How To Navigate Legal Translation from English to Spanish

There’s a reason we refer to the wording in legal documents as “legalese” – it can seem to be a language in and of itself! With that in mind, it’s no surprise that translating legal documents from English to Spanish can come with its own unique set of challenges.

The sheer length and amount of documents a law office encounters make it tempting to go with machine legal translation tools. However, depending on machine translations could lead to major and costly errors when it comes to legal documents.

This is because the language in legal documents such as depositions, contracts, compliance documents, business agreements, and financial statements needs to be accurate and specific, or else you and your clients could end up in court for other reasons.

Here’s some advice to ensure the most thorough and trustworthy legal translation for your documents.

What is Legal Translation and What Are Its Purposes?

Though legal language is complex, the definition of legal translation is simple: It refers to the translation of any document related to law or legal proceedings.

It is commonly used by law firms, businesses, and government agencies, though individuals also may turn to legal translation for their particular needs in some cases.

You may need legal translation services for:

  • Wills
  • Marriage certificates
  • Contracts
  • Birth certificates
  • Divorce documents
  • Financial statements
  • Compliance documents
  • Depositions

These translated documents may be used to help every party involved in a proceeding understand the legal nuances and implications, to conduct business internationally, or in any other case in which a certified legal translation document needs to be submitted to a court or the government.

The Importance of Accurate Translations in the Legal Field

Have you ever heard the term lost in translation? Well, in the legal world, there’s no room for anything or anyone to get lost. Even a small error in a legal translation can have serious legal consequences. That’s why it pays to employ experienced legal translators who can help make sure everyone understands the process, all documents are in compliance, and precious time is saved.

You Are Dealing With More than Two Languages

As previously mentioned, legal terminology is a language in itself. A machine translation simply cannot pick up on all of the nuances in legal texts.

An ideal legal translator is well-versed in both the native language of the document, the target language of the translation, and the legal terms and processes related to the document. In other words, when translating a legal document from English to Spanish, you really need to know four languages: English, English legalese, Spanish, and Spanish legalese.


When dealing with global translations, it’s important to note that other countries may have a different legal system. The terms and processes might be slightly similar, but even one or two differences can be striking.

All words in legal documents are deliberate and could have different meanings depending on the culture. Simply translating word for word leaves a ton of room for mistakes and confusion. A professional would take this into account and make certain to provide a document that is not only legally correct but understandable to your client. Your Spanish-speaking clients will most certainly appreciate a legal translation service that understands their background.


Legal documents often come with strict deadlines, especially if needed in a court setting. Insufficient machine-translated documents could cause delays. For example, a machine translation of a deposition might contain a grammar mistake that implies your client was at a location, instead of merely mentioning that it was close by or that he or she passed by it earlier in the day. This simple error could render the deposition useless and a complex legal process has to start over, wasting everyone’s time.

A professional translator with legal experience provides timely, accurate documents, so you do not have to be concerned about potential delays or ensuing legal conflicts due to poor translation.


Most legal documents contain sensitive information, and the internet is one of the least confidential spaces to share and submit this information. Are you certain that the machine interpreter is encrypted or is it susceptible to hacking? Did you look closely at the terms of service? Google Translate is a free and popular translation service, but the Terms of Service state:

“When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”

These terms would clearly violate any client-lawyer agreement. Owner and head translator, Elsa Jimenez, is a Mexican attorney who understands the law and the importance of client confidentiality. You can be confident that your client’s documents are in trusted hands!

Lack of Bias

When dealing with sensitive information, it’s vital that every party involved in drafting the documents and communicating throughout the process is doing so without bringing their own feelings and opinions into the mix. Legal translation professionals are trained to preserve their neutrality each step of the way.


Legal terminology is difficult in itself, but the field of law also has a slew of specializations, each with its own language. It’s important to work with a legal translator that has experience with your specialty. The experienced translators at English to Spanish Raleigh translate contracts, business documents, financial statements, discovery documents, depositions, and even law office websites.


English to Spanish Raleigh follows a strict process for all translations, but there are a few extra steps needed when it comes to legal documents. During the legal translation preparation process, we will note the legal specialization and deadline, which is of utmost importance with court proceedings.

We will be sure to match you with an interpreter familiar with your specialization. During the editing and formatting phase, we will follow the source text closely and note any legal terminology that may have a different meaning when translated. Our translators are especially diligent and have experience researching these terms. It’s especially helpful that we have an attorney on staff to address complex legalese. We always have a different professional proof of the work to steer clear of any bias the original translator might have to his or her own work. We will be sure to match a proofreader that matches your specialty to ensure the highest level of accuracy.

Small errors in English to Spanish legal translations can cause big problems. At English to Spanish Raleigh, we prioritize legal expertise and understand that a simple literal translation is nowhere near sufficient when it comes to these complex documents. When partnering with a legal translation service, the competencies you should look for include English and Spanish fluency, legal expertise, and experience.

How to Find a Qualified Legal Translator

To find qualified legal translators, you need to first consider the requirements for the particular procedure and purpose of your documents.

Court-Approved Legal Translators

If you need a legal document translated for a court or government agency, you can find a certified interpreter at both the federal and state level, depending on your needs.

The U.S. has a Federal Court Certified Interpreter registry, which contains a list of legal translation professionals that will be court-approved.

For state-certified translations, you can find a similar list of North Carolina interpreters and translators online.

Many attorneys, federal agencies, and law firms choose to use these professionals. Some use language translators who are certified not by these agencies, but instead only by the American Translator’s Association (ATA).

Referrals for Legal Translation Services

In some cases, you may be able to find the translation agency for your needs through an online search or scan of the phone book, or through referrals from a trusted source. Just be sure to do your research so you know that your chosen translation company or freelance hire meets the necessary requirements for a certified translation.

In most cases, this means they should be experienced in United States Citizenship and Immigration Services translation requirements, have a thorough knowledge of legal systems, be proficient in both the source language and target language, and be a member of the ATA.

Tips for Ensuring That Your Translations are Accurate and Compliant with All Applicable Laws

Use Professional Translation Services

Finding a professional and personable legal document translation services team makes an otherwise complicated process much easier. When you have a pro you can trust, you can rely on them to take care of the nuances of all the languages involved, the structure and guidelines needed to make the legal document or documents legitimate, and the professionalism and neutrality needed.

Don’t Rely on Machine Translation

While machine services may seem like the cheap and easy route when you’re in need of legal document translation, the fact is this shortcut can cause major problems in the long run.

Find Specialists

With all of the specialization within the legal field, it’s important that your chosen translation company is well-versed in your particular needs. Whether it’s business, civil, family, criminal, administrative, or anything else, there is a pro for you.

Contact Your English to Spanish Translator

English to Spanish Raleigh is owned and operated by a Mexican attorney who understands the law and the importance of accurate legal documents. Our specialized translating team can help you translate important legal documents to Spanish in a timely and accurate manner so that your clients can be confident in your legal services. Call us at 919-995-2986 or request a quote online today!