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What is Legal English

The importance of learning legal English has become clear in recent years but what exactly is legal English?

As the leading experts in Legal English language training, we are often asked why legal professionals require personalised training in this field. This article will explain why legal English is so important for lawyers and law students, particularly in this globalised world.


A good language school will typically offer three courses of English:

A typical General English course will cover the language that a student needs to function in today's society. Lessons will probably cover introducing yourself, asking for directions, socialising with friends and some light grammar depending on your language level.


Business English

Business English courses tend to go into greater detail about work-related situations such as networking, negotiating, landing contracts, meetings and other scenarios that a professional may find themselves in.


Legal English

A good Legal English language course delivered effectively will target those specific areas of law and the language that the lawyer or translator is involved with. As communication with clients and colleagues requires a strong command of English and an awareness of the law, legal English tuition can be considered a must. There is particular need for this when it comes to writing skills because contract drafting, letter writing, memos and understanding statutes and case law are essential tools of the competent lawyer.


The fact that legal English is so prevalent today can also be seen through the various exams available in legal English, particularly the TOLES Test of Legal English Skills. Legal English UK is currently in discussions with several Magic Circle law firms and the British Council about an improved Legal English exam along the lines of the now sadly discontinued International Legal English Certificate (ILEC).


Choosing the right teacher

The nuances of legal writing and oral communication are most aptly conveyed by a qualified and experienced legal English teacher; not only for these purely grammatical and lexical explanations but also because there are such things to consider that go above and beyond the spheres of vocabulary and grammar.


A competent legal English teacher will be able to provide students with cultural awareness and a distinct competitive advantage as well as teaching how to communicate in a clear, simple and direct manner. A good teacher will be able to adapt to the learning style of the student, use relevant course materials and answer questions directly and honestly.


It is important to note that Legal English derives from Latin and French among other languages; which is why students will encounter doublets and triplets, words specific to legal English, Latin loan words and many other parts of the language that may not be a familiar to a typical EFL teacher in a school of English.


Why should I learn legal English?

This question is best answered by looking at contract law drafting. Despite the best efforts of the Plain English Campaign, contracts are still incredibly confusing for non-lawyers. A good lawyer with a strong command of legal English will be able to draft a watertight and readable contract and interpret a contract with confidence. A client will not look kindly upon a lawyer who adds to the confusion and fails to fulfil his or her role correctly.

Legal English includes "distinctive words, meanings, phrases, and modes of expression"

(David Mellinkoff, The Language of the Law, 1963



Michael Davies is an Executive Trainer with Legal English Language Training UK. He has authored the book 'Legal English Skills for Lawyers' which is available on Amazon.

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