Law firm with a solid approach to legal translation

My ears pricked up (well, my eyes) when I saw a tweet by the relatively new blog Slator, ostensibly about NMT (Neural Machine Translation).

Head of at law firm says NMT not sufficiently developed for use in much of their work

So I clicked through, and was pleasantly surprised to find an article which contains interesting insights into a law firm that respects the legal translator’s role.

Taiwan Legal: Inside the Winkler Partners Translation Team

by Marion Marking

Taiwan’s legal system poses a singular challenge to Chinese-English legal translators as it still retains many elements of the Japanese and European models from which it was originally derived.

In this milieu sui generis, the commercial law firm of Winkler Partners Attorneys at Law operates; and Paul Cox is its Head of Translation. According to Cox, Taiwan’s legal terminology and concepts do not often correspond neatly with those of Anglo-American common law, which he said “can present challenges and pitfalls when translating certain terms and concepts into English”.

Distinct from other legal systems in the region (e.g., China, Hong Kong), Taiwan’s is “an increasingly mixed system,” said Cox, and the country’s lawmakers and regulators today refer to the laws of many advanced countries when drafting or amending statutes and regulations. […]

Cox […] met the firm’s founding partner Robin Winkler in 1999. Said Cox, “While building his legal practice, Robin also did a lot of translation and was very conscious of the importance of its accuracy in a transnational legal practice that involves helping overseas clients with matters in Taiwan”. […]

The translation department of Winkler Partners translates exclusively from written Chinese (Simplified and Traditional) into English and vice versa. They mainly translate the case documents needed by the firm’s staff and clients, but also provide the service directly to other businesses, law firms, and government agencies. […]

Cox’s team primarily handles contracts, letters from government regulators, corporate compliance documents, transactional documents, demand letters, litigation-related documents, pleadings and court decisions, financial statements, patents, court hearing transcripts, and contents of laws and regulations, among others. […] Cox described his role as “nominally the coordinator” as his translation colleagues are “very experienced and we work as an equal team”. […]

Over the years, a number of translation staff have transitioned into legal work, which benefits from their linguistic background. Cox said they maintain “high-quality translation and communication capabilities as one pillar of our firm’s overall service.” […]  We do not outsource to companies,” […].

“As a philosophy, we try to avoid getting locked into expensive proprietary translation software.” But, he lamented, “I have the disheartening impression that technology is increasingly being usurped as a tool to cut translator prices”. His advice: Specialize.

According to Cox, translators can somewhat insulate themselves from the most cutthroat competition by carving out niches in, for instance, legal translation […].

As for neural machine translation (NMT), Cox said, while they watch developments with interest they “have not yet found it sufficiently developed to be useful for much of our work,” […].


To read the full article, see here.


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