Experts

The Benefits of a Competent Translation of Legal Documents 

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By Sasha Kishko 

 As the law firm of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh expands its legal translation services, Sasha Kishko, the head of our translation department, would like to provide some tips on the possible range of translation services, and on how to choose the right translator for your needs. 

Offering services to international clients and expats residing in Israel was a natural choice for the multilingual and diverse staff of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh. With a high volume of documents to be translated, and unsatisfactory results when using outside translators, the office organically expanded its services to provide translations of legal documents in a wide variety of languages (Hebrew, English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Dutch and German among others).   

What documents may require legal translation or notarization?  

Some of the documents that require expert translation include contracts, wills, court documents, affidavits, professional and academic certificates, personal documents (such as birth, marriage and divorce certificates), populace registry extracts and more. We also provide notarized translation of documents that require a notary’s confirmation and apostille stamps for documents that require legalization.  

As we have a lot of experience in translating legal documents in Israel and vis-à-vis immigration authorities abroad, as well as editing and resubmitting documents that were bungled by cheap translation services, we gained an appreciation for the importance of professional translation combined with legal knowledge.  

Why use a law firm to translate your documents?  

The vast majority of legal translation services in Israel tend to skimp either on the legal aspect or the translation quality aspect. In other words, your choice is generally between a law student whose grasp of foreign languages is adequate at best, or a professional translator who is unfamiliar with legal jargon and the importance of maintaining an exact translation, even if the result is stilted and unnatural (particularly for notarized documents). CDPB’s combination of certified professional translation and legal professionals familiar with the importance of exact terminology is unique in Israel.  

In some cases, you can get away with an ad-hoc translation conveying only the gist of the legal argument. For example, a client arguing a case in court may only be interested in a basic legal summary of the argument his lawyer presents, or the result of the verdict. On the other hand, exact wording can determine matters of life and death in many documents, so an accurate and legally coherent translation is of utmost importance.  

What are the consequences of shoddy translation?  

Most common examples of the importance of exact phrasing when it comes to legal documents deal with contract law. Multiple stories of “a comma that costs millions” (see examples here: 1,2,3,4,5) cite different incidents in which a seemingly minor phrasing error resulted in a radically different interpretation of contract terms that cost the companies in question millions of dollars.  

To be perfectly honest, however, contracts between parties that speak different languages can (and should) contain a cause clarifying which version of the contract is the definitive one. A professional translator with legal experience can act as another proofreader (and I personally caught a number of errors in real estate contracts that could have substantially altered the terms of the agreement), yet the interpretation of the contract in case of disagreement will not necessarily hinge upon the translated version.   

Conversely, an exact translation of a will provided for the benefit of the testator (the person writing the will) is extremely important. An heir who manages to prove that the deceased did not speak the language in which the will was drafted, or at least did not speak it fluently enough to understand the legalese and exact consequences, will have excellent ground for appeal. In such a case, the translated version can easily prove to be the definitive document, as that is the language the testator spoke, and that document formed the basis of their understanding of the will.   

Another place where the accuracy of translated documents can literally determine the course of someone’s life, is interaction with Israeli authorities, particularly the Ministry of Interior. The MoI bureaucracy has the power to allow or deny applications for immigration, naturalization and entry visas. The entry into Israel of friends, relatives, spouses and children, can often be denied or delayed for years due to seemingly minor errors in submitted documents. 

In summary: 

The translation of legal documents should be treated with as much care and knowledge as the drafting of legal documents. Even if you don’t choose to use CDPBs translation services, at the very least contact a professional translator with some legal experience, rather than friend of a friend. Some of our clients were forced to spend a great deal of time, money and effort correcting mistakes that could have been easily avoided, if the translation of important documents was handled by an expert, rather than someone’s nephew.  

 

Sasha Kishko the head of the legal translation department at the law office of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh, specializing in translations to and from Hebrew, English and Russian. Sasha is a certified translator at the Israeli Translator Association and has an M.A in English literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In addition to his position at CDPB, Sasha heads an independent translation company.   

 Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh Law Offices can be reached at 02-990-3180 or through their website www.lawoffice.org.il

 For more information on their legal translation services, see  https://lawoffice.org.il/en/legal-translation-by-israeli-lawyer

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