Thomas West is an American lawyer with over 30 years of experience in translating complex legal documents from several European languages into English. Thomas first discovered Aart van den End’s Juridisch Lexicon in 1995, while he was still working as a lawyer in Atlanta. A Dutch colleague had seen an advertisement for the book in a Dutch law journal and passed it along to Thomas, who wasted no time in phoning Aart van den End (in those days before email) and ordering a copy. Thomas found the lexicon to be an unusually complete and accurate standout in a sea of bilingual dictionaries that were incomplete and full of errors, which made him wonder how Aart van den End had managed to compile such a useful and precise reference work. Thomas would go on to find this out some 27 years later, in 2022, when Aart invited Thomas to visit his office in the Netherlands and discuss legal terminology. Since Thomas’s return to his home in the United States, he and Aart have maintained regular discussions of legal terminology via Skype.
Thomas has compiled several bilingual legal dictionaries himself, although there was little in his monolingual English-speaking background in the Southern United States to suggest that he would become a polyglot lexicographer. Thomas grew up in a monolingual English-speaking family but caught the language bug at an early age, teaching himself French and Spanish while he was growing up. His first exposure to Dutch was pasting hundreds of stamps with effigies of Queen Wilhelmina and Queen Juliana into his stamp albums. Thomas studied Latin in high school and added German and Russian to his repertoire at university, where earned a bachelor’s degree in French summa cum laude and a master’s degree in German. He also spent summers studying in France and Germany and teaching English in Mexico.
After teaching modern languages for several years at both the college and high school level, Thomas went to law school at the University of Virginia, where he received the degree of juris doctor (J.D.) in 1990. He was first exposed to legal translation during his time in law school, when he translated legal materials from the German Democratic Republic into English for one of his professors. After graduation he was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia and then practiced law for five years with a large Atlanta law firm. At that time, Atlanta was preparing for the Olympic Games, which were held there in 1996. Volunteering as a translator for the Olympics opened Thomas’s eyes to the need for highly-skilled translators, and he decided to start his own boutique legal translation company, which he named Intermark Language Services. With clients throughout the United States and Europe, Intermark has also served as the lead translation agency for the largest lawsuit in U.S. history.
In the early 2000s, Thomas served as President of the American Translators Association and has been certified by the ATA for translation from French, Spanish, German and Dutch into English. Combining his love for teaching with his interest in legal translation, he conducts seminars and workshops on legal translation in Europe, Canada, Latin America and South Africa. He also teaches legal translation at several universities in the United States.