Translating Legal Documents Can Be Challenging

Translating any document can be challenging, which is all the more reason to hire a professional. However, perhaps nothing is as challenging as a legal document. History is littered with instances of a synonym, a misplaced comma, or even a different tone completely changing the meaning of a document. Those instances happened with closely related languages; imagine the consequences of such confusion when it includes languages as different as English and Japanese or German and Chinese, as is common for firms doing business in Singapore. Needless to say, that is not desirable for any organization. In short, it is all the more imperative that companies have access to legal document translation services, especially here in Singapore.

Word Choice

Perhaps the most obvious way that the importance of high-quality translation for legal documents asserts itself is through word choice. Legal writing is, by necessity, especially exact; there can be a considerable difference of meaning in shade between words like “adequate” and “sufficient,” among many others. Being aware of these differences is not enough; it is imperative to be able to make sure that the exact meaning is reflected in the final document.
This is a great example of how legal translation often differs from other translation tasks. Typically speaking, the difference between such terms is relatively narrow, so much so that it would likely not have an overwhelming impact on a technical guide or an oral interpretation. However, in some legal documents, that may be more than enough to completely change the meaning of the text.
Additionally, having someone who can easily understand the differences between legal language across linguistic boundaries is vital. The law is open to considerable interpretation in many cases, and having someone with the expertise to be able to better define it is especially useful.


It is not only a matter of word choice when faced with the need to translate legal documents. Additionally, it is vital to find the right tone. Imagine translating a pleading written to a judge. The imperative tense that is vital to many English language documents, in which a lawyer presses assumes that given certain facts that a judge must reach a certain conclusion, would be especially condescending in other languages. In Japanese, with its frequent use of honorific language, such a text could help to bias a judge against a case.
Of course, it is not only in legal pleadings where maintaining proper tone is necessary. In communications between opposing counsel, a mistake in tone could close the door to mediation or arbitration in the future. Equally as bad, it could signal timidness when no such indication is desired. Doing so could waste valuable opportunities, or draw out a process longer than necessary. Neither of which is desirable for clients.

Understanding the Law

Of course, words and tone are not the only factors at play when translating legal documents that do not factor into typical business translations. A good legal translator should have a definite understanding of the way that the law works in both target languages. This allows the translator to make sure that the document that is being translated does not feel out of place when it is submitted. Of course, the ultimate burden of making sure that the legal document in question is being properly utilized does fall to the attorney, but making sure that errors are not introduced along the way is also necessary. This risk of added errors can be an especially costly one, as such incidents only slow down the rate at which a legal question can be resolved. That, in turn, leads to much higher costs and lower satisfaction rates for a law firm’s clients.

Keeping Costs Low

That desire to help keep costs low may be the best reason to not go with just any provider offering business translations when a legal document must be translated to a different language. A general translation company may be able to provide a lower rate per word or page, but the real costs emerge later. Court cases take longer, documents are asked to be resubmitted, and judgments could ultimately be made against a law firm’s client. Worst of all, in a contract negotiation, such a mistake could result in untold costs being paid for the life of the contract. What was an entirely avoidable error was made simply because the law firm in question chose not to rely on a translation service that was experienced in providing legal translations.

The Need for Specialists

Therefore, it is increasingly essential to be sure that a law firm seeking to do business across linguistic boundaries is able to rely on translation services that are adept at providing legal documents translation services. Nowhere is this need more acute than in Singapore, where translation services are often necessary to do business with companies located just down the street. While there are plenty of Singapore translation services to choose from, it is important to be sure that specialists are selected for any legal translation task.

Letter Crafts offers exactly that sort of expertise. Our translators have been helping our clients do business across borders for years, and much of that is focused on the legal profession. With Singapore increasingly becoming a center for both regional and global business, that means that the need for legal documents translation services will continue to grow. While there are dozens of Singapore translation services to choose from, we offer the type of legal translation expertise to avoid errors in word choice and tone, as well as a thorough understanding of how legal processes work across several different jurisdictions.