Teaching Presentation Skills

An Example of Good Practice

Thanks to teaching legal English I heard about plain language once and have become its great proponent. At first I only investigated plain English which was a great solution for teaching legal English to pre-experienced students by a non-lawyer legal English teacher (me). I started to present about plain English at conferences and publish articles. In the meantime I learnt that there existed Plain Polish Section at the University of Wrocław, Poland with its founder Tomasz Piekot.

Tomasz Piekot has participated in the educational campaign Just plain (end of story) (Pol. Prosto i kropka) which aims at the simplification of written communication of public administration. The campain shows the reasons and benefits (for offices and citizens) of using a plain language. It explains what a simple language is and dispels fears related to the introduction of a simple language in public offices. Episode 6 of the tutorials explains how to prepare good presentations. In this episode Tomasz Piekot provides guidelines on how to draw up good presentation slides. He speaks Polish and the viewers can read Polish subtitles on the screen.

I thought that the guidelines in Tomasz Piekot’s tutorial were so practical and up to date that I decided to use the episode in my business English class for BBA (Bachelor in Business Administration) students who come from various countries, including Poland.


  1. I have divided students into pairs in which one student was Polish and the other did not speak Polish.
  2. I played the tutorial and paused it when the new screen appeared and asked Polish students to translate Tomasz Piekot’s instructions into English for students who did not understand Polish.
  3. During the task non-Polish students were asked to take notes and then to prepare a summary in a form of one or two presentation slides drawn up in accordance with the guidelines.

The class was very dynamic with a lot of speaking, writing and slide designing. Polish students faced some translation challenges, e.g. how to translate mięsny jeż into English – a name which was used to describe an unattractive slide overloaded with information, colours and animations.

After the class I felt that the students really had enjoyed it and understood what a well designed presentation was.

If your students’ first language is Polish you can use the tutorial I recommend. If their L1 is different, find a good quality tutorial in their language and use in the classroom. They will not only learn how to design slides and present but practise translation skills at the same time.

The slide at the beginning of this post shows my summary of the tutorial in Polish and in English.

Peer Tutoring in My Legal English Classroom

Peer tutoring and peer evaluation activities increase the students’ engagement in the learning process. Student tutors require deeper knowledge and understanding of the task which may lead to better preparation for the classes, raising awareness, learning to share with others and performing additional out-of-class activities, e.g. reading, watching tutorials, etc.

Peer tutoring activities generate significant benefits for the students. They develop reasoning and critical thinking skills, improve self-esteem and interpersonal skills, motivate students to communicate by various means, not only face to face but also using latest ICT tools, so students’ digital competence may also increase.

Collaboration and teamwork are key competences for students. The syllabi academic teachers draw up for their legal English and business English courses always include the element of cooperation, group work, pair work as social competences that graduates require.

The project which I introduced into my legal English classes in spring semester 2019 was aimed at deeper engagement of students in the learning and teaching process. Students were delegated a number of peer tutoring tasks which were supposed to give them more responsibility, empower them to provide feedback and keep them accountable for the quality of the assignments carried out.

The activities which I introduced into my classes were modelled so that they developed the productive language skills of:

  1. writing/drafting (legal opinions, correspondence, blog posts, contract clauses paraphrases in plain English, translations), and
  2. speaking (presentations, job interviews).

An important element of each activity was the preparation stage during which students familiarized themselves with the rules, language, layouts and standards of modern writing/correspondence or presentations.

Before they made any attempts of writing legal opinions or paraphrasing contract clauses, they were introduced to plain language rules, they studied model answers, analysed layout, etc. Only then they were asked to write a document/text on their own. Peer tutoring involved in writing activities consisted in peer correction at the first stage before the assignment was handed in for the teacher’s grading. For writing tasks students were also familiarized with the correction code, so that they used the same code and the comments were understood by the authors of the texts evaluated.

In the case of presentations students studied the structure and the language of a presentation first and they were sent an evaluation sheet with checklist questions to know what their peer evaluators will be paying attention to while listening to and collecting feedback for the presenters. During presentations the audience was asked to make notes on the evaluation sheets under four headings: delivery, content/structure, body language, and visual aids. After each presentation audience commented on the strengths and weaknesses of the presentation and asked questions, they had been asked to prepare to rehearse a question and answer session after each presentation.

