Les conseqüències perjudicials dels termes utilitzats per i per a la professió de traducció jurídica

Autor:Juliette Rose Scott
Càrrec:Researcher & Lecturer in Legal Translation Studies at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London
Pàgines:57-74
RESUMEN

This paper posits that the terminology used for and by the legal translation profession is not without significance, and may affect perceived status, professionalization, empowerment, and even remuneration. Serious signalling issues in the translation profession as a whole were brought to the fore in a study by Pym et al (2012), while Katan (2011a) reported on a widespread perception of low status by translators themselves. Facilitators and barriers to translators’ professionalization and empowerment have been investigated extensively (e.g., Dam & Koskinen, 2016; Dam & Zethsen, 2010; Sela-Sheffy, 2011), while in recent years there has been a discernable downward pressure on the amount that clients seem willing to pay for legal translation. It would appear, however, that there is little discussion in the literature of the actual terms used within the legal translation procurement process and for the actors involved. As a short illustration in English: we may establish a cline going from "asset", "resource", "vendor", "freelancer", "supplier", and "provider" to "professional" or "practitioner", and consider how such terms are applied to the translation and legal professions and the very different signals that are transmitted (Scott, 2015). Further examples from a recent global survey of stakeholders in the outsourced legal translation market (Scott, 2016a) are also examined. Conclusions will be drawn regarding the potential of concepts such as occupational branding (Ashcraft et al., 2012), and the implications of terminological awareness for legal translator training programmes, professional bodies, and for individual legal translators.

 
CONTENIDO
THE PERNICIOUS EFFECTS OF TERMS USED FOR AND BY THE LEGAL
TRANSLATION PROFESSION
Juliette Rose Scott
Abstract
This paper posits that the terminology used for and by the legal translation profession is not without signicance, and
may affect perceived status, professionalization, empowerment, and even remuneration.
Serious signalling issues in the translation profession as a whole were brought to the fore in a study by Pym et al (2012),
while Katan (2011a) reported on a widespread perception of low status by translators themselves. Facilitators and barriers
to translators’ professionalization and empowerment have been investigated extensively (e.g., Dam & Koskinen, 2016;
Dam & Zethsen, 2010; Sela-Sheffy, 2011), while in recent years there has been a discernable downward pressure on
the amount that clients seem willing to pay for legal translation. It would appear, however, that there is little discussion
in the literature of the actual terms used within the legal translation procurement process and for the actors involved.
As a short illustration in English: we may establish a cline going from “asset”, “resource”, “vendor”, “freelancer”,
“supplier”, and “provider” to “professional” or “practitioner”, and consider how such terms are applied to the translation
and legal professions and the very different signals that are transmitted (Scott, 2015). Further examples from a recent
global survey of stakeholders in the outsourced legal translation market (Scott, 2016a) are also examined.
Conclusions will be drawn regarding the potential of concepts such as occupational branding (Ashcraft et al., 2012),
and the implications of terminological awareness for legal translator training programmes, professional bodies, and for
individual legal translators.
Keywords: Occupational prestige; professionalization; status; occupational branding; legal translation practitioners;
legal translation, legal translators.
LES CONSEQÜÈNCIES PERJUDICIALS DELS TERMES UTILITZATS PER I PER A LA
PROFESSIÓ DE TRADUCCIÓ JURÍDICA
Resum
Aquest article postula que la terminologia utilitzada per i per a la professió de traducció jurídica no és irrellevant i pot
afectar la percepció de l’estatus de la professió, la professionalització, el seu apoderament i, ns i tot, la remuneració.
En un estudi realitzat per Pym et al. (2012) es posen en relleu problemes greus de senyalització en la professió de
traducció en general; mentre que Katan (2011a) dona compte de la percepció generalitzada que tenen els mateixos
traductors d’un estatus baix de la seva professió. S’han investigat de forma exhaustiva els factors que afavoreixen i
obstaculitzen la professionalització i l’apoderament dels traductors (com ara, Dam i Koskinen 2016; Dam i Zethsen
2010; Sela-Sheffy 2011), mentre recentment s’ha registrat una forta tendència a la baixa de l’import que els clients
sembla que estan disposats a pagar en concepte d’una traducció jurídica. No obstant això, sembla que en la literatura
hi ha poca reexió al voltant dels termes realment utilitzats en el procés de contractació de serveis de traducció jurídica
i per fer referència a les parts implicades.
