Legal Translation vs Financial Translation
Thread poster: ManuelFall
ManuelFall
Australia
Local time: 07:50
Russian to English
+ ...
Mar 23, 2016

I've been translating on an on/off basis for a few years and decided that it was time to specialise. I planned on focussing my efforts on legal translation, but after reading some comments of people who specialise in legal translation I got the strong impression that it is one of the lower-paying niches - at least in the Spanish-English and Russian-English language groups.

I started thinking about focussing instead on financial translations - only because I have yet to hear any negative feedback from people working in this field (and also because of my own background in trading).

So for anyone who's a subject matter expert in legal/financial translation, which of the two provide a better shot at a good stream of well-paying work? Or if I could simplify the question, which of the two fields pays more?

If translation is to become a career, as opposed to a job, and also accounting for the long period of study it takes to become a subject expert in a given field, I think this question is vitally important.


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The Misha
Local time: 18:20
Russian to English
+ ...
They are the same field, actually Mar 24, 2016

If my own, almost three-decade-long experience in one of your pairs is any indication, you can hardly ever separate the two. Unless you understand "legal" here as certified/sworn/party approved translation of vital statistics records, as some, amazingly, do, or view a bank teller as a "financial industry" worker, choosing this particular specialization will mostly mean you will be spending your waking (and sometimes sleeping, too) hours translating trade or intellectual property-related contracts, securities documents and materials from international arbitration (and, more rarely, litigation) proceedings where parties sue each other over fairly large amounts of money. In addition to a fair command of both your languages, this will require at least some basic knowledge of law, finance, accounting, securities markets, general business practices and what not. To illustrate, how would you classify an IPO prospectus that describes issue terms and conditions, company financials and business basics, etc. - as "legal" or "financial"? Or a list of contested assets and their valuations in a suit between two Russian oligarchs in London? Or never-ending bickering between these parties' counsel over corporate governance issues - i.e., control over financial assets and decisions?

The good news is that none of this is rocket science and could be learned as you go along, though, of course, incrementally. This in itself isn't much of a problem. What seems to be, judging by what you wrote in your original post, is that you share a number of common misconceptions about what translation as an occupation is, and what it is definitely not. First off, it is definitely not a career - not in the general sense anyway of a steady progression from one corporate position to another with an ever increasing degree of responsibility. If you specialize in legal and finance, you will begin by airing other people's dirty financial laundry - and find yourself, thirty years down the road, doing exactly the same, if, hopefully, while being a little better off financially. Don't kid yourself, you will never become an investment banker, nor drive a Ferrari, for that matter. Nor is it a job, not the kind anyway where you punch the clock in the morning in exchange for the security of a regular paycheck and two weeks of vacation annually in some beachside all-inclusive resort. It always puzzles me when translators get compared to office plankton or other "professionals". We are none of that. Ours is first and foremost a craft, which you mostly learn by doing, rather than by getting a "Master's in Translation," whatever that is. We are more like skilled artisans - gold- and gunsmiths, bakers, shoemakers, and such. For the most part, that also makes us businesses - small, struggling businesses, that is. If we are good at what we do and lucky enough, it also makes us free - or at least as free as one can possibly get without having been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, or a party membership card in his breast pocket. That, if you will, is the fatal attraction here.

If you are after a career, do yourself a favor and go elsewhere. Or better yet, go to school, have a rewarding career in finance or law, or whatever else strikes your fancy, and then come back on a semi-retired basis twenty years down the road when the mortgage is paid, the kids are all grown up and you get sick and tired of showing up at the office at nine o'clock in the morning.

Either way, good luck to you.


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Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:20
Member
French to Spanish
+ ...
Differences Mar 25, 2016

ManuelFall wrote:

...which of the two fields pays more?



I have never undertaken financial translations which fall in a different area at least in Spanish university degrees, but I'm a sworn translator.

Sworn translators in Spain have higher rates because of our diploma (we had to pass a pretty hard exam).

But beware: sworn (legal, certified) translators are not only law translators: we have to certify that our translation is accurate. But to my knowledge, law translators are well paid too


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 05:20
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Japanese terms Oct 13, 2016

The Misha wrote:

If my own, almost three-decade-long experience in one of your pairs is any indication, you can hardly ever separate the two. Unless you understand "legal" here as certified/sworn/party approved translation of vital statistics records, as some, amazingly, do, or view a bank teller as a "financial industry" worker, choosing this particular specialization will mostly mean you will be spending your waking (and sometimes sleeping, too) hours translating trade or intellectual property-related contracts, securities documents and materials from international arbitration (and, more rarely, litigation) proceedings where parties sue each other over fairly large amounts of money. In addition to a fair command of both your languages, this will require at least some basic knowledge of law, finance, accounting, securities markets, general business practices and what not. To illustrate, how would you classify an IPO prospectus that describes issue terms and conditions, company financials and business basics, etc. - as "legal" or "financial"? Or a list of contested assets and their valuations in a suit between two Russian oligarchs in London? Or never-ending bickering between these parties' counsel over corporate governance issues - i.e., control over financial assets and decisions?



I translated a number of Japanese documents. I am sure JP legal and JP financial terms are obviously different due to her legal history and background e.g. influence of German laws into Japanese laws since 1860s. In many arbitration statements, I seriously select different words for legal or financial terms.

Soonthon L.


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Both pay well Oct 13, 2016

ManuelFall wrote:

I've been translating on an on/off basis for a few years and decided that it was time to specialise. I planned on focussing my efforts on legal translation, but after reading some comments of people who specialise in legal translation I got the strong impression that it is one of the lower-paying niches - at least in the Spanish-English and Russian-English language groups.

I started thinking about focussing instead on financial translations - only because I have yet to hear any negative feedback from people working in this field (and also because of my own background in trading).

So for anyone who's a subject matter expert in legal/financial translation, which of the two provide a better shot at a good stream of well-paying work? Or if I could simplify the question, which of the two fields pays more?

If translation is to become a career, as opposed to a job, and also accounting for the long period of study it takes to become a subject expert in a given field, I think this question is vitally important.


To take a rather simplistic view, to specialize in a field can be reduced to two factors: (i) subject matter and (ii) terminology (because the ‘linguistic’ factor is a must no matter the field you choose).

To specialize in legal texts, you need to study law; you need to understand concepts in both justisdictions and you need to be able to use proper terminology. The same is true for finalcial texts.

The questions is, do you already have expertise in either of the two?

I work in the field of law, because I studied law at university and postgraduate levels in both languages. I studied law, because I was attracted to it. The “attraction” is important, to make your career sustainable and enyoyable.

Which one did you study/are attracted to?

Both pay well. However, I find financial text more time consuming (probably, because I only did some modules in finance; not like law, which I studied inside out).


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xxxIlan Rubin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 01:20
Russian to English
About equal Oct 13, 2016

I think they pay about the same. You just have to go out and find the clients, which is part persistence, part luck.

And don't forget about editing - in the Ru>En pair there is much more work editing than translating for native English speakers. Once you find a couple of direct clients, especially law firms (which have a much higher English language document flow than investment banks in Russia these days) you can be fully loaded.

Judging by your profile you have (or should have) a sufficient grasp of the subject areas without significant additional study. Learning more vocab is an ongoing effort that you pick up during translation, whereas the real study is learning how it works - your ROA from ROE etc - and I assume you know all this.


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