To help students prepare for job interviews a speed interviewing session was organized. Interviewers were given the grid to evaluate the interviewees and had five minutes to talk to each candidate after which time the interviewees moved to another interviewer.

As a follow up activity the interviewers group together to discuss their marks for each candidate and choose the student with the best score to get the job. The interviewees, on the other hand, may discuss the questions they had to answer, which were the most challenging, what surprised them, etc. or decide which interviewer was the most professional, asked the most interesting questions, etc. When the students announce their choices, they discuss the strengths and weaknesses of individual candidates and the teacher may also give the class some feedback.

During the semester the students also prepared their CVs. The CVs were supposed to be authentic but anonymized. I photocopied the CVs and distributed them among students who worked in groups and were asked to provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the documents they got and choose the best one from the collection provided. On the basis of the peer feedback and the teacher’s feedback, students had an opportunity to polish their CVs and resubmit them.

At the end of the semester students filled in a short questionnaire in which they shared their opinion about peer tutoring activities performed during their classes. Most students (73%) admitted they improved their letter writing skills, job interviewing skills, presentation skills. The students felt the comments they received from their peers after the presentations were most useful (82%). More than a half of students (60%) found the feedback concerning their letters of advice useful, while in the case of CVs only less then one third of students (27%) valued the feed and most students (55%) were not sure whether the feedback they received helped. Eight students out of ten enjoyed taking the role of an evaluator and reported that they had improved their confidence. They also confessed that positive comments were easier to give and for most of them (78%) their peers assessment was important.

Quite interestingly, my students considered writing letters of advice as the most enjoyable of all tasks and speed interviewing as the least. The same order is reflected in the question about usefulness of the activities.

If you would like to see a detailed presentation of the results of my survey, please download the presentation.

How to Exploit a Sample Clause in Class

The clause is, for example, a standard indemnity clause like this one below:

Licensee shall indemnify and hold harmless the Licensor, its affiliates and their respective officers, directors and employees from and against all costs, expenses, damages, claims, obligations and liabilities whatsoever from facts or circumstances not attributable to the Licensor including, but not limited to, all costs arising out of the acts or defaults, whether negligent or not, of the Licensee, Licensee’s agents, sub-contractors and employees.

A sample of an authentic clause can be exploited to practise various skills. The first stage may be the selection the terms of art and other legalese words for paraphrasing. This can be done by the teacher or by the students themselves to raise their awareness of the essential features of legal texts. I have bolded the terms of art, examples of legalese and words typical of the language of contracts which I consider significant in the clause above.

Next, the students can be asked to translate the text into their native language to make sure they understand what the clause deals with and really means.

Afterwards, the students write a paraphrase or a summary of the clause using plain English and their own words. Here attention is drawn to the features of plain language, i.e. word order, the length of the sentences, the use of tabulation, linking words, correct punctuation, eliminating nominalisations and the abuse of the passive voice, accuracy, etc.

The paraphrase or the summary can be prepared in a form of an email/letter sent to a client, who needs the clarification of the said clause.

In order to improve speaking the clause can be paraphrased orally in a form of a simulated lawyer-client interview.

Additionally, students can think of potential problems the clause may give rise to when the obligations it contains are or are not carried out.

There are many websites where sample contract clauses may be found, e.g. http://agreementforms.org/.


Osoby uczące się prawniczego języka angielskiego na pewno rozumieją ogrom wysiłku, jaki należy włożyć w naukę kolokacji…

Słownik Języka Polskiego PWN definiuje związki wyrazowe, czyli tak zwane kolokacje, jako „często spotykane połączenia wyrazów, których znaczenie wynika ze znaczenia ich składników”. W języku angielskim kolokacje mogą składać się z różnej liczby i różnych rodzajów wyrazów. Najprostszy podział wyodrębnia sześć rodzajów kolokacji: przymiotnik + rzeczownik (wrongful dismissal), (podmiot-) rzeczownik + czasownik (court ruled), rzeczownik + rzeczownik (piece of advice), przysłówek + przymiotnik (summarily tried), czasownik + przysłówek (severely criticize) i czasownik + (dopełnienie-) rzeczownik (receive a salary).

Aby nieco skomplikować sprawę można dodatkowo podzielić grupę czasownik + rzeczownik na dwie bardziej szczegółowe: czasownik + rzeczownik (make a decision) i czasownik + przyimek + rzeczownik (come to a decision).