Com a mostra breu en llengua anglesa, podem establir una successió de termes que van des d’«asset», «resource»,
«vendor», «freelancer», «supplier» i «provider» ns a «professional» i «practitioner», i valorar com s’associen aquests
termes a les professions del món del dret i la traducció i la gran varietat de connotacions que posseeixen (Scott 2015).
Així mateix, també analitzem altres exemples procedents d’una enquesta feta a escala mundial a les diferents parts que
participen en el mercat de serveis externalitzats de traducció jurídica (Scott 2016a).
Les conclusions tenen en compte el potencial de conceptes com la construcció de la marca d’una professió (occupational
branding) (Ashcraft et al. 2012) i les implicacions de la creació de la consciència terminològica per als programes de
formació dels traductors jurídics, organismes que representen grups professionals i per a traductors jurídics particulars.
Paraules clau: prestigi laboral; professionalització; estatus; construcció de la marca d’una professió; professionals en
traducció jurídica; traducció jurídica; traductors jurídics.
Juliette Rose Scott, Researcher & Lecturer in Legal Translation Studies at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of
London. info@legaltranslationhub.org.
Article received: 03.04.2017. Review: 14.06.2017. Final version accepted: 27.07.2017.
Recommended citation: Scott, Juliette Rose. “The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession”.
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, issue 68, 2017, p. 57-75. DOI: 10.2436/rld.i68.2017.2969
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 58
Summary
Introduction
1 Descriptors for legal translation practices
1.1 Can legal translation be classed as a profession?
1.2 Descriptors for the ‘profession’
1.3 Ofcial occupational classications for translators
1.4 Descriptors for legal translators
1.5 Descriptors for client specications
1.6 Descriptors for legal translators’ remuneration
2 Pernicious effects
3 Countermeasures
4 Conclusions
References
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 59
Introduction
Words matter. Words have power. The hosts of copywriters, the billions spent on marketing, not to mention the
endless deliberations of specialists construing meaning in law attest to this. The legal translation profession
is all about words, needless to say. Why then, is this occupational group so bad at taking ownership of the
terms used to describe itself and its practices?
In the last ten years, Translation Studies has taken an increasing interest in professionalization, often linked
with status. Leading examples are the work of Dam and Zethsen (2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016); Dam and
Koskinen (2016); Pym et al. (2012); Sela-Sheffy and Shlesinger (2008); Sela-Sheffy (2011, 2016); and
Katan (2009, 2011a, 2011b). Conclusions refer over and over again to low status and visibility issues. Very
little of this research, however, concentrates solely on legal translators.1 Still less relates to those working
in ‘outstitutional’ contexts whose clients are law rms and the corporate world (Scott, 2016a) as opposed to
staff legal translators (McAuliffe, 2016; Strandvik, 2014, 2015) or sworn/certied translators (Vigier, 2013;
Monzó, 2011), and there does not seem to have been any investigation regarding legal translators working
in-house at agencies.
None of these studies on professionalization and status focus on the terminology used for and by the profession
and its practices, or on the effects that terms might have. My contention here is that the use of certain terms
may propagate an ever-more uberized, commodied view of translation services, eschewing the expertise
and high quality that are crucial in the legal domain.
Worse still, such terms may actually counter the efforts made by individual translators, by conscientious
translation companies, and by some professional bodies to raise standards and professionalize. Outside
academia, the professionalization of legal translation is a hugely urgent matter. Changes in working processes
stemming mainly from technology no longer take years but months. There is intense pressure from a number
of quarters, such as: hype surrounding the capabilities of machine translation (Garr & Berman, 2013);
unqualied service providers and digital platforms (Pym, Orrego-Carmona & Torres-Simón, 2016; Lobel,
2016); and a focus on cost not quality which is driving experienced practitioners out of the market (Pym et
al., 2012). The lack of regulation of legal translation can no longer be ignored, nor can its professionalization.
By discussing a series of descriptor clines and their respective levels of perceived-emitted occupational
prestige (Counts, 1925, Godbout, 2016), this paper aims to raise awareness and suggest that the routine use
of denigratory descriptors is far from innocuous. A number of approaches are then put forward to address
these ‘branding’ issues.
1 Descriptors for legal translation practices
It is important to emphasize that the illustrations that I provide in the next pages, drawn from a dataset
resulting from a global survey of “outstitutional” legal translation practices2 (Scott, 2016a), have a modest
aim – simply to provoke a heightened awareness that further discussion and research is needed. The
descriptors are all in English, and although I believe that there may be similarities in other languages and
between other geographical, jurisdictional and in-house/institutional loci, such considerations are beyond the
scope of this paper. Furthermore, the interpretation of associations with and responses to words is a highly
specialised interdisciplinary matter embracing, inter alia, psychology, communication theory, advertising,
marketing, and sociology. Each reader will have their own feelings/ideas/responses to the terms, so rather
than instigating quarrels over about precisely where descriptors fall on the clines, I would simply stress the
importance of further research – potentially using focus groups and other methods.
