How to combine interpreting and will to work in the legal sector?
Thread poster: Alexandre Chetrite

Alexandre Chetrite
France
Local time: 21:03
English to French
Nov 22, 2007

Greetings,

I am a translator and I would like to become an interpreter. But I have a rather specific project, so if you are an interpreter and can help me out, you are welcome:

I would like to work in the legal/judicial field and become an interpreter in this field specifically.
That means : I don't have any legal qualifications/education, but only business diplomas and qualifications.
Now can somebody tell me how it is like to work in this field and what are your duties ?
Also, how to breakthrough in this industry given my situation and without investing in a long and expensive training? (I live in France currently.)
Thank you.


[Edited at 2007-11-22 17:28]


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:03
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
How to combine interpreting and the will to work in the legal sector Nov 22, 2007

Personally I don't see how you can combine the two if you don't have a solid knowledge of legal terminology. It took me about 6+ years to have a reasonable understanding of medical vocabulary before I even started interpreting (I worked in a GP Practice)..

Legal translating and interpreting is VERY difficult; I did interpret twice in a court and wish I never had - in fact I refuse all legal interpreting jobs as it is highly unprofessional and risky to do something you are not qualified to do. [If you want to know how difficult it is just to translate legal terminology, take a look at all the legal contributions made by Proz members in the glossary =)].

The first thing I'd do is to work in a legal environment for at least a year or two, before venturing out to interpret.

You will probably receive some contradictory replies.

Liz Askew

p.s.

I would recommend you got yourself some legal qualifications too.

[Edited at 2007-11-22 18:23]


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:03
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Get some familiarization Nov 22, 2007

I can't address the specific requirements in France. You're in a better position than I am to investigate that.

But in the meantime, you can get an idea as to whether this is for you. Some suggestions:

a. Find a nearby city where there are a lot of people who don't speak French. (Maybe the city you live in meets this description.) Call up the switchboard of the courts there for information about whether there are hearings involving non-French-speaking people that you are permitted to watch as a spectator. If this is possible, watch a couple of trials where an interpreter is present.

b. Translate some material in both directions (French into your other language and the other language into French) pertaining to legal issues. Pay someone you respect to edit your translations. See what kinds of comments you get.

c. Find a company that sells goods or services to countries that speak the other language and/or buys goods or services from them. Try to set up an appointment with someone in their legal department. See what they think.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:03
English to Spanish
+ ...
Second Language Nov 22, 2007

You will have to go both ways, so your command of your second language must be perfect, including little or no accent. If you are not there yet then you will have to work on that also.

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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 20:03
Dutch to English
+ ...
Sound advice Nov 22, 2007

liz askew wrote:

Personally I don't see how you can combine the two if you don't have a solid knowledge of legal terminology. It took me about 6+ years to have a reasonable understanding of medical vocabulary before I even started interpreting (I worked in a GP Practice)..

Legal translating and interpreting is VERY difficult; I did interpret twice in a court and wish I never had - in fact I refuse all legal interpreting jobs as it is highly unprofessional and risky to do something you are not qualified to do. [If you want to know how difficult it is just to translate legal terminology, take a look at all the legal contributions made by Proz members in the glossary =)].

The first thing I'd do is to work in a legal environment for at least a year or two, before venturing out to interpret.

You will probably receive some contradictory replies.

Liz Askew

p.s.

I would recommend you got yourself some legal qualifications too.

[Edited at 2007-11-22 18:23]


Sound advice Liz,

Legal translation/interpreting - or any specialised field for that matter - is not some bandwagon you can simply decide to climb on to make a quick buck.

I can only second what Liz has suggested.


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JackieMcC
Local time: 21:03
French to English
I third that! Nov 23, 2007

Hello,
I completely agree with Liz and Lawyer-Linguist. I am frequently amazed and worried by the number of translators who give their special subjects and then add "oh and I do legal stuff too".
The law is a very large and complex area and you really do need to understand the concepts behind the terminology, and be familiar with the legal systems in the various countries you will be translating/interpreting for.
One way to get into this area may be a position as a paralegal (parajuridique) in one of the big international law firms in Paris or another big city - if you are lucky you may not be asked for any specific legal qualifications.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:03
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not to be overlooked Nov 23, 2007

Henry Hinds wrote:

You will have to go both ways, so your command of your second language must be perfect, including little or no accent. If you are not there yet then you will have to work on that also.


Judges won't give a hoot about the into-native-language direction. They go for expediency and presume you'll do as well for one party as for another, and will hence overrule any foot-dragging on this score. But if you can't fit the bill, they can call you to order.

