Introduction to Legal English

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Who is the course for?
Law students, lawyers in their early years of legal practice, lawyers with little experience of using English in legal contexts, legal support staff who are regularly required to assist lawyers in their work, professionals who regularly work with lawyers or on legal matters.

What does the course teach?
This course provides the basic language skills needed by lawyers practicing in the international Legal Community. It also introduces the essential vocabulary of Legal English, and includes notes and exercises on some key areas of grammar.

The course can be taken as a fully online introduction to Legal English. It can also be used as part of a blended learning course in conjunction with Introduction to International Legal English, written by Amy Krois-Lindner, Matt Firth, and TransLegal (Cambridge University Press 2008).

How long will the course take?
Approximately 30-35 hours.

A career in law Unit 1

This unit introduces some of the key general vocabulary and language used by lawyers in commercial contexts. Following a short introduction to different career paths, legal training in common law systems is contrasted with the approach taken in civil law systems. The unit then presents some essential terms used when describing the structure of a typical law firm. The second half of the unit includes exercises in billing, client care, writing emails, and working with supplements to legal documents.

Contract law Unit 2

This unit begins with an interesting article about defences to a contract before going on to present some of the main types of contract clauses. The listening exercise outlines some of the dangers of working with standard form contracts. Further language work includes notes on avoiding legalese, the complicated language of the law that can sometimes be difficult for non-lawyers to understand, and a video on the topic of commonly confused terms.

Tort law Unit 3

A tort is an instance of wrongful or unlawful injury or damage that may be tried in the civil courts. Central to tort law are concepts such as negligence and reasonableness, both of which are included here. The unit also includes useful exercises on commonly confused pairs of terms such as damage and damages and liability and responsibility. The video exercise presents the Latin phrase res ipsa loquitur, the principle that the cause of some kinds of accidents or wrongdoing is so obvious that the defendant is assumed to have been responsible.

Criminal law Unit 4

Some knowledge of the language of criminal law is important for commercial lawyers, as the failure of a company to comply with certain obligations can lead to both civil and criminal sanctions. This unit largely concentrates on criminal law as it applies to commerce, focusing on issues such as insider dealing and general courtroom vocabulary. The unit also includes an interesting exercise on the topic of homicide.

Company law Unit 5

Company law is central to commercial law. This unit begins with an introduction to some of the key vocabulary of company law. Later exercises present the language of mergers and acquisitions, and carrying out a due diligence in English-speaking contexts. Further language work includes a model letter on advising a client on the progress of a case, together with further notes on writing professional emails.

Commercial law Unit 6

Commercial law deals with issues of both private and public law, and includes law from a number of specific fields such as company law, commercial agency, bankruptcy, secured transactions, and securities law. This unit includes topics from several of these fields, beginning with a general introduction to the diverse field of commercial law.

Litigation and arbitration Unit 8

Litigation is only one of a number of ways of dealing with legal disputes. Arbitration is one method commonly adopted by companies wishing to bring a speedy end to commercial disputes. This unit focuses on arbitration, and includes work on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), conducting a lawyer-client interview, and the use of emphatic language.

International law Unit 9

International law has three main branches: public international law, private international law, and supranational law. This unit covers aspects of all three, with a focus on international law in commercial contexts.

Comparative law Unit 10

Globalization and internationalism have made it increasingly necessary for lawyers to have some knowledge of foreign legal systems, and to be able to explain those legal systems to their clients. Civil law systems and common law systems are two of the most common types of legal system across the globe, and this unit presents both a comparative approach to civil law and an introduction to the US common law. It also includes some useful information on grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Intellectual property law Unit 11

The introduction to this unit outlines the three main areas of intellectual property (IP) law: trade marks, copyright, and patent law. These are all explored in greater detail throughout the unit, which also includes work on conducting an IP due diligence on behalf of the buyer and the seller, drafting IP agreements, and writing demand letters.