1 The term “translator” refers throughout this paper to individuals working on written texts. More research has been carried out on
the status of court interpreters (e.g. Hertog & Gucht 2008; Kinnunen 2010, 2011). A handful of studies examine the related specialism
of business translators (e.g. Dam & Zethsen 2011).
2 303 translators, 84 principals, 41 countries, 6 continents.
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 60
1.1 Can legal translation be classed as a profession?
Before going any further, we should rst reect on whether legal translation can actually be classed as, let
alone named, a ‘profession’ at all. In discussing professional liability in services, Reitz summarizes ve
elements required by US courts to dene a profession and class it as such: (i) members with extensive
qualications; (ii) a stringent code of ethics; (iii) a high level of responsibility; (iv) regulation; (v) a system
to discipline those who do not comply with standards or requirements (2003).
Such dening traits are also adopted by Dam and Zethsen, who add a number of others: the public recognition
of status and prestige, monopoly over work (reserved title), autonomy of action, remuneration reecting
professional standing, and an effective professional body (2011).3
If we use Reitz’s criteria, legal translation cannot be dened as a profession in the current state of affairs.
Although many legal translators are highly qualied and experienced, it is not the case that all legal translations
are done by such individuals – far from it. Codes of conduct and ethics do exist, but there is no mandatory
requirement to adhere to them, and their content varies considerably from country to country and from one
professional body to another.4 The responsibility weighing upon those translating documents that involve
very large sums of money (e.g. cross-border litigation), or individuals’ lives (e.g. criminal convictions) ought
to be clear to all, but is rarely perceived.5
Regulation and disciplinary action, the fourth and fth points listed by Reitz, are non-existent in the vast
majority of countries in any form: “In no country that we have surveyed6 is any academic qualication – or
indeed any kind of formal qualication at all – required in order to use the term ‘translator’ or its equivalent
generic terms” (Pym et al., 2012, p. 20). Professional bodies do not generally act as gatekeepers to the
profession either – according to Gouadec (2007), only in Argentina, Denmark, Norway and certain provinces
of Canada7 is access to the translation profession subject to approval by a local union of translators. Although
there are a number of standards applying to translation with more under development,8 no disciplinary
measures are currently in place to address any potential non-compliance.
1.2 Descriptors for the ‘profession’
There is no consistent name for the group of (legal) translation professionals, either when used by academics,
by clients, or by professionals themselves. The two most common terms for the overall, umbrella eld of
translation are “industry” and “profession”. A comparison and critique of their use by Drugan suggests
some nuances in meanings attached by academics (2013, pp. 6-8). She holds that “profession” for some
scholars “can indicate regret regarding recent developments in translation, seen as a shift […] to […] mass
production”, referring to Gouadec (2007). In this regard she refers to “crusade” and “daunting accounts”, and
appears derisive of those who prefer this term. Many translation scholars employ these loaded terms without
providing denitions or grounds for their use.
Figure 1 shows a range of terms used to describe the translation ‘profession’ by all stakeholders: scholars,
clients, service provision intermediaries, and translators. It does not refer specically or only to the legal
specialism. Like Figures 6, 7, 9 and 10 later in this paper, it illustrates a terminological cline, where the
direction of the arrow represents an increasing level of occupational prestige, and the most commonly used
terms are shown in a larger font size.
3 For Dam & Zethsen “Translation in Denmark could probably be called a semi-profession aspiring to become a full profession”
(2011, p. 79).
4 See International Federation of Translators (FIT) collection of codes of ethics: http://www.t-europe.org/en/what-we-do/completed-
projects/codes-ethics
5 Even in general Translation Studies, without the added responsibilities of the legal specialism, Sela-Sheffy remarks upon the
contradiction between translators’ potential power and their “obscure professional denition and alleged sense of submissiveness
[…] that makes them such an intriguing occupational group” (2016, p. 135).
6 The report by Pym et al. studied the European Union and drew “comparisons with the United States, Canada and Australia” (2012, p. 3).
7 Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec and British Colombia (Godbout 2016).
