Confidentiality: a must for any translation company wanting to serve the legal profession

In October 2012, the Conseil national des barreaux and the company Xplanation Language Services signed a partnership agreement for translation services that offers law firms desiring to use their services a customized package at a very attractive price. A Charter was prepared and signed by the partners to guarantee confidentiality between the attorney and the service provider as a safeguard for the attorney's clients.

Xplanation assured us of confidentiality, an absolute requirement for lawyers and a basic concern for any translation company doing business with legal professionals, with an article titled "Confidentiality: more than just a word!".

Article written and translated by Xplanation

We know that you care about confidentiality. We do too. But how do you make sure caring is enough? How do you obtain guarantees that the confidentiality and security of your content is indeed taken seriously by your suppliers?

Dealing with confidentiality requires more than signing an NDA or adding clauses to a contract. A more comprehensive set of measures is needed not only to give you the means to seek compensation but also to prevent costly consequences.

As a lawyer, you probably wish that your clients would contact you more often to seek your advice before taking action. Being a lawyer isn’t just about defending a case in court. Prevention takes on an ever growing importance in your role as a qualified advisor.

We think alike. So, when it comes to dealing with confidentiality and information security, we implement a set of preventive measures to guarantee it.

Content sharing

When you have documents that need to be translated, the simplest thing to do is to email them to your supplier. It is common practice despite the fact that email is an unsafe communication medium.

Cyber-crime grows at an accelerating pace. Where in the past, attacks would be randomly aimed at disturbing users, they are now far more sophisticated. Information trading has more value than data destruction. And even though, it seems unlikely that any attack would be directed at your law firm, it may indeed be aimed at your clients. The point here is not to cause paranoia, but to put the finger on what the risks may be.

If your supplier is not offering a secure alternative to email, it most certainly means that they have not implemented any measure to protect your content at all. As you share content with them, you simply don’t know what they do with it. If you lose control of your content, it may end up in the hands of people that are under no confidentiality obligations.

Your goal should be to obtain clear information on what process is in place to guarantee the confidentiality and security of the content you share with third parties like your translation service provider. It seems trivial because, in your mind, translation services are not a priority. But overlooking the potential threat may haunt you in the future.

Without going to any extreme, there are simple things you can do. With regards to content sharing, the first thing to do is request a secure web portal. Secure means it is VeriSign™ certified. VeriSign™, like Norton, is part of Symantec. Those names carry a lot of weight in the world of electronic security. A web portal secured via VeriSign™ guarantees to create an encrypted channel between your device, be it your office desktop, your laptop, or your smartphone, so any content transferred between it and the supplier’s network is protected.

The same applies when the supplier is sharing content with their own suppliers. In the translation business, service providers call on a pool of independent translators, revisers, and linguists. They are given access to your content and this access must be equally secure.

Let’s be clear, if cyber criminals want to attack your network to steal information, they may well succeed, but in the context of threat probability, communicating with your supplier via an encrypted channel is a minimum protective measure to take.

If your supplier only offers email, fax or postal communication, we recommend you source a different provider; one with a VeriSign™ secure web portal.

Content archiving

In line with our comments above, what steps do you take to control what information is where and with whom? When you share content with your translation service provider, do you know what happens to the content afterwards?

Say you sent documents for a quote. You received the quote, but then decided not to proceed because your client is not picking up the bill. Will the supplier destroy the documents? Do you have to ask? Is it part of their process that they do so?

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for a translation service provider to keep copies of documents they have not translated. If the provider keeps copies of these documents, they are putting the security and confidentiality of your content at risk unnecessarily. More worryingly, even if they mean no harm, it clearly indicates that they have not given any thought to information security, let alone having any process in place.

We strongly recommend that, before you start using a translation service provider, you obtain a copy of their information security and confidentiality policy. It should clearly state what the provider will do with your content. The task may be translation, but also a simple revision or a transcription. It should state the conditions in which the content is stored. This in particular relates to their network security policy.

Network Security Policy

It is essential that your translation service provider is equipped with technology to manage your needs. This technology includes process management software for translation projects, specifically translation memories, and legal terminology management.

This software must be hosted in a secure network i.e. with a security policy. You should ask for a copy from the service provider. If they have one, your IT team should review it and comment. If they don’t, they have no means to protect your content. The potential risks are not worth taking.

NDA & Confidentiality Agreement

It is most likely that you have not signed an NDA with your translation service provider before you started using their service. You trust that they act in good faith, but the priority is to guarantee the safety of the information you share with them.

As a first port of call, you should implement an NDA between you and your service provider. But more importantly, you should also verify what measures are in place between them and their suppliers. Do they sign an NDA with the translators, revisers, linguists and any other third party who may have access to your information? If so, you should obtain a copy of this document to make sure it satisfies your expectations and requirements. If not, you should challenge your service provider on how they guarantee the protection of your information.

Good faith and best effort only work when things go well. You lose this benefit at the first difficulty. To make sure that your service provider is thorough in a way that protects your information and content, you should remove any risk.


As a lawyer, you are best placed to appreciate the necessity to protect the information that your clients share with you. You should take the same care when it comes to making sure your suppliers appreciate this necessity.

NDA and confidentiality agreements are essential but you also need to verify the dispositions they take with their own suppliers, the manner in which they handle your content, and how they exchange content with all stakeholders.

The probability of a disastrous or embarrassing situation may not be high, but it only takes one instance. The quality of a service is as good as its supplier. A suitable supplier will make sure that content and information confidentiality and security is part of the quality of their service. Especially if they service the legal sector.

© Article written and translated by Xplanation

En savoir plus sur ce partenariat

Le Conseil national des barreaux et la société Xplanation signent un partenariat en matière de services de traduction dédiés à la profession
Cette convention de partenariat en matière de services de traduction signée le 4 octobre 2012 par laquelle la société s’engage à traduire gratuitement et de façon illimitée toutes les documentations et publications de l'institution en contrepartie d’un référencement sur les supports d'information idoines du Conseil national des barreaux, propose également de faire bénéficier les cabinets d’avocats qui souhaiteraient recourir à ses services de conditions financières attractives spécialement dédiées à la profession ... - Actualité du 11 octobre 2012

This article has been translated into Spanish by Xplanation Language Services - www.xplanation.comPartner of the CNB
This article has been translated into English by Xplanation Language Services - www.xplanation.comPartner of the CNB
This article is also available in French

Vendredi 4 Janvier 2013