Legal translations: caution when using AI followed by post-editing

AI in legal translation, weighing risks and benefits. CB Multilingual. Contact us for expert language services.

Legal translations: caution when using AI followed by post-editing


The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) alongside human skills in legal translation is generating debate about its merits and demerits. Currently, many law firms are embracing the combined potential of AI technologies and human skills. This partnership promises to improve workflow efficiency, reduce costs and maintain translation accuracy.

However, as legal translators, we are at a crossroads. Despite the allure of innovation, we must be wary of potential inaccuracies and the dangers they pose. At such times, it is imperative to pause and reaffirm our commitment to unwavering methodologies that ensure the reliable delivery of quality legal translations.

Is it possible to ensure a comprehensive understanding of nuances within complex legal texts containing intricate language and terminology?

Legal language, with its intricate nuances and precise terminology, demands accurate interpretation based on human expertise and experience. The complexity of legal documents requires careful consideration of legal principles, cultural differences and contextual elements, all of which require human judgement and interpretation. AI systems may not consistently render legal terminology accurately.

  • Specialised legal translators have the ability to understand the broader legal context, appreciate subtle nuances and use precise legal terminology in their translations. They offer insight into legal nuances that machine translation may miss, ensuring that the translated text accurately conveys the intended legal meaning.

Can productivity be really improved?

While the fusion of AI and human expertise in legal translation promises increased productivity, the actual scenario is different. The intricate nature of legal documents requires meticulous attention to detail and context. Post-editing after machine translation can be so time-consuming that the expected productivity gains remain elusive.

  • Ensuring a high level of accuracy, nuance and adherence to specific legal terminology when translating complex legal texts requires the use of legal translators. In fact, opting for human translation may prove to be more efficient and time-saving than an AI-based approach with post-editing.

Can greater cost efficiency be achieved?

This is closely related to the goal of increasing productivity (as discussed above). The use of AI-driven machine translation followed by post-editing by specialised legal translators is often seen as a cost-effective approach. However, it’s important to consider the potential hidden costs associated with the extensive post-editing required to correct inaccuracies, as this could reduce the overall cost-effectiveness.

  • The complexity and importance of specific legal documents often require the expertise and precision that only specialised legal translators can provide. In such cases, direct translation by legal experts remains the preferred choice to ensure both the productivity and quality of the translation process.

Can adequate personalised support be provided to meet individual legal client requirements?

The intricacies and complexities of legal texts typically require close collaboration between the legal client and the translation service provider. This collaboration is essential to ensure accuracy, quality and compliance with legal standards, to foster a relationship of trust, to clarify ambiguities and to facilitate feedback and corrections.

  • Legal translators communicate effectively with clients, understand their needs and tailor translations to accurately convey the desired message. This requires expertise, contextual understanding and attention to detail that AI alone cannot provide.

Does regular use of this process protect law firms/lawyers from reputational risks?

Inaccuracies in the translation of legal texts can lead to compliance issues, as they must adhere to strict legal standards. Machine translation often overlooks the subtleties of legal terminology and does not guarantee compliance with specific regulations. In addition, post-editing often overlooks potential errors as the results may appear accurate on the surface. This can have significant legal implications.

  • Professional legal translators are the only ones equipped to navigate the complex legal terrain. They ensure that translations comply with relevant regulations, minimising the risk of legal disputes or infringements arising from inaccurate machine translations (even if they are subsequently post-edited). Working with qualified legal translators reduces errors and helps mitigate legal liabilities.

Is it possible to ensure absolute confidentiality for clients?

Sending sensitive legal information to digital machine translation platforms raises confidentiality concerns. Third-party machine translation services may not provide assured security, potentially compromising the confidentiality of legal documents.

  • By working with professional legal translators who adhere to strict confidentiality standards to protect sensitive legal information, clients can be assured that their legal documents will be handled with the utmost discretion and security.

Quality should remain paramount in legal translation.

While the integration of AI and human expertise is promising, it’s important to recognise that machine translations, even with post-editing, may not consistently achieve the same level of quality as translations produced by experienced human translators familiar with legal language and context. Relying solely on this approach may result in errors, reduced quality and undermine the integrity of legal communication.

In summary, while machine translation followed by post-editing may be sufficient for certain types of text, it is not a panacea for legal translation. The apparent benefits are countered by various hidden risks, ranging from minor to significant. These risks may not be immediately apparent, but there’s a growing body of evidence, underpinned by numerous cases, to suggest that reliance on these techniques may be regretted in the medium to long term.

Do you need high quality legal translations? Contact us for assistance. We’ll be happy to guide you through the process of translating your legal documents. Feel free to contact us at any time. We’re here to help and look forward to your enquiry.