8 ISO 9000 series; the German DIN) 2345; (C)EN 15038: 2006 and ISO 17100; ASTM F2575-06; and the National Standard of the
People’s Republic of China GB/T 19363.1-2003. Under development: ISO 20771 on legal translation. See also Drugan 2013, Biel
2011b, Strandvik, 2012.
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 61
Figure 1: Terms used to describe the translation ‘profession’
The term “cottage industry” was employed by Katan (2009), following his survey of 1000 translators
worldwide which highlighted fragmentation in translation practice. We nd “marketplace” used by online
platforms that seek to connect translators with buyers and thereby generate prot for the platform (e.g.
Lingotek, Unbabel, Hyperlingo, ytranslate). It is interesting to note that at a conference held in Geneva
entitled “The World in Crisis – And the Language Industry?”, the owner of a high-end nancial translation
practice reected on the term, and discussed the then emerging “industry” paradigm for translation and its
consequences (Fry, 2009).
Even stakeholders who work, ostensibly, to improve matters in the ‘profession’ use the term “industry”
indiscriminately. Many professional bodies do so, somewhat surprisingly. The American Translators
Association (ATA) refers to the “translation industry” in its Paper to the Department of Homeland Security
on Language Access Plans (2014) aimed at defending its 11,000 members and supporting the implementation
of standards of practice. The term “profession” does not appear in the Paper. The Chartered Institute of
Linguists in the United Kingdom entitles its workshop for entrants to the “translation profession” as follows
– “Working Successfully as a Freelance Translator: Getting Started in the Translation Industry” (2017).
Another professional body based in the UK, the Institute of Translation & Interpreting, uses “About the
Industry” as the fourth main tab for navigation on its website, within which we nd: “The translation and
interpreting industry offers diverse, rewarding and stimulating career paths.”.
1.3 Ofcial occupational classications for translators
We may gain further insights into perceptions of the translation ‘profession’ by examining how translators
are categorized and referred to by ofcial bodies. This sub-section compares the classications of Canada,
the United States, the European Commission, and the International Labour Organization.
In the 2016 version of the National Occupational Classication (NOC) produced by the Government of
Canada, “translating” is classed within the broad category “Occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport”.
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 62
Figure 2: Government of Canada four-tiered job title classication for legal translators and related titles
As can be seen in Figure 2, the sub-groups also link translation work with art and culture, and also with
communication. Example job titles relating to the legal specialism are specied within the NOC listings.
In the United States, on the other hand, the North American Industry Classication System (NAICS), 2017
version, places translation within the same second-tier category as Legal Services – within “Professional,
Scientic, and Technical Services”, as shown in Figure 3 below. Translation specialisms are not specied.
Figure 3: United States Ofce of Management and Budget classication for translation services
The NAICS categorization of translation services confers rather more prestige than some others in this
section, given its relative proximity to legal services and the systematic inclusion of “professional” in the
three category tiers.
The EUROSTAT classication of the European Commission, formerly the European Community, has hardly
changed its coding for translation since 1993, apart from minor changes in order. As with the US Government
classication, translation specialisms are not segregated. In the current Statistical Classication of Economic
Activities in the European Union, abbreviated as NACE Rev. 2,9 translation activities are grouped with
secretarial activities, and the group also contains watchman and industrial cleaning.
Figure 4: EUROSTAT classication for translation activities
The issues surrounding status are clear: highly inconsistent qualication levels between translation, secretarial
and packaging services; signicant differences of occupational prestige with respect to cleaning and security/
watchman activities. This was noted as early as 1999 by Katan, who described it as “shocking” and posited
that:
translators […] need to change, both in how they are perceived and in how they work. They need to move
away from being seen as photocopiers and working as human dictionaries to being perceived as visible
agents in crating understanding between people (1999, pp. 2-3).
9 Derived from the French Nomenclature statistique des activités économiques dans la Communauté européenne. Version valid at
the time of writing, March 2017.
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 63
The International Labour Organization (ILO), in its December 2007 Resolution Concerning Updating the
International Standard Classication of Occupations (ISCO), classies translators as shown in Figure 5. No
deeper sub-categorization is offered for specialisms such as legal translation.
Figure 5: International Labour Organization ISCO categorization for translators
Like NAIC, the ILO classication bestows rather more occupational prestige, by categorizing translators as
“professionals”, whilst like NOC it draws a link with the “cultural”, and focuses on writing skills, in common
with journalists and authors.
In sum, ofcial classications of occupations diverge widely, ranging from positioning translators within arts
and cultural activities to including them in professional services, to “bucket” classications for those that do
not t elsewhere. Accordingly, the sub-occupation of legal translator nds itself classed nearer to or farther
from the legal profession.
