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IT or law for professional development?
Thread poster: Simon Mountifield

Simon Mountifield  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:58
French to English
Jan 29, 2007

Hi all,

For a while now, I've been toying with the idea of studying for a degree in a non-language subject for a variety of reasons, such as the mental stimulation involved, the new challenge and the added specialisation to what I already translate.

I've been translating for about 12 years now and I've no inclination to change career, but I suppose I'd also like to have some sort of "backup" in case circumstances ever changed further down the line.

I've actually come across some interesting-looking courses available from the External Programme offered by the University of London. The trouble is that I'm torn between two subjects that I have long been interested in (Computing/Information Systems and Law).

Anyone have any ideas as to which one would be more "beneficial" or "rewarding" for the translator? (e.g. is there more call for specialist IT translators or legal translators (and can you demand higher rates as such)? Or which would open more doors if I decided to pack in the freelance game (highly unlikely)?

I'm having a real brain block on this, so any comments would be welcome!



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John Di Rico  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:58
Member (2006)
French to English
Go for law Jan 29, 2007

Hello Simon,
In most countries, there are few certified translators and the profession is regulated (supply shortage + entry barriers = big bucks).
However, you usually have to work for the government at outrageously low rates. You make up for this by charging outrageously high rates in the private sector.
I am not a certified translator so if anyone out there is, please accept my apologies for any misleading information I may be spreading.

Good luck,
John DiRico

[Edited at 2007-01-29 13:06]

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Sonja Allen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:58
Member (2005)
English to German
Look at what the Open University has to offer Jan 29, 2007

The Open University offers all kinds of subjects, including law and IT, and you can study there either for a degree in a certain area (such as IT or Law) or do a socalled "open" degree which allows you to study different things and still get a BSc or BA in the end. So if you opted for such an open degree you could do both IT and law if you wish and would not have to decide between the two of them. They have also what they call "certificate" or "diploma" courses which are not full degrees but for which you take certain modules and get a certificate or diploma awarded afterwards. The courses are fairly expensive though, especially if you do not live in the UK. But have a look if it interests you.

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RobinB  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:58
German to English
Go for law... Jan 29, 2007

but look at this:

It may be just what you're looking for.

I'd avoid IT, if I were you, because I'm pretty confident that the new generation of professional MT systems now coming onto the market is going to make massive inroads into a lot of IT-related translation work (localisation, tech doc) within the next 5-10 years, so translation prices are going to be squeezed, painfully.

I'm equally confident that this will not be the case with legal (and financial) translation, which - certainly at the high end of the market - demands a level of subject-area knowledge beyond that of the overwhelming majority of translators. Plus, it's much more difficult to standardise most types of legal/financial source text to a degree where using MT might make sense, so I'm sure that today's situation will continue, i.e. the shortage of first-rate legal translators means that there will be plenty of work for them for the foreseeable future.

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South Korea
English to Korean
+ ...
Try both and be a translator "assermenté" Jan 29, 2007

That's what I am trying to do this year in terms of career-maintaining.

Just invest your time stuying and familizing terminologies and translated legal and IT related texts.

I understand you want to go back to school, but where? In France or in Paris, you don't have much choice in specialized translation courses.

And, most of clients always ask job experiences in IT and legal translations rather than degrees.

It's better to get into the market now at all cost. After all, we need endlessly new brain, muscles or guns whatever.


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Local time: 23:58
English to German
+ ...
law is better Jan 29, 2007

Hi! one could later specialize on IT-Legal stuff, I am sure these laws here would be perpetually changing just as there would be lot more development in IT technologies. Best Brandis

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Anne Gillard-Groddeck  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:58
German to English
LLM? Jan 29, 2007

You could try this if you meet the entry requirements and have the cash (lots of it):

An extra-curricular course if offered for students with a non-legal background.

If the law does grab you and you want to practise you would need to do a one-year or two-year conversion course.

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Simon Mountifield  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:58
French to English
Law it is, then! Jan 30, 2007

Many thanks for all your comments and advice, which actually confirmed my suspicions.

I did check out the Open University, but the costs seemed rather steep, as did the LLM from the University of Edinburgh, though I'll write the link down for future reference. I must admit that I was extremely tempted by the MA in Legal Translation (I checked out the course after reading RobinB's post last week), but unfortunately, you have to attend 3-4 day sessions four times a year, which is impossible for me. Having said that, I'll keep an eye on it to see if it eventually becomes a 100% distance learning course.

Sunghee, I agree completely with what you said, though I probably didn't explain myself clearly enough. I won't be returning to school as such - due to family and work commitments, I've been looking for a distance learning course for the purpose of continuing professional development (to dovetail with my current translation activity) and the possibility of targeting the high-end of the market in years to come, as RobinB explained. The range of distance learning courses does seem to be growing, so there's hope yet for those of us stuck in a village without any real chance of attending classes.

I'll be enrolling for the External Programme's LLB shortly. Feel free to email me later on (when I've got my nose buried deep in a textbook on contract law) if anyone wants to know what the course is like.

Thanks once again,


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