Where I live, courts take note about language needs, particularly with regard to "understocked" combinations, and it's not surprising that state-sponsored courses are given from time to time. (I just wonder if it's the same in France).

[Edited at 2007-11-23 16:01]


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CFK TRAD  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:03
English to French
+ ...
Several points from... a lawyer. Nov 24, 2007

Good evening,

The first thing I'd like to point out is that interpreting and/or translating for courts is EXTREMELY bad paid in France.

Take for granted that you'll be paid 15 € (less taxes) an hour for interpreting, and some 8 something € for translating per page.
So, if you want to earn enough money to live with that, forget about it.

Second point : as interpreter, you're supposed to be called anytime. It means (I've been doing it for several years now!) at nights, during Week-ends, and on Holidays. Just try to find an interpret on Christmas Eve, or on December 31st at 10 PM. If you're on the Court Of Appeals' list, you've got to accept. Thus, you've got to leave your party / home / family, etc., and rish to the police station / court / jailhouse...
Just think about it when you apply. When you're single, got no child, it can be OK, but once you've got a family life, it's often difficult to manage.

Third point : the day when you start having truly legal translation, you WILL BE IN A MESS. Law is not easy, it's not just a mere way of writing, each and every word has a meaning of its own, and a mistake can lead to very serious consequences (civil liability among others).

And, of course, the day you start, you just cannot tell the court : "you know, I'm not quite a lawyer so I don't understand the text, etc.".

I would advise you to start as a paralegal, and to work in the legal field for at least 5 years. But you should not think about being a legal translator right now...

You know, I have a Doctorate in Law (and a translation diploma), and I do not find it always easy to understand...

Sincerely

CFK


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Juan Chen  Identity Verified
China
Member (2008)
English to Chinese
+ ...
But in China some situations are different Nov 25, 2007

In today's china, many lawyers earn quite few, much fewer than an experienced translator and interpreter.

For me, I also got the degree of law science, but still rejected to be a lawer.

In China to be a lawyer means you have to suffer 5 or more years before success, or maybe there is no success in the future. Most lawyers have to find businesses everywhere, give a large portion of rebates to business recommenders and their firms.

I do visit many offices established by foreign law firms in big cities of China, Shanghai and Beijing. These firms mostly provide services to foreign companies. But let's look at situations of Chinese law firms, poor income, great stress. How can you deal with rising price of house? As far as I know, if buying a second-house in the New York, you may just spend USD 200,000, but imagine, in big Chinese cities, usually the price for per square meter is RMB 10,000 above.


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Paolla Grecco  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:03
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It's hard but don't be discouraged, law is an amazing field to work with. Nov 26, 2007

Hi Alex,

I am glad you received sound advice on your matter, however I felt inclined to add some positive feedback from my personal experience as an interpreter in legal matters in the US and the UK.

It is imperative you have the right type of personality to cope with time pressure, sensitive and emotionally moving information. Confidence in yourself is one of the main ingredients to withstand such pressures and thus you must be of a curious and competitive nature as to being able to enjoy the constant challenges.

As to the choosing of which law or further education, it is important to remember that in the same way a linguist specialised in family law will be lost if in litigation so will a solicitor or barrister. Each field of law is specific and often not transmutable, in other words the different fields of law are a language translation in itself.

Regardless of remuneration, which should never be the driving force of a sound linguist, being part of testimonials in court or at chambers, it is being part of the living law of a country, which is not only an unique experience but one that often shapes history.

I hope if you understand to be of the right nature for this line of work, please do not be discouraged by the initial intimidation it carries, for example, I could easily step into a intense labour dispute or do a simultaneous interpretation of a capital markets conference but I could not soundly do litigation or a conference about the calculation of the capital markets itself. The type of field you choose will naturally be the one you feel more at easy with.

Currently there are several different scientific studies on the works of how the interpreter’s brain works or how language is processed and it is already understood that for different types of situation several different parts of the brain are required to be used at the same time.

As already suggested one practical way to understand what is your inclination is to assist or observe a live court proceeding involving the aid of a linguist, but also simpler assignments such as the initial in-take statement of a client at a solicitors can be a terrific way to start. Another great way to understand what field would be ideal is to freelance as a legal typist or secretary, involving the typing of dictation; the transcription of dictation is an unique situation where you can not only refine your listening skills but you can also learn about the different types of law.

I hope this is helpful, wishing you all the best for your future endeavours.


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