Training within the legal field
Thread poster: Andrew Mac

Andrew Mac  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:13
French to English
+ ...
Apr 30, 2012

Hi All,

I was hoping for some advice on furthering my career in translation. I graduated with a MA in Translation and Interpreting (French and Spanish) and have been working as a freelancer now for 1 and half years.

I am starting to become very interested in the legal field and thus wanted to carry out a masters in legal translation in order to develop my knowledge further in the field and wished to know if anyone can advise on the best courses to carry out within the UK.

I have seen this one http://www.city.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/legal-translation which looks quite closely linked to what I am looking for out of the course but wondered if anyone had done it or knew of it and could advise as to whether it would be a good launching pad into legal freelance translation?

Also, I would love to hear your views on how prosperous the legal translation field is currently, is competition stiff for projects or are quality legal translators still well sought after?

Thanks in advance for your help,

Andy


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:13
Member
French to English
+ ...
Am also considering a course Apr 30, 2012

The course you've found (which is the only MA in Legal Translation in the UK that I know of) has been discussed before, you might like to read this thread:

http://www.proz.com/forum/professional_development/174113-city_universitys_legal_translation_ma_feedback.html

Am fairly sure it's been discussed in at least one other thread, but can't find it right now. You could try searching the forums.

I'm currently interested in gaining a legal-related qualification myself. The City University MA is a course I have considered, but I wouldn't want to do the whole of it. I know it used to be possible to take individual modules of it for CPD purposes, but the website doesn't seem to mention that option (unless it's tucked away on some page I haven't found yet), so I don't know if that's still the case. The cost of the full course (£7,000) seems overly high to me, I understand it was considerably less as recently as a couple of years ago. Then there are the travel/time aspects to consider. One other drawback is that as far as I can gather, it doesn't cover criminal law, which seems a rather strange omission.

A college close to where I live offers the ILEX Level 3 Certificate and Diploma in Law and Practice, each spread out over a year and involving one three-hour class per week. That would suit me a lot better in terms of fitting study in with work, and there is a good range of law options available, but these courses only cover English law, whereas the City University MA also looks at foreign legal systems. Maybe I'll start off with an ILEX course and then do a module or two of the MA at some point, if that's possible.

My impression of the "industry" thus far is that there are plenty of law firms out there that want quality translations and are willing to pay good rates.

[Edited at 2012-04-30 11:10 GMT]


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Aisha Maniar  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:13
Member (2003)
Arabic to English
+ ...
languages and law Apr 30, 2012

I can’t comment on the course at City University but I can say that university is very well known for the quality of its postgraduate vocational courses, particularly in law.

I don’t believe this course was available when I did my master’s degree in translation, however I felt the course I did (at Edinburgh University and without interpreting) adequately covered the theory of how to translate in general. I am interested in the law as well and was already mainly a legal translator when I ended up doing a whole other degree in law (LLB). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that – I did it for a number of reasons, not just my career – and various things pushed me in that direction. I think there are a number of options available, in addition to the MA in legal translation, such as postgraduate law courses, such as ILEX, which Peter mentioned; there is also the GDL and short courses I assume you can do by correspondence from other universities such as the Open University or Birkbeck College. I’m sure others may offer just short units/courses in specific areas of the law.

Time and money aside, it’s also useful to question why you want the qualification and what you want to get out of it when choosing a course: the law is very broad, so does your course cover the areas you want? Is there enough practical work on it to test your learning/skills, etc.? It’s probably worth contacting the tutors in advance. It’s also worth considering whether you want more of a linguistic or legal approach.

I personally think a legal qualification and the ability to approach a legal text both as a linguistic and a lawyer is a useful skill for a legal translator and I don’t think an MA in legal translation will prejudice your chances of finding work in other areas of translation.

As for the potential, there is a lot of work out there for skilled legal translators, both via agencies and direct clients (law firms/organisations/companies needing documents translated directly). When it comes down to skilled individuals, it is a niche and there is definitely work if you have the ability to do it. I would suggest not focusing on too many areas of the law; I find legal translators who are strong in some areas are weak in others. Similarly, lawyers working in one area (e.g. family law) may know little or nothing about another (e.g. planning/environmental law). Another thing to bear in mind when working with languages that cover so many jurisdictions (in the UK alone, we have 3 separate legal systems, without throwing EU/international law into the mix!) that specialising is all the more important as you will be dealing with such different systems and approaches.

