Do you need a professional translation of legal documents?

Legal documents are professional documents that have full validity and authenticity in the eyes of judicial authorities. They carry out essential information, including employment contracts, financial agreements, birth certificates, policies, licenses, legal statements, witness statements, immigration documents, etc. When these documents are written in a foreign language, you might need to have them translated. The question is: do you need a professional legal translation, or is a regular translation enough? Let’s find out.

This article was written in collaboration with Technology – a translation service in London.

Do you need a professional translation of legal documents?

The complexity of legal document translation

Due to specific legal terminology, legal documents can be difficult for an average person to understand. They require knowledge of law, finances, and a given country’s economy to understand the specialistic language. That’s why translating legal documents is best performed by skilled translators with a great understanding of the language and lots of experience in the areas the document refers to. Legal translators understand the law and legal practices in the country where the target language is spoken and in the source language country. They can easily grasp the complexity of the terminology and possess enough knowledge required for these types of translations.

Legal translations are required to be performed by certified translators. Only then are they perceived as lawfully valid translations.

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Legal, certified, notarised, and sworn translations.

There is a slight difference between legal, notarised, sworn, and certified translations. Before you bring your document to the translation agency, knowing the required translation services is good.

Legal translation

Legal translations refer to all legal documents written in a foreign language and require translation to be recognized as valid in the eyes of the law of the target country. There is no setlist of legal documents. However, such translations are usually required for court, business, government documents, medical records, and education certificates.

The most common legal documents which may require legal translation services include the following:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Adoption agreements
  • Driver’s licenses
  • Immigration documents, passports, visas
  • Wills and testaments
  • Court transcripts
  • Witness statements
  • Evidence documents
  • Application letters
  • Financial reports and statements
  • Bank deposits
  • Business contracts
  • Corporate and government proposals
  • Diplomas
  • Medical records.

Specialistic language in which legal documents are written requires great linguistic knowledge and understanding of the law of both the source and the target language country. Hence, legal translators must have lots of experience in this particular field.

Certified translation

A certified translation is carried by an accredited, highly professional translator required to sign a statement confirming that the translation is a complete, accurate, and true replica of the original document. Each page of such translation needs to be stamped and signed to prevent misuse.

In the UK, a translation is perceived as “certified” when it fulfills one of the following conditions:

  • An accredited translator has translated the document
  • The translation has been signed by a certified translator or a translation agency
  • The paper was signed before the notary public or a solicitor.

Notarised translation

To ensure that all official procedures have been met, a translation should be signed by a notary public appointed by the government to oversee legal formalities. The notary does not check the accuracy of the translation itself. His stamp and signature certify that the translator swore his translation was accurate. Only then is the translation perceived as “official” in the eyes of the law. Notarised translations are required for documents that are going to be sent overseas, and they’re usually required for education-based documents such as:

  • Administrative documents
  • Diplomas
  • Degree certificates
  • Professional qualifications.

Sworn translation

Sworn translations are done by translators who have sworn that they can provide an accurate translation. In many countries, this is usually done for court cases where translators offer expert knowledge as interpreters. It’s important to know that this does not apply to the UK. In the UK, there is no “sworn” translation. All official translations in the UK are “certified.”

alt: a legal document

Why do I need a professional legal translator?

Speaking of legal translations, we all know how complex that field is. Many of us have problems understanding the linguistic intricacies when reading legal documents in our native language, let alone translating them into a foreign language. With the development of Technology and AI, we are equipped with tools to do that job today. Some may wonder whether we still need a professional translation of legal documents in that case.

While automated translation tools such as google translate can help in everyday situations when a quick translation is needed, legal translations are still simply too complex for them. Our language skills also may not be enough for such types of translations. Therefore we should not rely on automated translation tools entirely for important official document translations. Let’s briefly broaden that topic and discuss why you should opt for a professional legal translation.

Specialist language, tone, and linguistic structures

Legal terminology is very complex. Written documents, especially legal ones, are not always straightforward, and mistranslation could devastate the client. With legal document translations comes great responsibility, so we should always choose a trustworthy and experienced agency for legal translation services.

Professional translators must be highly skilled in legal terminology in both languages. It’s also essential that the translation conveys the same tone as the original. For example, when translating an urgent notice, it is crucial to keep a critical manner so the receiver gets the right message. One of the most challenging things about legal translations is probably the differences in the linguistic structures. Sometimes, a particular design in the source language may not have its direct equivalent in the target language. A skillful legal translator will find the most suitable words without any loss to the meaning of the original information.

Extensive knowledge and experience

Legal translations require a great lexical and grammatical knowledge of both languages. To provide the most accurate translation, a good legal translator must also know the source and target languages’ international law, economic situation, and educational systems. This comes with additional university degrees and, most of all, experience. Professional legal translators will also know about any law changes, so their translations will always be legally valid and accurate.


Another reason a professional translator should do your legal translation is that legal documents often require confidentiality. Some records contain sensitive information, so it’s essential to lay it in the hands of a person or an agency that can guarantee full confidentiality of your private information.


Some documents, especially the ones required in court, come with stringent deadlines. Failing to present the translation within the required deadline may make the document null or void. Because the translation sometimes has to be done within a minimal time frame, a skillful legal translator must ensure the top-quality translation is completed within a short time limit.

Legal translation services in London

Translation requirements may vary depending on the target language country. If you’re still unsure whether your legal document requires professional translation in the UK, please ask one of the agencies which offer translation services in London. Thanks to years of linguistic experts’ experience and in-depth knowledge of applicable regulations, you will get the best advice and translation services provided by competent professionals.

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