1.4 Descriptors for legal translators
As noted in section 1.1, in very few countries is there any regulation of the profession or set of rules laying
down a reserved or protected title for legal translators.10 Such titles, by law or by voluntary measures,
may be used only by persons registered with a regulatory body, whether that body is an arm of the State, a
professional association or through licensing schemes. There is a multitude of job titles and even the use of
a given title is inconsistent across different loci. Figure 6 should thus be viewed only as a rough vignette.
10 Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to go in detail on this point, it is revealing to consider a few examples of occupations
that are subject to protected or reserved title – the following are protected in the United Kingdom, for example: dieticians, midwives,
gas installers, electricians. These are not necessarily high status jobs such as lawyers, architects or doctors. In certain countries there
may also be question of “‘reserved functions’ (activities that only a qualied member of the relevant profession is allowed to carry
out)” (Lester, 2016).
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 64
Figure 6: Examples of legal translators’ job titles
Despite signicant usage variations in this group of descriptors, we can condently place “freelance(r)”
towards the bottom of a hierarchy of prestige, whereas the word “practitioner” or the sufx “lawyer-” will
lend weight to the title. “Legal translation practitioner” is far less frequently used, and persons using this
title are more likely to be found working directly with law rms or corporate clients, and owning their own
boutique practice. “Legal linguist” is a fairly uncommon term, generally but not exclusively associated with
terminological work or statutory interpretation.
The descriptors “certied”, “sworn”, “authorized”, “ofcial” and “court” refer to translators doing work
which takes “extremely varied forms throughout the world” (Mayoral Asensio, 2003). Three examples,
taken from Vigier’s extensive study across Europe and the Americas, must sufce to give an indication:
the translation of documents required in order to enrol in a foreign university or to marry abroad; and court
decisions (2013, p. 27-28). Although criteria for registration are so heterogeneous, most legal translators
would perceive and be perceived as having slightly higher occupational prestige if they possess this ofcial
‘recognition’. However, for some language pairs and/or in many countries, those with language capability
alone may be accepted – such as teachers or professors. The latter example was cited by respondents in the
survey of Pym et al., who add “authorisation is something that many people […] see as worth getting but
then do not put in active use”. Pym et al. remark that “In such situations, authorisation as a sworn translator
may actually be working against professionalization” (2012, p. 30).
Towards the top of the cline in terms of occupational prestige we nd “lawyer-linguist”. The duties of
“lawyer-linguists” diverge, depending on the locus of employment. At the European Commission, the latest
call for job applications in December 2016 states that lawyer-linguists “recruited by the European Parliament
and the Council are expected to revise legal/legislative texts in the language of the competition from at least
two other languages as well as provide advice on legislative drafting” (emphasis added).11 However, at the
European Central Bank (ECB) the job title refers to a person who is “primarily responsible for translating
ECB legal acts and other legal texts into [language] and for revising translations of such texts provided by
external suppliers” (2015, emphasis added). At the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the job
11 EPSO/AD/332/16 https://eutraining.eu/content/epso-2016-lawyer-linguist-competition-released-epsoad33216
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 65
of “lawyer linguist” (unhyphenated) is described in an ofcial brochure (QD-31-10-603-EN-C) as mainly
entailing translation and revision.
Leveraging the prestige of this job title, certain translation agencies promote themselves by stating that
their legal translations are carried out by ‘lawyer-linguists’. By the same token, some individual translators
qualied both in the law and in translation/linguistics also describe themselves as lawyer-linguists.
The sufx “juri-” is found predominantly in geographical areas where there is a French inuence on English
terms. In Canada the descriptor ‘jurilinguist’ is used in relation to legislative drafting positions, dened as
follows by Poirier:
A jurilinguist provides advice related to the terminology, syntax, phraseology, organisation of ideas and style
that are appropriate to legal language and, specically, to legislative language and to the subjects dealt with,
and also, within the context of bilingual co-drafted Bills and regulations, comparison services to ensure
equivalency of the English and French versions. (2009).
As already noted in section 1.3 Figure 2, we nd three variants “certied translator”, “jurilinguist translator”,
and “legal translator” among the job titles listed in the Canadian National Occupational Classication.
Although separate descriptions of duties are given for “translators and translator-revisers, terminologists, and
interpreters, no denition or information is given to disambiguate the three variants of certied/jurilinguist/
legal translator.
