge, providing not only translation services, but legal consultation, marketing, local cultural and business expertise, as well as effective cost-management solutions.


When considering hiring an LSP, asking about their processes and support services like terminology and translation memory. This can help your law firm find the right fit for your cross-border litigation needs.


This article was contributed by the team represented by Rachel Wheeler

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