Legal Services

How to Become a Certified Legal Translator?


Legal translators translate spoken words or written legal text from one language to another. As their translations can have legal ramifications, legal translators need to have an extensive understanding of the legal system in the USA and the language to and from which the text needs to be translated.

As legal translation is a job full of responsibility, legal translators are known to have a significantly higher income than general translators. Many of them are self-employed, while many others work for legal firms. Certification plays an integral role in becoming a legal translator in the USA.

So, how does one start certified court interpreting? Follow these steps-

  • Study Foreign Language

While it can be beneficial if you are raised in a multilingual family, prospective interpreters can also develop language skills by studying a foreign language. It is preferable to start learning the language when you’re in high school. As for the language, you can consider one that is in high demand. Most interpreters in the USA consider learning Spanish.

Prospective interpreters should also focus on learning the nuances of the English language when they’re in high school.

  • Consider a Bachelor’s Degree

Many USA courts and even several employers require the interpreters to have at least a bachelor’s degree. There is also the option to major in the foreign language of your choice. However, this is not mandatory.

Prospective interpreters can also consider a major or minor in legal studies as it will prepare them for their future career.

  • Go for Formal Training

There are national and local interpreter associations that offer workshops and training programs. Even some universities provide training in legal interpreter skills. You can consider one such training program to get a better understanding of legal procedures, interpersonal communication, and linguistics.

You can also consider internships or part-time jobs in a legal form to gain hands-on experience.

  • Get Certified

The last step is to get certified. You can consider ATA (American Translators Association) for your certification. There is no formal eligibility requirement to get ATA certification. It is a 3-hours open-book exam where you’ll be provided a passage in English that needs to be translated into your target language or vice versa if English is your target language.

After clearing the exam, you can consider certified court interpreting. You can start working as a freelancer or look for an interpreting job in a legal firm. After gaining some experience, you can then start your own practice.

Eric Lilly
the authorEric Lilly