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Lost in Translation: Harnessing AI for International Efficiency

Steve Couling

As global corporations and international law firms expand operations and develop their client base, an increasing number of legal cases require documents to be translated into multiple languages. Stimulating global growth is an essential step to unlock new levels of success, but legal teams need to make sure important information isn’t getting lost in translation.

The upsurge in lawyers turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to adopt machine translations was greatly accelerated by the pandemic. As borders closed, many firms struggled to outsource qualified translators on time and within budget. So, organisations needed to find an AI-derived solution to ensure legal deadlines were never again held at the mercy of time-intensive translations.

Three years after the onset of the pandemic, AI-powered translations are a staple of daily practice for many law firms and in-house counsels across the world. Manual translations are no longer a viable, practical, or cost-effective way of working, as they take significantly longer, require the involvement of multiple individuals, incur greater expenses, and are more likely to contain mistakes.

The global machine translation market was worth $1.1 billion in 2022, up from the 2017 pre-pandemic valuation of $450 million. Such substantive growth is evident of the increasing appetite to incorporate machine translation models across the legal sector and other major industries, with the market set to hit $1.5 billion by 2024.

Tech-savvy legal teams use advanced AI technologies, such as Translate in RelativityOne, to take advantage of the significant efficiency gains, marked cost reductions, and invaluable time-savings on offer.

The Multilinguistic Imperative in EMEA

No region is more heavily reliant on foreign language document translation than EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa). Spanning over 110 countries, with citizens collectively speaking over 2,000 native languages, EMEA is the epitome of a multilingual melting pot.

Legal teams in EMEA rub shoulders with neighbouring countries speaking entirely different dialects. Engaging with cross-border clients in their mother tongue is essential for legal teams if they want to foster trustworthy relationships and successfully expand operations.

Identifying multilingual human translators with a strong legal background is a rare, precious, and highly sought-after combination. Yet those in possession of such dual skillsets are usually limited to only being able to speak a handful of languages with the prerequisite fluency. It is near-impossible for a human to be a seasoned expert in every facet of every customer’s preferred language, as there are critical considerations at play at every stage of the translation process.

Across EMEA locales, translators need to be mindful of differences in grammar, formalities, style, and tone, not to mention the numerous variations of one set dialect. Arabic, for example, has 30 different variations that do not always maintain the same meaning when translated literally. Some Arabic letters don’t even have an existing equivalent in English—the lingua franca of the modern world.

Clumsy translations can result in misleading or nonsensical offensive language that some nationalities may take offense to and can cost legal teams extra time spent reworking illegible content.

Translators are dealing with a revolving kaleidoscope of wildly diverse and culturally unique alphabetic languages, containing a phantasmagoria of characters, symbols, letters, digraphs, trigraphs, and ligatures. Seamlessly translating Turkish circumflexes, Ancient Greek diacritics, Latin variations, Arabic scriptures, Slavic infixes, and African creoles requires an Olympic gold-standard linguistical gymnast.

This is where AI- powered translations can substantially help legal teams scale up and improve processes. AI translators can alleviate mounting workload pressures and navigate the complexities of cross-border data regulations by quickly, easily, and accurately translating high-value legal documents across a diverse spectrum of nuanced EMEA languages. Translate in RelativityOne helps with parsing data into different regions to be viewed in any native language whilst still ensuring that those from other nationalities can follow what is in each document.

Lightning-fast Translations at a Fraction of the Cost

AI powered machine translations can quickly process thousands of multilingual documents simultaneously. Solutions such as Translate process large batches of documents into more than 100 languages in a matter of seconds from a single source text, saving legal teams hundreds of hours that they would have spent manually translating text.

Translate transcribes documents in their native format, so crucial context is never lost, whilst advanced, embedded AI technology is able to complete the first review seamlessly. This reduces the number of contract lawyers required to progress to the next stage of litigation and decreases the number of documents human translators need to parse through when preparing for a case.

Sophisticated AI translation technologies are trained using both case-specific data and broader subject matters. The more relevant data the engine consumes, the sharper and more accurate its translation outputs become over time. This negates the need for an expansive team of contract lawyers to conduct laborious foreign language document reviews and makes the process of translations much more efficient and affordable.

As AI-derived translation technologies do not require human intervention, a singular investment in a robust translation tool is a popular decision many law firms make in order to keep costs manageable in the long run. External translation resources, especially in protracted, long-running cases, can bottleneck queued documents, and quickly burn a hole in a law firm’s budget as case files mount and litigation drags on.

Strengthening and Safeguarding e-Disclosure with AI Translations

Incorporating AI translations into e-discovery software can decrease risks and safeguard sensitive information. This is because data is securely transferred and handled exclusively in-house as reliance on external third-party translation services are reduced or removed.

AI translations mean collaborative document sharing between law firms, clients, and e-disclosure vendors become much more fluid and internal communications are streamlined. Lawyers can flag important documents that require translation and automatically send them to the relevant parties for review. This smooths out any kinks in efficiency that law firms may have previously had to deal with when undertaking manual translations.

Decreasing the likelihood of a data breach or leak is another major benefit encapsulated in harnessing AI translations. When it comes to high-stakes legal documentation, the fewer people handling and viewing sensitive and confidential information, the better. Legal teams taking advantage of translation services in platforms such as in RelativityOne can utilise Microsoft’s enterprise translation API to retain data within the secure Azure boundary for an extra layer of added security.

The New Normal in AI-Powered Translations

AI translators support and empower legal departments to achieve more in less time with fewer resources. Hiring human translators to exclusively handle document translations is no longer a viable, cost-effective, or time-efficient way of allocating resources. Costly third-party translation tools and services are risk-prone, unnecessary expenses that law firms and international corporations can avoid having to fork out for.

Tech-powered translations directly embedded into e-discovery platforms reduce the time it takes to translate documents from days to minutes. Translate in RelativityOne automatically translates documents in the background and appear in the document list as soon as they're ready. This frees up legal teams to focus on other high-value pursuits while an AI linguist finishes the laborious translations process for them.

AI-enabled, real-time translations have evolved into the new normal, erasing digital borders and steamrolling over restrictive language barriers for good. With this support from legal translation technology, lawyers are competently catering to an international client base, whilst working more efficiently and cost-effectively than ever before.

To learn more about Translate in RelativityOne and how it’s being used in the real world, read a success story here.

Graphics for this article were created by Natalie Andrews.

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Steve Couling is Relativity's managing director and vice president of sales for the EMEA region. He joined Relativity in 2012, leading the growth of international operations and working closely with customers around the world.

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