Should a Lawyer Translate a Contract?

April 18, 2021
8 minute read
Product Marketing

Should a Lawyer Translate a Contract?

When you do business with foreign companies or customers regularly, you'll come across situations where you'll need to translate a contract or legal agreement.

This is becoming increasingly common and important because businesses are operating globally where global contracts are the norm.

But should you get a lawyer to translate the contract for you? In this post, we'll look at this question in more detail and tell you why it is important to work with a bilingual contract lawyer.

Qualified International Lawyers

When we refer to a bilingual contract lawyer, we refer to the fact that the lawyer should be a qualified international lawyer with the appropriate legal license in the target market. In other words, the lawyer should be qualified to practice and admitted or licensed as such in both your country and the country of the counterparty. To be licensed or admitted to practice in both companies, that lawyer would need the relevant qualifications and experience to qualify. Below are some of the things to look for:

Fluent in Target Language

A qualified international lawyer you want to work with will be fluent in the source language and native in the target language. This will allow them to understand and comprehend the language in either country, improving the translation quality and ensuring that you get the best result. It is important the lawyer is native in the target language since they will know the nuances of the country's language and make sure it reads smoothly.

Understands Local Laws & Market

But it goes further than just understanding to different languages. A qualified international lawyer will also understand the laws and market conditions of both countries.

This enables them to interpret the contract's language in the context of the local laws and regulations. In simple terms, they'll be able to translate the contract while, at the same time, keeping every party's rights and obligations intact. They will also understand the country's legal system to do checks to make sure the contract is enforceable and legal in the target market.

Knows Local Legal Terminology

Because a bilingual contract lawyer is suitably qualified to practice law in the target market, they will know the local legal terminology. They can then use this knowledge to translate the contract to ensure that there is no ambiguity in the terms and conditions. Ultimately, this reduces the possibility of any disputes between the parties later on.

Contract Translation Examples

Let’s look at some examples where contract translation may be necessary.

Master Service Agreements

A master service agreement (MSA) or often referred to as a framework agreement, is a contract entered into between two or more parties in which they agree on most of the terms that will be used to govern future contracts or transactions.

So, when you enter into an MSA with a foreign company, it may be necessary to translate the MSA so that there is a version available in both languages. In this way, both parties to the contract know precisely what is expected of them, and you prevent the possibility of disputes later on.

Terms of Service & Privacy Policy

You'll typically find these types of contracts on websites or mobile apps, and if you have your own website or app, you'll probably need either one or both. But what exactly is the difference between the two.

In simple terms:

  • A privacy policy agreement is required when you collect personal information from your customers. In other words, it protects your customers.
  • A terms and conditions agreement sets out the terms, conditions, requirements, and clauses relating to the use of your website. In other words, the terms and conditions agreement protects you.

Now, if you had a multilingual website, it may be necessary for you to translate these agreements into the language which your website users use.

Distribution Agreement

A distribution agreement is a contract between the supplier of goods and a distributor of goods. In other words, if you sell products you get from another company, you're the distributor, and the other company is the supplier.

Now, suppose the supplier and the distributor are in different countries that use different languages. In that case, it may be necessary to translate the distribution agreement so that there's certainty between the contracting parties of their respective rights and obligations.

Employment Contract

As the name suggests, an employment contract is a contract that contains all the terms, conditions, and clauses relating to a person's employment at a company.

As a result, when the employee is not a native English speaker, contract translation may be necessary. A simple example would be where a US company hires a French employee to manage its operations in France.

By translating the contract, both the employer and employee will be aware of their rights and obligations and will not be able to claim any misunderstanding in the case of a dispute.

Work with Lawyers for Contract Translation

Now that you know who does contract translation and some examples of where it is used, the immediate question is why you should use a lawyer for your contract translation needs. Let’s take a look.

Avoid Literal Translation

It is essential that you accurately translate any contact when doing business internationally. However, some translators who are not used to legal translation will often do a literal translation of the contract's text. This can lead to ambiguity and some terms and conditions that are not clear. It can also lead to an invalid or unenforceable contract.

When a lawyer translates the contract, they'll use their understanding of the law to understand the meaning of the terms and conditions. When they understand the meaning of the terms and conditions, they'll be able to translate that meaning into the target language. In this way, you create legal certainty and avoid contractual disputes later on.

Uncaptured Legal Concepts

Contracts contain a myriad of terms, conditions, and clauses that will serve to give the contracting parties rights and obligations in terms of the contract.

Therefore, it is vital that, during the translation of the contract, one of these rights and obligations isn't missed. When a lawyer does the translation, they'll use their skills and experience in contract law to ensure that all the necessary legal concepts in the contract are carried over from the source language to the target language.

Cross-Reference Local Law Issues

Although a specific legal principle applies in your country, it doesn't mean that it will apply similarly in the target country. Lawyers have the necessary skills and experience to identify these issues and cross-reference them to find the relevant legal principle in the target country.

Understand Local Legal System

Bilingual lawyers will understand and often have experience in the local legal systems of both companies. For example, a bilingual English and French lawyer will often have the necessary experience and knowledge of both the legal systems of the US and France and potentially Canada.

As a result, they'll be able to understand the meaning of the terms, conditions, and clauses of the contract and be better able to translate the contents of the contract while keeping the meaning intact.

Consistent Defined Terms

Defined terms are words that are given a specific in a contract. So, although a word may have another meaning, the defined terms give the words a meaning that applies in the context of the agreement.

These terms are then used to interpret the contract easier because they make the contract provisions more concise and reduce the risk of ambiguity in the contract.

For this reason, these defined terms must stay consistent in both versions of the contract. Thus, a lawyer will be able to translate the contract while keeping these terms consistent throughout.

Protect Your Brand

When a lawyer translates the terms and conditions of your contract with a foreign company while keeping the meaning of the contract intact, it shows that you're taking the contract seriously.

In contrast, mistranslations like literal translations or inaccurate translations will reflect poorly on your business, leading to some reputational damage.

Updates to Future Versions

Ultimately, when a lawyer translates your contract, you'll end up with two different language versions but with a consistent meaning. This makes updates to future versions of the contract easier because it gives you an accurate and consistent basis from which to work from.

This means that, even if you don't use the same lawyer to do any translation, everyone will understand the import of the contract.

Get Help From ContractsGlobal

Hopefully, this post helped illustrate why you should let a lawyer translate your contracts. Considering the importance of contracts in your business, it's a worthwhile investment.

If you want to know more about contract translation services or about our services, get in touch with us to discuss further.

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