The discovery process in litigation can be a labour-intensive, costly component of casework. In fact, recent studies have shown that document review can account for 30% of the costs of legal work.
With cross-border litigation that involves multiple languages, these costs are compounded by the need to review documents in more than one language. In order to contain costs, law firms should develop decision-making algorithms to decide what material needs legal translation, the level of sophistication of that translation, and who is responsible for document review.
Understand the Translation Options
Translation can be accomplished through two main methods:
Machine Translation: This method’s major advantage is low-cost, fast service. It's faulted, though, include imprecision and faulty translation due to the fact that it’s a word-for-word translation that disregards grammar, syntax, and linguistic nuances.
Human Translation: As a pro, this strategy is precise and yields quality translations. The major disadvantage is that it is a high-cost and labour-intensive service.
The decision regarding which path to take involves consideration of the volume of documentation to translate, the level of precision required, and who usually performs document review.
Assess Volume of Material
The first point of assessment is how much property documentation needs translation.
For small amounts of material, it usually makes sense to hire a human translator. The per-word cost is higher, but savings occur in two areas: there’s no need to purchase machine translation software and no need for billing document review for accuracy.
Deciding the right volume threshold before considering other options is a function of cost-management. Likely, the material volume under 5,000 words will be more cost-effective with a human translator, which also saves time and concerns about accuracy.
For larger amounts of material, a decision tree should be developed for when to use the machine or human translation, or some combination of the two.
Create A Category Assessment Process
For each case, decide levels of relevancy to categorize material for legal translation. Once the categories are established, the next decision is what approach to use for document review:
Use Machine Translation for All Material
While machine translation will produce a low-quality translation, it will provide a clear idea of the content of individual documents. In-house legal staff can review the translation and move specific material into its appropriate category for higher levels of legal translation as necessary.
Hire a Language Service Provider (LSP)
A professional human translator can review material in its original language and move it into the categories supplied by the legal technology lawyer. Brief summaries of the content of the documents can be created for confirmation by the legal team.
Deciding who will review the documents can factor into cost-management. Billing for in-house legal staff to review machine translations might negate the cost-savings of using the software approach.
Using an LSP to review documents in the original language might bill less than in-house staff, but take longer due to consulting over the relevancy of material. Finding the right balance and even using both approaches depending on the aspect of the case might be the best approach.
Proceed with Translations
With category priorities in hand, the legal team can then decide further priorities of translation within each category. Critical documents might automatically be assigned human translation, while machine translation might be sufficient for less relevant materials. Not everything needs to happen at once: a timeline for translation needs can be established as issues are reviewed and resolved.
Planning Ahead Saves Time and Money
By creating a decision-making algorithm at the start of a case, law firms can approach translation needs more efficiently. A decision tree reduces the need to reassess every document as it becomes part of a case. Assigning document review tasks to in-house staff versus outside translators can save significant time that can be better spent on other legal work.
An LSP can act as a consultant for establishing the decision-making framework. By working together, law firms and LSPs can produce quality translations of pertinent materials when necessary and take an approach focusing on cost-savings.