In the legal section of the Times Online today (registration free), on the Legal Diary page, there is a paragraph on terms that translators out of English found hardest to translate:
LEGAL verbiage can be hard enough for English speakers to understand, but it can be a nightmare for translators. An agency specialising in work for the legal sector, Today Translations, has surveyed 1,000 of its linguists, asking them which words were hardest to translate. Top of the list was leapfrog as in leapfrog appeal, followed by toxic tort then sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Other words in the Top Ten were chambers, probation officer, trustee, common law, barrister, Michaelmas Term and Court of Appeal.
You can say Sprungrevision for leapfrog appeal in German: they have something similar. I see no problem with toxic tort, although there may not be a neat term. Lister/Veth have regresspflichtige Gesundheitsschädigung durch Giftstoff (z.B. Asbest). Sectioned is a similar case. Chambers is a problem because there are judge’s chambers and barristers’ chambers, and the latter can be used to refer both to a building and to the group of barristers who have their offices there (I’m sure AMM will wish to opine on this). Probation officer is Bewährungshelfer, trustee is Treuhänder, common law has four or five different meanings – perhaps I should set that out in a separate entry – all of which are translatable. I personally say der Barrister in special cases, where Anwalt is not precise enough, and for Court of Appeal I would also cite the English name once. For Michaelmas Term, Romain has (obs) Herbstsitzungsperiode (der englischen Gerichte). – Thisis all just off the top of my head except where I looked it up.
I’m not trying to disprove the article, which in any case refers to several languages and what’s more probably includes interpreting.
Of course, some of these terms are quite straightforward in some contexts. You don’t always need the precise term. And as long as you understand the English, you should be able to fit something to the text in question.
Thanks to Lanna Castellano for spotting it!