Regarding universities’ course names, most courses, in different languages, refer rather to the subject than to the
job title. The course titles thus include the term “legal translation” or “specialized translation” and sometimes
“business communication/translation”, while in France the University of Poitiers has been offering a “juriste
linguiste” program since 2001, and the Institute of Intercultural Management and Communication (ISIT) in
Paris now offers a bilingual Lawyer-Linguist program (juriste linguiste in French).
In contrast to the terms used by translators themselves or their trainers, Figure 7 gives examples of the terms
used by clients, particularly agencies, use as a title for the individuals working for them.
Figure 7: Examples of how clients refer to legal translators
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 66
To describe translators as “assets” or “resources” rst dehumanizes them, and second creates associations
with the verb “use”, and, by extension, with being “used”. At the other end of the scale, “practitioner” invites
verbs such as “consult” and the lexically and semantically related “consultant” and “consultancy” – and
transmits higher status signals.
Legal translation professionals participating in my eldwork provide examples of the most-hated/disliked
terms used by their clients: “I hate being addressed as ‘Dear Vendor’ by agencies” where we see a
depersonalization of the translator as well as a focus on the monetary transaction rather than on expertise.
It is worthy of note that we nd the term “vendor” used by a Translation Studies scholar in the context of
translator training (Washbourne, 2012). Equally, not all translation professionals appreciate being referred
to by the acronym “LSP” (Language Service Provider): “oh here’s one I really hate...”; “reduced to an
acronym”. LSP causes further issues as it may refer either to an individual or to a translation agency.
The term “supplier” creates associations rather with goods than with expertise, and places the translator
in a position of inferiority – as opposed for example to a consultant or advisor. It is interesting to note that
“service provider” is very often shortened to “provider” – might we thereby interpret a diminished focus on
the service?
The term “freelancer” is very commonly used by translators, their clients and even professional bodies and
is, potentially, one of the most toxic for professionalization attempts. Figure 8 shows the top results from a
Google Image search performed for the word.
Figure 8: Top results from a Google Image search for “freelancer”
These images are, of course, only a “quick and dirty” way to ascertain some primary, albeit common
associations with the word. The ‘professional’ is depicted as being dressed very informally in pyjamas or
sports clothes; working on a beach, sitting on the oor, or at home with a pet; and doing other things at the
same time (listening to music, drinking coffee, smoking, eating). Whilst for certain creative occupations
(e.g. graphic artist, web developer, or travel journalist) these depictions may be entirely in keeping with their
professional persona, we must ask ourselves whether the gravitas required by the legal context is compatible
with such associations.
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 67
1.5 Descriptors for client specications
The next set of descriptors to be foregrounded in this paper relate to the specications provided by clients.
Although it is now agreed by most scholars that a comprehensive brief is of fundamental importance in
enabling t-for-purpose legal translation to be performed (e.g., Scott 2012, 2015, 2016a; Strandvik, 2015;
Garzone, 2000), in practice, awareness of this is very limited (Scott 2016a). In the current state of affairs,
legal translators may receive only an “order” including deadline, tariff, language pair and le format, and
rarely any reference material, specication of end user(s) or purpose/function of the target text, or whether it
should be a covert or overt translation (Scott 2016a, Scott 2016c, House 1977).
Figure 9: Examples of terms used to refer to the specications provided by clients when legal translators are asked to carry out work
The most common descriptors for clients’ (lack of) specications are: “order”, “translation order”, “purchase
order” and its abbreviation “P.O.”. The term “request”, also quite frequently used by clients, underlines the
lack of contractual commitment commonly present in the translator-client dyad. Some agencies simply send
the translator a project package or text analysis produced using a CAT tool, such as Trados, to act as a de
facto purchase order.
The collocation to “place an order” versus “instruct” or “appoint” a professional such as an architect or lawyer
have very different connotations with regard to the perceived position of the translator. The collocation to
“agree on a brief” conveys collaboration among the parties to reach a required aim (build a house, win a case,
etc.) where the client takes account of the professional’s expertise.
1.6 Descriptors for legal translators’ remuneration
The vast majority of legal translation practitioners and clients currently transact business based on the number
of words included in the source or target text. In some languages or geographical areas the units of measure
are characters, lines and, less commonly, pages. Hourly pricing has been put forward by Durban (e.g. 2010),
who seems to be a relatively lone voice championing the use of this method, while very few professionals
advocate the use of a “fee” per job.
