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Legal Language Service Provision in the UK for The Minsitry of Justice

August 31, 2021by Ragda Hasan

One of the largest sectors for Language Service provision is the justice sector. The demand for legal translation services is high, especially that the HRA lists the right to an interpreter when presenting a legal defence as an unqualified right. Furthermore, legal proceedings are notoriously long, especially if one were to take into account the parts which take place outside the courtroom, such as police interrogation. However, while these factors all make legal language service provision a frequent occurrence, they also make legal language service provision a sign of prestige and professionalism. Due to the high-stakes nature of the service, clients find it imperative that the quality of the Linguists be high and the service they receive flawlessly.

Access to Justice- Why Legal Language Services Are Commissioned by the Tribunals & Judiciary

Like most other professions, the law comes with a unique set of jargon most individuals do not know. However, unlike most professions, there is assistance for individuals to bypass this jargon when speaking to professionals (e.g. the judge). This is due to concerns this may hinder the judge’s impartiality. It is a legal requirement for Judges to speak to plaintiffs dispassionately, unlike other professionals like doctors, who may be inquisitorial when addressing patients and formulate their diagnosis. In place of a simplified speech from the judge, individuals are provided with legal aid allowing them to commission a lawyer, who can bridge the linguistic gap between laymen terminology and legal speech. However, when individuals do not speak English, a lawyer alone is insufficient. Hence, Legal Language-service providers need to send interpreters who can cross the language barrier between individuals and lawyers, as Lawyers cross the barrier between laymen speech and legal terminology.

Some might ask whether a bilingual would be sufficient to interpret from a target language to English, the simple answer would be “no”. As not only is interpreting a complex task requiring skill and precision in all cases; legal interpreting in particular, also requires the interpreter to understand legal terminology and interpret it back from the court to the end-user. Given this and the gravity of legal proceedings, it is imperative not only to provide interpreters to those who need them in legal circumstances but, to provide suitable interpreters. This has led to the provision of interpreters for the ministry of justice to be a notoriously prestigious task, as the managing director of “Absolute Interpreting and Translations Ltd” (a former Language Service Provider for the Mistry of justice) attests:

legal languge service provision

“Providing Linguists for the ministry of justice has been an honour, but with honour comes the burden of responsibility. Finding suitably qualified linguists for the courtroom, or any other legal environment, including tribunals and police stations, is no easy feat. We have always ensured our team are acutely aware of what is at stake in such environments; as such they spared no effort in making themselves certain of the interpreters’ suitability. Luckily, our agency was and remains rich in qualified linguists with experience in various professional fields, including legal practise”- Emal Haidari- managing director of Absolute Interpreting and Translations Ltd

In this particular firm’s case, it would seem that legal language service provision was handled well, as clear from The Birmingham Tribunals unit’s testimony regarding the quality of their service. This may come down to the nature of the Interpreters Absolute Interpreting and Translations endeavoured to provide.  The Tribunal Service described them as “well qualified” which is a key factor in being able to interpret in legal environments. However, this does come with some caveats, while the right to an interpreter in court is an unqualified right for non-English speakers, it is subject to some logistic constraints, it is not easy to finance or procure legal interpreters, as such, the legal departments engage in completive tending, incentivising legal language service providers to find innovative ways to reduce costs, this has proven effective.

Quality without cost- How Legal Language Service Providers Adapt to Competition- Absolute Interpreting and Translations Case Study

There are a variety of innovations successful Interpreting and translations firms use when providing legal interpreting services. The Managing Director of Absolute Interpreting and Translations has been kind enough to give us some examples of techniques his firm deployed when working with the ministry of justice to provide legal language services.

“One of the most difficult parts of meeting their (ministry of Justice’s) demands was finding suitably qualified Linguists at short notice, we remedied this by appealing not only to full time interpreters, but also to qualified professionals in related fields, such as law and training them ourselves. Other than this, there was the issue of speed, especially in police stations; requests can come through very urgently. In such situations, we developed technology to be the answer, which is why we have invested in effective telephone interpreting solutions.”

To answer the question on how they were able to procure professionals from different fields, he noted that:

“While the prevalence and vitality of language service in legal environments is not known to all communities, it is very well known and deeply appreciated by the communities that have benefited and are continuing to benefit from it. As such, professionals form those communities are often willing to interpret due to the moral value they attach to it.”

The process of locating and recruiting such individuals in numbers large enough to meet the demands of the Ministry of Justice was not disclosed, as it is considered a trade secret. Whether or not the moral appreciation of the provided work has fed into the positive reception that Absolute Interpreting and Translation’s Linguists have received is unknown to me. However, intuitively one would think a moral drive and enthusiasm for your work could only ever be a good thing.

Quality First- Precautions Taken by Legal Language Service Providers.

Aside from investing in creative innovation, successful Legal Language Service providers also invest in a healthy dose of caution. Absolute Interpreting and Translations were unwilling to invest in machine translations for their Legal Translations demands, due to the levels of inaccuracy inherent within machine translations and the need for precision in the Legal Language service. Given my experience with Google Translate, I feel this may be for the best, at least in the meantime. I trust that if/when machine translations ever do reach a degree of accuracy suitable for the legal language translation they will be actively deployed. My current understanding is that for the foreseeable future this will not be the case, despite their use by some firms for other low stake environments.

Thus, while all sectors of the language service industry, are constantly progressing in a manner that allows for the cheaper provision of interpreting and translations services. Ultimately there cannot be a compromise on quality in favour of price in the legal language service sector, or in the courtroom generally speaking. As such, accredited agencies that provide language services for courts always have suitable means of quality assurance, proving that the services they provide are suitable in legal contexts. For Absolute Interpreting and Translations, these assurances came in the form of ISO accreditations and membership with the ATC, as well as various procedures. Such procedures include:

– Webinar interviews with all applicants upon registration.
– Providing relevant qualifications upon registration.
– Provision of an enhanced DBS, subject to renewal at set intervals.
– Provision of two references upon registration.
– Performance report attached to the interpreter’s timesheet for each booking.

To summarise:

Providing interpreting and translation services in the legal field is no simple matter, but it is a significant matter. Thus, professional Language-Service providers, such as Absolute Interpreting and Translations, employ various techniques to ensure that legal language services are provided at a sustainable cost, without sacrificing the quality of the service. They are able to do so, as they know what actually affects the quality of the service provided, meaning they never sacrifice quality when pursuing efficiency.

Ragda Hasan

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