Aby sprawę skomplikować już całkowicie możemy dodać więcej przyimków do angielskich kolokacji i utworzyć kolejne kategorie: rzeczownik + przyimek (interest in), przyimek + rzeczownik (on demand) i przymiotnik + przyimek (worth of), które stanowią tak zwane kolokacje gramatyczne. Znajomy doktorant próbował w swojej pracy badawczej policzyć wyrażenia przyimkowe występujące w tekstach wykorzystywanych w nauce języka prawniczego i uzyskał wynik… 290.

Tworzenie kolokacji w przeciwieństwie do zasad gramatyki nie podlega żadnym jasno sprecyzowanym regułom. Pewne słowa występują razem tylko dlatego, że w takim połączeniu używa się ich od dawna. Trudno jest wyjaśnić, dlaczego w języku angielskim organizując przyjęcie mówimy „to throw, hold, have a party” a nie „to make a party”. Podobnie w języku prawniczym użyjemy wyrażenia „to break the law” mówiąc o łamaniu prawa, ale już „to breach a contract” mając na myśli naruszenie warunków umowy i „to infringe a copyright” odnosząc się do naruszenia praw autorskich. Opanowanie i znajomość kolokacji jest zatem jednym z najtrudniejszych aspektów procesu uczenia się języka prawniczego i jest dużym wyzwaniem dla słuchaczy.

Część kolokacji w języku prawniczym jest stosunkowo elastyczna i niektóre czasowniki, przysłówki lub przymiotniki mogą być zastąpione ich synonimami bez zmiany znaczenia danego związku wyrazowego. Na przykład w wyrażeniu „to settle a dispute” czasownik „to settle” można zastąpić czasownikiem „to resolve” i nie spowoduje to zmiany znaczenia całej frazy.

Istnieje jednak grupa kolokacji typowych dla branżowego języka prawniczego, które powstały w wyniku wieloletniej tradycji. Są to wyrażenia, które były używane przez pokolenia prawników, przekazywane z pokolenia na pokolenie w tekstach, często bardzo niepoprawnych gramatycznie, składniowo i interpunkcyjnie. To jednak w oparciu o te teksty kształciły się kolejne roczniki prawników i wykorzystywały pewne, utarte i utrwalone przez tradycję wyrażenia i zwroty mówiąc o konkretnych zagadnieniach, zjawiskach i elementach procesu prawnego. Użycie innych wyrażeń i zwrotów wprowadziłoby dwuznaczność i niejasność. Dlatego też, w procesie nauczania i uczenia się angielskiego języka prawniczego tak bardzo ważne jest rozwijanie znajomości specjalistycznego słownictwa ze szczególnym naciskiem na kolokacje, gdyż mają one wpływ nie tylko na płynność wypowiedzi, ale również świadczą o profesjonalizmie użytkownika. Zwolennik prostego angielskiego Rupert Haigh ilustruje powyższe zagadnienie przykładami kolokacji (czasownik + rzeczownik) używanymi do określenia zakończenia różnorodnych procesów, spraw, zdarzeń w obrębie prawa:  „annul marriage/contract”, „cancel order/meeting/appointment”, „discharge obligation/duty/invoice/contract/from liability”, „dismiss application/employee/appeal”, „repeal law/statute”, „repudiate contract”, „rescind contract”, „revoke order/power of attorney/ permission/authorization”, „terminate contract/employment”, „withdraw  offer/permission/support”.

Powyższe przykłady pokazują jak ogromnym wyzwaniem jest dążenie do poprawności językowej w procesie uczenia się języka prawniczego, co z kolei jest jedną z najważniejszych umiejętności oczekiwanych przez pracodawców. Badanie przeprowadzone przez Catherine Mason z wydawnictwa Global Legal English wśród największych międzynarodowych kancelarii prawniczych, tzw. magicznego kręgu, w 2010 roku potwierdziło, że doskonała znajomość języka angielskiego jest jednym z najważniejszych kryteriów rekrutacyjnych. Badania cytowane powyżej pokazują, że wyrażenia przyimkowe są bardzo istotnym elementem języka prawniczego i mogą być źródłem wielu nieścisłości jak chociażby w wyrażeniu „submit your offer WITHIN 7 days” (w ciągu 7 dni, tj. któregokolwiek dnia przed upływem 7 dni) i „submit your offer IN 7 days” (za 7 dni, tj. w siódmym dniu licząc od dzisiaj). Innym przykładem jest zrozumienie różnicy pomiędzy „draft the contract BY 5 o’clock” (napisać/skończyć pisanie do godz. 5.00) i ,,draft the contract UNTIL 5 o’clock” (pisać do godz. 5.00).

