Economist on translation and the law

An article in The Economist on the growing demand for legal translation: Translating and the law.

It envisages this as a good prospect for underworked lawyers:

Specialised “e-discovery” software helps lawyers cull the masses of electronic data. But in international deals and lawsuits, such software must be run by cultural and linguistic experts to make sure the correct search terms are used and the right information is ferreted out. Translation is still something that computers do badly much of the time, especially when the topic (a drug patent, say) is a difficult one full of technical details.

The many law students wondering if the rotten legal job market will ever improve should take note. The twin forces of globalisation and technology may put many mediocre lawyers out of business. But those who master languages and computers may find themselves in demand.

There’s nothing wrong with lawyers translating – I am a Germanist who became a solicitor and spent 20 years teaching legal translation, for which there was at the beginning little demand and where I had to teach myself. But I hope those lawyers with language skills get some kind of training on what translation and working with related software involve, and above all have experience.

The article originates in New York and the discovery problems in the USA are particularly great. I think the patent translator Steve Vitek spends a lot of time telling his clients which Japanese patent documentation needs looking at more closely. I tell clients or potential clients what statutes or judgments are available in translation on the Internet and whether I think the translation is reliable. That sort of thing requires experience.

Tweeted by Helen Gibbons, retweeted by Kevin Lossner

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