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 68
Figure 10: Examples of terms used to describe legal translators’ remuneration
The terms used to describe legal translators’ remuneration provide a clear illustration of low occupational
prestige. By far the highest occurring term is “word rate”, bringing with it associations of “piece work”
– see also “cottage industry” in section 1.2 (Katan, 2009). “Rate” collocates with “discounted”, “low”,
“competitive”, “affordable” and “cheap”. Translation agencies now impose “reduced rates” on grounds that
TEnTs such as Trados have determined repetitions in documents to be translated. “Cost”, “price” and “charge”
place the focus on burden rather than outcome. There is seepage and uptake by translators entering the
profession due to the predominance of these terms – agencies ask “What is your word rate?”, and translators
reply “My word rate is…”.
If translators participate in online platform “marketplaces”, their remuneration may be reduced to a
commoditized “bid”, where bidding is focused only on the lowest possible price and is not a bid as in the
context of an institutional call for tender with a number of other criteria not the least of which is likely to be
quality of service.
Although per word/character/line costing is easy to calculate when an estimate needs to be provided, quickly
(not a negligible factor in translation circles), it engenders a mechanical view of the work involved, and
encourages commodication. Fee-based costing focuses on the added value/benet of the legal translation
service (expand into a new market, successful merger, win case) and engenders associations with professions
such as architects or consultants, not to mention lawyers, with higher occupational prestige. In fact, a more
holistic view of the legal translation endeavour could encompass such fee-based support services as: drafting
advice; terminological research and glossary production to serve the client on an ongoing basis; and/or
research into relevant legislation.
2 Pernicious effects
The major issues highlighted in the foregoing sections include: confused and/or conicting nomenclature
in several key areas; denigratory connotations running through most terms used in practice; a lack of
support from or regulation by either ofcial sources or professional bodies as regards job title; low levels of
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 69
occupational prestige conveyed by the vast majority of descriptors. Clearly, this is a negative situation for
legal translators as an occupational group, but in this section I aim to demonstrate why it is also detrimental
for clients and for the quality of translation performance.
Confusion in “signalling” as regards translators in all elds, not specically the legal specialism, has already
been noted by Pym et al. (2012), who held that “when the signals of status are weak or confusing, [the]
values [of expert skills] are low, market disorder results, and good translators may leave the market”. The
latter study focuses particularly on economic models and downward price pressure. The loss of experienced
and skilled legal translators, if it occurs, will be negative for clients, who would no longer have their needs
met, and quality would suffer.
The denigration conveyed by many descriptors, particularly those used by agency clients, may result in:
dehumanization, depersonalization, commodication, a focus on money not expertise, and mental associations
with ‘product’ not quality of service. Apart from the ensuing difculties in retaining highly skilled legal
translators, such a professional image would make it very hard to attract new talent.
Moreover, how people believe others perceive them may, at least partially, determine their behaviour (e.g.
Mead, 1934). Hence, a lack of occupational prestige may also affect the service clients receive if quality
preconceptions are lowered. Additionally, clients’ condence in the expertise and ability of the translator
may be lowered, having an adverse effect on exchanges to elucidate a brief, and the extent to which the
translator is able to educate the client regarding work involved and/or realistic deadlines.
Furthermore, the inconsistency in and lack of regulation of job titles makes it extremely difcult for clients
to ascertain the levels of expertise that might enable them to differentiate and nd the right person for their
project (e.g. a driving licence as opposed to pleadings in multi million-dollar civil litigation).
3 Countermeasures
Assuming that it would be benecial to alter the current status quo, I now examine a number of strategies that
could be explored further, by all stakeholders involved: by professional bodies, by individual practitioners,
by ofcial/institutional regulators, and by academia.
The concept of “occupational branding” has been put forward by Ashcraft et al. (2012) and is dened as
“strategic occupational identity work aimed at brand and value creation” (p. 475), utilized to foreground
“collective identity work as a core professionalization activity” and to “yield a habitual association between
an occupation and a preferred distilled image” (p. 468). Case studies give examples of how occupational
branding was applied “to maintain or achieve professional standing” (p. 480) for airline pilots and for massage
therapists. Another point made is the need to depict “practitioners, not only their expertise, as precious
goods” (2012, p. 473). If this idea is transposed to legal translators, we may draw a parallel with the value
placed on translation memories – their expertise, ‘extracted’ – as opposed to individuals themselves. The
same research is particularly concerned with the effects of gender on professionalization and the perceived
status of an occupation.