Jeśli są Państwo zainteresowani rozwijaniem swojej znajomości prawniczego języka angielskiego zachęcam do korzystania z, opracowanych przeze mnie i moich studentów z Akademii Leona Koźmińskiego, gotowych, darmowych fiszek dostępnych wraz z ćwiczeniami na stronie http://www.memrise.com/user/LegalEnglish/courses/teaching/ oraz na urządzeniach mobilnych po zainstalowaniu aplikacji memrise (iPhone i Android).

The Legal English Manual – a Review

The Legal English Manual

by Alison Wiebalck, Clemens von Zedtwitz,

Richard Norman and Kathrin Weston Walsh

Manz, C.H. Beck, Helbing Lichtenhahn 2013

A new manual on legal English, by four authors all of whom are qualified legal professional with either British, American or Swiss background, comes from C.H.Beck in cooperation with Manz and Helbing Lichtenhahn.

The manual is not a traditional legal English coursebook. The first and the main part of the manual is a glossary book which presents legal terminology for fourteen areas of law in a form of short texts which explain the most important topics of the law and present the legal terms of art in context, usually Anglo-American but with some references made to Swiss law.

The practice areas include: contract law, tort law, company law, employment law, family law, inheritance law, insurance law, intellectual property law, competition law, civil procedure, arbitration, bankruptcy, tax law and criminal law. This cross-sectional approach makes the manual a useful tool for legal English learners who wish to quickly grasp the legal terms in a nutshell, revise material they have already covered in a legal English course or prepare for legal English examinations since the content of the manual corresponds with the syllabi of the most recognizable legal English examinations  (e.g. TOLES).

Each of the fourteen areas of law is organized in the same pattern. First the key legal terms are presented and used in a text clarifying various legal issues. Then the use of the most important terms is illustrated with some authentic samples of texts showing how the terms are used by lawyers. Later three or four definitions of the most representative terms in each area are provided and finally at the end of each section there is a collocations corner.

From the methodological point of view such organization of the book content has certain advantages, since it:

  • presents the most important legal English vocabulary in context in one book
  • uses plain English which reflects the current trends in linguistics and law
  • clearly explains the intricacies of the law in short notes loaded with the terms of art
  • shows how to clearly define sometimes complex legal terms
  • stresses the importance of collocations.

The texts contained in the manual can be of help not only for legal English learners but also for teachers who can use the them in a variety of ways to revise the language already taught for example in a form of short dictoglosses (i.e. classroom dictations in which students are asked to reconstruct a text after they listening and noting down key words only).

The only drawback which I have spotted so far is the lack of alphabetical index at the end of the manual which could help the users find a specific term in the book faster and without much effort.

The consecutive two parts of the book concentrate on the development of writing and speaking skills, while the last part is an overview of plain English and contains a short history of this linguistic phenomenon and the rules for writing plain which I myself strongly promote.

The second, legal writing part is definitely useful, since not many coursebooks teach legal writing. The manual clarifies the issue of register transfer by opposing informal and formal language for correspondence. Besides it contains a vast collection of standard phrases and templates for a legal memorandum, a letter to opposing counsel, a letter to a client and a reply letter agreeing and declining a request for documents or information.

The part of the manual for oral communication contains an incredibly rich collection of phrases and expressions for oral advocacy, oral negotiation, client interview and job interview.

I recommend the manual as a self-study book for all learners of legal English and as a supplementary material for any legal English course to be used in the class for presentation or revision of legal vocabulary, teaching paraphrasing, defining and collocations, for developing writing skill and preparation for speaking tasks.

EDIT 16 January 2018: the second edition of Legal English Manual is now available at www.motyleksiazkowe.pl


New Legal English Handbook from Hart Publishing

Common Law Legal English and Grammar

A Contextual Approach

Alison Riley and Patricia Sours


Lord Denning, an influential but controversial English judge, stated that 'Words are the lawyer’s tools of trade’. This course book reflects that conviction as it focuses on words, the language of the law – legal terms, expressions, and grammar – introduced systematically with relevant aspects of the law, and examined in context through analytical reading activities based on original legal texts selected for their interest and importance in different branches of the common law system. This book explores constitutional law, criminal law, tort, and contract; yet includes international legal contexts, with a particular focus on human rights and European law.

