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legal to english

legal document translation website
(+4, -4)
  [vote for,

Let's admit it. Legal talk is not plain English. However, someone who is fluent in the real meaning of legal talk could translate documents into plain English.

So say you're installing a new office suite you recently purchased. You see an extremely long EULA and you just click next (no person has ever read one of those things).

Well now you can go to legaltoenglish.com, then to the software category, then choose your software. There you will find two translations. The first is a free summary of the document which gives you the gist of what it means legally to you, highlighting the important parts without going into much detail. The second is a full translation for around 99 cents, which breaks down and explains everything that could be meaningful to you legally.

All popular software products are covered. Also translated are common legal documents used in everyday business. One translation can be sold millions of times, so there is a lot of potential for easy profit, but the free summaries should always remain informative and cover the important parts.

For additional revenue there could also be a private translation service (for unique legal documents) and some tastefully placed Google ads.

The information would have to be sold for informational purposes only to avoid lawsuits from people who get into trouble for simply not understanding something.

However, it would not have to be a proprietary operation where all documents are translated by a few professionals. It could be a wiki-system where many people contribute and rate the content.

Seriously, if anyone that has bandwidth thinks it's a decent idea, feel free to run with it. It would just be nice if the service was available.

thesteve, Oct 30 2007


       I could probably do this. Do you have something like this in mind?   

       Legal: We are not responsible for any injury obtained by use of this product.   

       English: You can't sue if you whack yourself in the face with this thing.
Shadow Phoenix, Oct 30 2007

       There's a reason legalese is strange - those words don't quite translate 1:1; they, unlike normal English words, have defined meanings.   

       In other words, "We're not responsible for any injury" *doesn't* precisely mean "You can't sue if you whack yourself in the face with this thing." (For starters, you can still sue - but only if we've been grossly negligent, and if a reasonable person could have expected, blah, blah, snore...)   

       You can translate for humor value (in that case, who cares if it's accurate), and you can translate into a specific context. But translating in general means teaching the reader contract law, and I doubt they'll sit still for that.
jutta, Oct 31 2007

       If you actually understood all of the fine print in your mortgage, insurance, EULA, or other legal documents you would *never* agree to them, as they are not there for *your* benefit.
nuclear hobo, Oct 31 2007

       For the honourable aim, have a bun [+].
vincevincevince, Oct 31 2007

       strangely, EULAs are most beneficial to the user if they are either insanely complicated or extremely easy, but not in between. Insanely complicated ones you have some chance of successfully suing the company because its Flesch reading ease score is too poor and you couldn't be expected to understand it.
phundug, Oct 31 2007

       Having it the other way around would be useful for office memo's.
Ling, Oct 31 2007

       I suppose there's two stripes of legal drafting. The first is legal drafting between commercially aware entities who will typically have taken legal advice in negotiating the agreement(s) in question. The second is legal drafting - as with EULAs and so forth - which is created by a large commercially aware entity (who will typically have taken legal advice) and is read by a commercially unaware and legally unadvised human being. The problem that the idea posted is seeking to resolve is common to both stripes, though it is felt more keenly in the second. And the reason for the problem is that all legal drafting is created with one thing in mind: clarity. Not "Clear English Campaign"/Hemmingway style clarity, admittedly, but a diamond-hard clarity based upon accuracy, all ambiguity being stripped away. And that is very hard to do. Very hard indeed. The last thing you want is some dusty-faced old judge poring over your wording, with a multi-million pound agreement and your future career in the legal profession entirely contingent upon the narrow possibility that said judge will come down on your side.   

       The other reason that legalese is hard for non-lawyers to read is for the same reason that computer code (once you know the syntax) is hard to read: it is purely functional. The wording must do things - or at least allow things to be done. It's often self-referential, and rarely readable in a standard linear fashion. A choose your own adventure book where each page involves referring to an index. And while lawyers would like (no, really) the wording to be easy to read, user friendly and so on, it is significantly more important that there is no dubiety as to what any word or phrase means.   

       Lawyers, if they are any good, will provide clients with a clear explanation of what each document and clause does, if it is needed. Like good coders comment their code.
calum, Nov 21 2007

       I'd like to see this done for patent applications. How can they be useful to engineers if the engineers cannot understand them?
Bad Jim, Nov 22 2007


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