Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2013

Publication Citation

20 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 425 (2013)


Translation and interpretation have long played a vital role in many legal contexts, from providing equal rights to defendants to facilitating mutual understanding among the members of the United Nations. Legal language, though, is incredibly complex and even faithfully equivalent translations can fail to meet the high standards required for operation in international legal contexts, where a lack of understanding over a single term could mean the difference between a material and non-material breach in a treaty or transnational contract. Branches of linguistics, such as comparative legal linguistics and forensic linguistics, study the characteristics and functions of legal language across many tongues. As the globalization of our world continues, the opportunities for confusing and misunderstanding legal language increase. While a global legal language could, by some views, be the ultimate fix to such issues, the current state of international systems is poorly equipped to develop such a structure. The timing is simply not right at this point in the process of globalization. This note examines the current context and state of legal translation and similar areas of linguistic study and takes the view that, instead, the role of the lawyer-linguist professional and the technique of co-drafting should be maximized to facilitate better understanding among languages and legal systems.