Peter, I suspect covering criminal law and perhaps also public/administrative law in such a course would be a complete nightmare given how different systems are and the philosophical backgrounds to them – ever tried explaining why we have juries? – before even looking at the language. Studying English law alone isn’t as bad as all that, particularly if that is the legal system you will be translating/approximating another system into. Particularly in international law/arbitration/trade/etc. English law tends to dominate all over anyway; you will also have covered the legal system (or most of it) for Commonweath countries, if you translate for those markets too. I personally think a course in comparative law is quite useful at least to see how, where and why different systems vary. I think that was one of the most useful things I learned. Unfortunately I didn’t have the option of doing a unit in French law as part of my course even though I already had a degree in the language.

Outside of formal education, there is the option of reading books on the law – undergraduate course books – and books on comparative English/French, English/Spanish, English/German, etc. law. It’s also worth, if you have kind lawyer friends, running a few passages of your work by them from time to time to see if it makes sense to them and to see if they’d structure such a text in the same way (provided you’re not breaching confidentiality…); they don’t have to know your foreign language.

I hope this is of some help, Aisha


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Andrew Mac  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:13
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Direction Apr 30, 2012

Hi Aisha and Peter,

Thank you very much for your help and the advice given. Peter I had a look up on the posts that you mentioned and contacted one of the members who had already gone through the course when it first launched and gained some valuable information. Let me know if you want me to forward this on to you if you are also thinking about it.

My background is linguistic having done an MA in translation and interpretation in French and Spanish but have taken more interest in the legal side but feel that I don't want to go any further without getting a really good base of legal knowledge along with some credentials which will give my collaborators confidence in my level of knowledge. Therefore, I would be looking for more of a legal content course but which covers good methods of translating legal passages.

I will certainly take a look into the other colleges and courses stated below for info.

Thanks again,

Andy


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:13
Member
French to English
+ ...
City MA May 1, 2012

Andrew Mac wrote:

Thank you very much for your help and the advice given. Peter I had a look up on the posts that you mentioned and contacted one of the members who had already gone through the course when it first launched and gained some valuable information. Let me know if you want me to forward this on to you if you are also thinking about it.



Yes please Andy, that would be great - as long as that's okay with whoever it is!

And best of luck with whatever option you decide to take up. I do think legal translation is an excellent field to work in, for a number of reasons - the high level of demand, appreciative end clients, decent rates and simply the fact that it's interesting!

Peter


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:13
French to English
Specific MAs May 1, 2012

Peter Shortall wrote:

Andrew Mac wrote:

Thank you very much for your help and the advice given. Peter I had a look up on the posts that you mentioned and contacted one of the members who had already gone through the course when it first launched and gained some valuable information. Let me know if you want me to forward this on to you if you are also thinking about it.



Yes please Andy, that would be great - as long as that's okay with whoever it is!

And best of luck with whatever option you decide to take up. I do think legal translation is an excellent field to work in, for a number of reasons - the high level of demand, appreciative end clients, decent rates and simply the fact that it's interesting!

Peter


Experience will get you a long way and so of course do the right courses. Bear in mind that experience will be the great rabbit to bring out of the hat as that will be the key to credibility with clients.

There are a number of people with extensive legal qualifications and experience who translate part-time, full-time. You will be competing for cotnracts with those people. I have a legal qualifications and training but it is one of the areas I have certain pockets of expertise to offer but not extensively - and certainly not to all fields of law.

This is just a friendly caveat putting you on guard against what may be a major investment in terms of cash for a return which may be limited at least in the early stages. It may also be exactly what you need to make the difference.

I thought it was important to have a different view. Were I seeking someone to translate a medical text, I would have a great deal more confidence in the accuracy and the finesse of the finished product if the job were done by a doctor with excellent language skills - someone who really knew what he was talking about - than in a person who was a linguist first and who had acquired medical knowledge second.

I repeat though that there are no fixed rules about this. Some medics are lousy linguists; idem a great many legal beagles. You can only produce thoroughly professional texts when you know what you are talking about. Can a masters in legal translation actually offer that? A person with a law degree or legal qualification who has lived abroad, worked in other langauges who then tops it off with a masters would be in an excellent position to take lots of interesting jobs. People like that may actually enrol on that masters.

From a pragmatic point of view, can you afford the risk of next to no return on investment?


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skiki86
Local time: 12:13
Spanish to Italian
+ ...
Looking for the same course May 24, 2012

Hi Andy,

I have just finished my MA in translation (spanish and english into italian) and I am currently looking for a course in specialized translation. I am getting some experience in legal translation working in a translation company as intern, so I'd like to stay in that specialized field which I find very interesting.

Please when you have a second could you share the info you've collected with me too?

Thank you!!

Martina.


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