How Much Does Legal Translation Cost?

    Danilo Coviello

    Whether you are looking for legal translation services, or whether you want to get into legal translations as a freelancer or translation agency, it can be hard to find out how legal translation services are priced. Let’s look into different pricing and how much legal translation costs.

    What are legal translation services?

    A legal translation service is needed for the translation of any legal documents, or any paperwork or file needed for the legal system. This can include a long list of document types, such as:

    • Birth certificates
    • Academic documents
    • Official documents
    • Death certificates
    • Marriage certificates
    • Immigration forms including United States citizenship paperwork
    • Witness testimonies
    • Recordings of meetings

    All of these translations need to be accurate with high translation quality. Any small error could cause major legal issues, so it is vital that legal translators are highly skilled. Many legal documents also need to have certified translations, where qualified translators confirm that a translation is an accurate and true representation of the original document. This is often also called a sworn translation.

    How much does a professional translation usually cost?

    There are a lot of different factors that affect the cost of translation services. While this makes it hard to give an exact figure for translation, we can look at some of the most common things that affect the cost to translate a legal document.

    Per-piece or per word legal translation costs

    To understand translation rates, the first thing is to become familiar with the two main ways that documents are priced.

    Per word translation pricing means that you pay a set fee for a certain number of words in the document or file you want to have translated. The equivalent of this for audio or video files is per-minute pricing. This is generally the most common way of pricing translation jobs, and it is important to know the word count of your document so you can find out how much translation services cost for your document.

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    Some documents may be charged per piece. You will find that certain document translation rates apply for some common documents, such as a birth certificate – this is because some items, like a birth certificate, will only have a certain amount of text on them, so the translator can be sure that the job will take roughly a set amount of time. However, depending on what your original document is, you may find that you can only pay a per-word cost.

    How much does a 1000 word translation cost?

    Obviously, each different translation professional will usually charge a different translation rate. However, most translation rates are within a range of $0.10 to $0.50 per word. This means that a 1000 word document could cost anywhere from $100 to $500. Of course, you may find lower rates, special offers, or higher rates for experts with certain experience. You will also often find that urgent translations are more expensive, since the translator will have to change their work schedule to complete them.

    Do all professional translators charge the same?

    No, each language service provider will usually charge different rates for their legal document translation services. This is because their pricing will be relevant to the cost of living where they are, their experience, and their qualifications within the field. The best way to find out their pricing is to request a translation quote, which most people within the translation industry let you do with only a few clicks.

    Do agencies and freelancers charge different amounts?

    Yes, you will often find that translation agencies / translation companies and freelancers will charge different rates. There are pros and cons to using each kind of translation, so you should look beyond pricing to figure out which way you want to go. A freelancer can be more suitable if you have a regular type of translation, whereas agencies often have specialists in a wider range of fields, meaning you are more likely to get the document translation that you need.

    Are all language translations the same cost?

    No, different language translations can cost different amounts. This is because some language pairs are uncommon, and you may have to find a specialist, which means you may have to pay more for the translation. However, it is important to make sure you still find someone skilled at handling your specific language pair – if you use someone who is not as skilled at translating into your target languages, while the work might be cheaper, it may not be suitable for what you need.

    Is it cheaper to have an in-house legal translator?

    If you work in a company that needs a lot of translated text, you may find it is cheaper to hire an in-house translator, but this is uncommon. Unless you would have a constant stream of work to justify hiring an in-house translator, it is often cheaper to hire a freelancer or translation company for each individual job you have. While an in-house translator may have a lower document translation cost per piece, the overall cost of hiring an in-house translator is high.

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    Legal translation costs compared to regular translation.

    While prices vary in all types of translation services, the document translation costs in legal translation services are often higher than in more generalized translation. Of course, it still pays to shop around and find a good quote for your translation needs.

    Why is legal translation more expensive than regular translation?

    Legal translation is often more expensive because the translation process is more detailed, and because there are higher requirements for knowledge and experience. Compared to a simple blog translation, legal translation needs a lot more specialist skills.

    Is a certified translation more expensive?

    Yes, certified translation cost is usually higher than standard translation. This is because a certified translation has additional requirements that must be met. Anyone who has the qualifications to do certified translation can charge more since their skills are in higher demand.

    How much does machine translation cost?

    With the popularity and accessibility of things like Google Translate, lots of people wonder if they can use machine translation instead of professional human translators.

    What is machine translation?

    Computer assisted translation (or CAT tools) means using a piece of computer software to do translations based on its translation memory – this means that it looks at previously translated segments and translated a document using this. Since computers are fast and do not require constant input from a human, it can be a lot cheaper to use

    Is computer translation software reliable?

    While CAT tools can be useful for fast and cheap translations, you have to rely on their translation memories to translate documents – if the computer has seen a word or short phrase before, it will translate that section the same way as it had before. This means that if the computer cannot see the nuance in different documents, and it may translate a legal document incorrectly, which is a problem when you need high translation quality. While a computer translation may be cheap and fast, they are usually less accurate than expert human translators -machines are not currently providing curated localization solutions to the same accuracy that a human can. Even if you want documents translated fast, you can find translation companies that can offer this without using computer translation.

    Also read: Difference between certified translation and notarized translation

    How much should I charge for translating a document?

    If you are thinking of offering translation services and are unsure what translation services cost, there is unfortunately no simple answer. You need to base your cost on the time it will take to complete a specific job, as well as your living costs – your income needs to cover all your expenses, plus taxes, etc.

    Should I charge per piece or per word?

    While most people charge per word, there may be some items where you want to charge per piece. For example, translating birth certificates for immigration services may take a set amount of time, so you can give a per-piece cost up front. Ultimately though, you need to find what kind of pricing structure works best for you.

    Can I charge more if i have more experience?

    Yes, as already mentioned, translation services cost more if the translator has more experience in a certain field, or if they speak a target language that it is hard to find translators for.


    Legal translation is a very highly skilled specialising within a translation service. Because of this, legal translation services cost higher than regular translations. The price may be different if you need a specific document or specific target languages, as the rates that translators charge varies. However, translating legal documents usually means that you need high translation quality, which means that it is often best to look at the quality and accuracy of the final translation, rather than the price. Legal translation is important as it can be a vital part of immigration, marriage, and contracts for businesses, so it is always worth making sure that you get a great service, rather than the cheapest one.