Legal Translations

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Research: the key to success

When dealing with the translation of legal texts, it is of the essence to use accurate and trustworthy terminology, syntaxis and the knowledge of Law, since the success of a lawyer in an international case may solely depend on the ability of a translator to accurately and truthfully convey not only words but the meaning of the original text.

“My rule is that all translations and especially editions must be performed by translators who are specialized in the field. I believe most of the mistakes are caused for not considering this”, states Gabriela Hernández, Sworn English Translator with fifteen years of experience in this type of jobs and part of our experts’ team.

In the case of legal translations, in addition to translating the text, it is of the essence to make an accurate adaptation of the specialization field. False Friends must be avoided (see below typical examples), and the translator must be assertive and precise to reduce the chance of redundancies and errors.

At ieb Translation Services we work with legal translations since they are one of our most important fields of work. Our experts are not only versed in translation, but they also perform the legal adaptation so that documents do not contain errors, which we are aware must be mitigated and minimized in this as well as in all the fields.

“The key is to research each subject. I insist on the fact that most errors are the result of lack of time to make the adequate research (which is necessary even if the linguist is working within his/her field of specialization), or because the translator does not have the necessary knowledge on the subject” she added. Below, she leaves some of the most common errors:

General errors in the legal field 

 False friends, such as, for example: 

  • ‘section’is ‘artículo’, and not ‘sección’; 
    • ‘ley’ is ‘act’ and rarely ‘law’;
    • ‘powers’ are ‘facultades’ not ‘poderes’;
    • ‘embargo’ is ‘prohibición de comprar o vender’;
    • ‘magistrate’ is a ‘juez lego’ and not a ‘magistrado’.

 Redundant expressions in English and literal translation:

  ‘I give, devise and bequeath’, could be directly translated “Lego” or “Dono”

‘All authority, powers, consents, licenses and authorizations’, could be translated as “Facultades y Autorizaciones”

 Capital letters in the first letter in keywords of legal texts. In this case, the keyword (which is usually included in the Definitions part) should keep the capital letter in the first letter, as it does in English.


As a rule, I break down the full term in Spanish and then between brackets, the acronym in English (or Spanish, as applicable). Then, only the acronym is used to facilitate the reading.

NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement): Contrato de Confidencialidad.
M&A (Merger and Acquisition Agreement): Contrato de Fusión y Adquisición.
MOU (Memorandum of Understanding): Memorando de Acuerdo.
MA (Master Agreement): Contrato Marco.

Latinisms: they must not be translated; the correct way of writing them is in italics and without diacritical marks, for example, mortis causa.

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