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Chris Mitchell is an Executive Assistant for the London School of Legal English and Legal English Training UK. He assists tutors to develop informative and challenging language courses for corporate clients such as Abengoa, Deltatre Media, Cisco Systems, McDonalds and BDB Limited, as well as international lawyers from around the world.
If you work as a lawyer in an international environment, your English skills should be of advanced standard. You will need to be able to understand "legalese" and the formal structures used in law, as well as be able to communicate with clients of all backgrounds. In our considerable experience, lawyers are a particularly confident group of people, but you should not neglect your Legal English language skills.
In this article, we look at how you can improve your English and develop even greater confidence in the language.
1. Work on your legal vocabulary
While English language speakers usually use about 800 words in our lexicon, having more words available to you does provide you with greater options. A wider vocabulary can also make stories and conversation much more interesting. Why say that a film was "nice" when you can say it was "an emotional roller-coaster".
Improving your word skills can be done actively through lessons with your tutor, and passively through listening to talk radio and reading books and newspapers. When you come across a word that seems unfamiliar to you, try guessing the meaning from the context. If that is difficult, or you are still not sure, then go to the dictionary. Try and keep a notebook of vocabulary as well.
2. Improve your spelling
We are tired of looking at the websites of international law firms that are filled with spelling errors and poor English. It is frustrating for any English speaker to read through these, because let's face it - if the law firm does not care about its' marketing, then why would it care about clients? So, learn to spell without using spellchecker.
Good spelling gives you credibility and shows that you are the kind of person somebody can do business with. Test yourself regularly with spelling websites and make sure that you recognise any spelling rules that you see.
3. Read more
If you have some spare time on public transport, read a book or a newspaper. Try and avoid free newspapers such as Metro as they are fairly basic, but if you can buy a newspaper or an English-language book, you will enhance your reading skills and improve your vocabulary and spelling at the same time.
4. Improve your grammar
As we mentioned before, poor grammar on websites is extremely confusing, and native English speakers really struggle to understand bad grammar in e-mails too.
Try and understand the various words that make up a sentence (adverbs, adjectives, nouns, verbs) and try using them fluidly. Develop your knowledge of punctuation and understand how passive voice and active voice work.
If you are looking to study English for legal professionals, contact us on 020 3566 0145, by e-mail or by filling out the form on this page.