How to Become a Legal Professional Certified Translator

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Legal translation is the conversion of a legal text or document from one language into another language. The legal system in our country and other countries is very influenced by its culture. Because culture plays a big part in the legal systems this makes translation an even more critical job for the legal professional translator.

Only legal professional certified translators who specialize in translating legal text should translate legal writing. To be a legal professional certified translator one must be certified with the American Translators Association (ATA). ATA, a professional association, was established to confer a status to develop those professionals who translate and interpret. There are 10,000 members of the ATA and the membership covers 90 plus countries. Their professional members work in many careers such as translators, interpreters, teachers, web and software developers, project managers, hospitals, government agencies, and universities.



The goal of ATA is to foster the professional development of translators and interpreters while advancing the translation and interpreting professions. This includes legal interpretation through the certification program the organization offers to all translators.

The following are the steps to become an ATA member and become certified:

Become an ATA Associate member. Associate membership is available to any person interested in the ATA. Applicants will remain Associate members for four weeks before they apply for Active Membership Review or take the ATA certification test. When an associate passes the certification exam he automatically advances to Active status.

Meet Eligibility Requirements

1. Verification of a bachelor's degree. (If a translator does not have a bachelor's degree he may substitute 5 years work experience as a translator or interpreter.)

2. Documentation that the candidate has worked at least 2 years as a translator or interpreter.

Sign Up for a Three Hour, Open Book ATA Exam. Certify in a language combination.

These steps will satisfy employers of ones ability to do professional certified legal translation but some law firms might have more requirements than just being a certified translator. Here are some specific requirements set forth by a company which hires legal professional certified translators to be on staff for legal translation.
  • The interpretation of legal language and the intent of the source text to suit its culture
  • A legal translator being familiar with the legal system from which the document originates
  • The knowledge of most legal documents and the precise rights and duties established for the involved individuals
  • Legal translation of Certificates of Accuracy, Trusts, Wills, Articles of Incorporation, and Depositions
  • Occasionally court attendance by the legal translator
  • The use of law dictionaries
  • There are many legal events to which the legal translator might have to be a participant: contract translations, purchase agreements, legal disclaimers, non-disclosure agreements, legal certifications and statements, legal rulings, litigation support, export reports, and arbitration.
Legal professional certified translator's salaries and the job outlook are great. Salaries range from $33,000 to $93,000. The job outlook is expected to be better than average as growth will be faster for this occupation. The contributing factors are international connections and the expected increase of foreign language speakers in the U.S.

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