The presentation of legal concepts and terminology in context in each chapter is graded so that the course progresses, building on the vocabulary and law encountered in earlier chapters. Each chapter, organized thematically, includes a series of activities – tasks – to complete, yet the book does not presuppose previous knowledge of legal English or of the common law: full answer keys and reflective commentary on both legal and linguistic aspects are given and sections marked 'Advanced’ offer especially challenging materials. Consolidation sections are designed to test students’ global comprehension of the legal texts analysed, including precise usage of legal vocabulary in context, with solutions.

Common Law Legal English and Grammar is addressed to the non-native speaker of English, and in particular, intermediate to advanced students who are studying law, or academics with a professional interest in Anglo-American law. Practising lawyers will also find that the book offers valuable analysis of the language of legal documents.

Please note, this book is not available for purchase in Italy.

The Authors

Alison Riley is Lecturer in Legal English at the University of Ferrara.

Patricia Sours is Lecturer in Legal English at the University of Padua.

Book Details

June 2014   528pp   Pbk   9781849465762  £25 / €32.50


If you would like to place an order you can do so through the Hart Publishing website (link below).


Alternatively please contact Hart Publishing’s Distributor, Macmillan Distribution Ltd by telephone or e-mail

Address: Macmillan Distribution (MDL), Brunel Road, Houndmills, Basingstoke, RG21 6XS, UK

Telephone Number: 01256 32924

Email: export@macmillan.co.uk

Website: www.hartpub.co.uk

Hart Publishing Ltd. is registered in England No. 3307205

Hart Publishing Ltd. is an Imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc

Garner the Plain English Guru

In Legal Writing in Plain English. A Text with Exercises Garner (2001) draws up a comprehensive list of principles for plain English writing including legal writing, analytical and persuasive writing, legal drafting, document design and continued improvement. The exercises accompanying the book can be accessed on http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/garner/. All these exercises are based on authentic excerpts of legal writing which are used as a basis for paraphrasing, redrafting and editing in plain English.

Most of these principles help develop the transferable abilities typical of writing which might constitute the scaffolding for the future development of the writing skill irrespective of the purpose. Plain English is considered the equivalent of good English writing. Therefore, the guidelines for writing in plain English should be included in each writing course, since they comprise the rules for producing well structured, comprehensible and concise texts.

According to Garner (2001) the skills which law students and graduates need to develop if they wish to draft texts in plain English include:

1. Planning:

  • using a nonlinear, whirlybird (i.e. resembling the mind map) approach is recommended for lawyers;
  • arranging the material in a logical sequence, e.g. using chronology when presenting facts;
  • dividing the documents into sections, and sections into smaller parts;
  • adding headings for the sections and subsections.

2. Paragraphing and organizing writing:

  • beginning each paragraph with a topic sentence;
  • linking paragraphs and signposting within paragraphs;
  • limiting the length of paragraphs to 3-8 sentences/150 words;
  • knowing the reader – an ordinary person and not a sophisticated lawyer;
  • applying correct punctuation.

3. Phrasing and paraphrasing (legalese into plain English):

  • avoiding verbosity; reducing the average length of a sentence to 20 words;
  • relying on S-V-O word order;
  • favouring active over passive voice;
  • creating lists with parallel phrasing for parallel ideas;
  • avoiding multiple negatives;
  • understanding legalese but replacing it with plain English alternatives, e.g. “hereinafter Seller” with “the Seller”, “prior to” with “before”, “in the event that” with “if”;
  • minimizing the use of „to be”, e.g. court is in agreement, fines are dependent, judge is of the opinion…;
  • avoiding nouns created from verbs, e.g. conduct an examination of, make provision for, take into consideration…;
  • shortening wordy phrases, e.g. “a number of” to “many”, “at the time when” to “when”, “subsequent to” to “after”, “the majority of” to “most”.

Mad Man on Writing

Since not only law students need writing skills, others following business English courses might find the advice of David Ogilvy – an iconic businessman and original “Mad Man” – convincing:

  1. The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.
  2. Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.
  3. Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:
  4. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  5. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  6. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  7. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  8. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  9. Check your quotations.
  10. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
  11. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  12. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  13. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

Source: Oglivy, D. (2012). The Unpublished David Ogilvy. London: Profile Books Ltd.