In general Translation Studies, the links between gender and status have been explored by Sela-Sheffy
and Shlesinger, namely “the fact that translation/interpreting is largely a pink-collar profession” (emphasis
added) and the profession’s “weak institutional boundaries and obscure role denition and criteria”,
“non-standardized conditions and pay scales, as well as fragmentary career patterns” (2008, p. 80). The
predominance of females has also been referred to as having a negative effect on professionalization by Dam
and Zethsen (e.g. 2010, and 2016, p. 177). Hence de-gendering and re-gendering (Ashcraft et al., 2012, p.
482) may be worth exploring in order to attract more men to the legal translation profession.
Measures could also be taken to encourage legal translation professionals to take a more proactive attitude
to client relationships. A recurrent trait cited by many general Translation Studies scholars, attributed to the
translator’s habitus by Simeoni, is that they are “submissive and subservient” (1988, p. 12). An encouraging
report of higher levels of condence in young people regards status change has been provided recently by
Juliette Rose Scott
The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 70
Ruokenen (2016), albeit in a limited geographical perimeter, Finland, which has a progressive gender prole
in comparison to other loci.
A useful description of occupational proactiveness is provided by Hasan’s model of “Higher Autonomy
Professions” (HAP) and “Lower Autonomy Professions” (LAP), where autonomy is dened as “the degree of
control on the workplace environment: the greater the possibility of making policy changes” (2002, p. 540).
For Katan (2011a), a potential strategy for change in the translation profession would be to create two groups,
a “text-centered LAP occupation while a new broader HAP role could be carved out for the professional […]
practitioner responsible with, or instead of, the client for output during and after submission” (p. 84, original
emphasis).
In the same vein, legal translators could encourage market segmentation (Scott 2016b), rise above the
crowd and claim their niche so that there is a clear demarcation between amateur and professional, thereby
combating uberization.
Training may also be a means to raise awareness of pernicious terms and deliberately foster “prestigious”
associations – both at entry level through pre-professionalization (Biel, 2011a) and as continuing professional
development (CPD) focused on aspects of professionalism (Scott, 2015).
In the absence of moves by national or international authorities or institutions, self-regulation may be a
further option. In case studies assessing strategies in the ‘professions’ of landscape architecture, conservation
of cultural heritage, family mediation, and vocational/occupational rehabilitation, Lester holds that “even
relatively small groups can develop, negotiate and operate effective, contextually-appropriate self-regulatory
frameworks, including in the absence of any state involvement or endorsement”. (2016). Useful data for
further work may also be drawn from Deliverable 2.3 of the European Commission project SERVICEGAP
(Paterson, Brandl & Sellner, 2012), a detailed comparative presentation of regulatory systems for professional
services in EU Member States.
4 Conclusions
As stated in the introduction to this paper, it is a rst foray into descriptors used for and by the legal translation
profession, and, in particular, does not take account of any potential differences between languages and/or
geographical areas. Additional international studies, for example using methods such as focus groups, are
required. The following are therefore suggestions to be further developed and elaborated, which I will divide
by stakeholder group. They are aimed at heightening awareness of the descriptors evoked and their impact on
quality and, by extension, legal risk, as well as a sustainable future for the profession and its clients.
A policy-based approach could be adopted by institutions and authorities as regards: the harmonization of
classications; regulation of title and/or of activities; by providing ofcial registers of legal translators;12 and
through international standards that support expert practitioners.
Academia has a signicant role to play in guiding the use of appropriate descriptors: in curriculum
development and delivery; through contributions to the wording of standards and classications; and by
exercising vigilance in scholarly writings that evoke the profession and practitioners. It could also support
change by providing the profession with deeper insights into the insidious ramications of terms used.
Professional bodies should be especially vigilant regarding the consequences of the descriptors they employ
when referring to their members. They could also take a far more proactive role in exploring self-regulation
and protected/reserved titles and/or activities. Further consideration could be given qualied entry procedures,
especially where access is given to a certain job title. By acting cohesively with clear aims for the whole
profession and its interactions with other professional groups, they could also educate clients in working
effectively with ‘precious’ expert practitioners.
12 E.g. LIT Search pilot project, 2015
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The Pernicious Effects of Terms Used for and by the Legal Translation Profession
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 68, 2017 71
Hand-in-hand with their professional bodies, individual translators could also instigate occupational branding
initiatives, to shift the destructive focus on piece work which inhibits a holistic view of the range of services
that can potentially be provided such as co-drafting, terminology management, or legal research.
The pernicious terms discussed in this paper reect a severely deteriorated situation. A full realisation of
what this tells us about the future for the professionals involved constitutes a watershed in the maturing of
legal translation and could be repurposed into an opportunity to trigger ‘rebranding’ and create a robust and
bona de profession of pivotal use to civil society worldwide.
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