New Legal English Handbook from Hart Publishing

Common Law Legal English and Grammar

A Contextual Approach

Alison Riley and Patricia Sours

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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

HOW TO ORDER

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

http://www.hartpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?ISBN=9781849465762

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

TOLES 2014 Results

Today I have had a chance to briefly analyse the results of TOLES Higher examination conducted in TOLES Examination Centre at Kozminski University in Warsaw in May 2014.

Two groups of students attempted the examination: one group had attended Legal English course leading to the exam for two years and the other for three.

The difference in the course length was due to the change in the curriculum introduced two years ago which limited the time of Legal English instruction offered to Law students from three to two years, i.e. from 36o hours of instruction to 240 hours.

The results which I have received today  prove a significant difference in the passability of the examination. Namely, among third year students there was only 5% of fails, while among second year students – 15%, i.e. three times as much.

The results, unfortunately, seem to confirm the teachers common conviction that the decision of the University authorities was, to put it mildly, not exactly right.

Memrise Project

W październiku 2014 roku rozpoczęłam tworzenie bazy słownictwa z zakresu Legal English potrzebnego do przygotowania się do egzaminu TOLES (Test of Legal English Skills) na poziomie Foundation i Higher. Baza jest wciąż w fazie powstawania, moi studenci biorą czynny udział w przygotowywaniu treści kursów, a wszystko odbywa się w oparciu o podręcznik „The Lawyer’s English Language Coursebook”. Baza powstała na stronie http://www.memrise.com/, a stworzone przeze mnie i moich studentów kursy są dostępne na moim profilu (http://www.memrise.com/user/LegalEnglish/courses/teaching/)

Ponieważ projekt został przyjęty przez moich studentów bardzo entuzjastycznie postanowiłam zbadać jak praca z memrise wpływa na wyniki w nauce osiągane przez studentów w trakcie lektoratowego kursu prawniczego języka angielskiego oraz czy studenci używający aplikacji memrise osiągają lepsze wyniki z testów niż pozostali i czy studenci współtworzący treści kursów osiągają lepsze wyniki od tych, którzy są tylko ich użytkownikami.

Badanie zostało przeprowadzone wśród studentów I, II, i III roku uczestniczących w kursie prawniczego języka angielskiego na poziomie B2+ za pomocą krótkiej ankiety składającej się z siedmiu pytań. W badaniu wzięło udział 32 ankietowanych.

Spośród badanych osób jedna osoba na trzy nie korzystała z kursów memrise przygotowując się do testu i utrwalając materiał. Połowa spośród tych ankietowanych zaliczyła test na poziomie oceny dostatecznej, jedna osoba na poziomie oceny dobrej, a 1/3 respondentów nie zaliczyła testu.

Natomiast w grupie studentów, którzy korzystali z memrise testu nie zaliczyło tylko 17% ankietowanych, niewiele ponad połowa otrzymała oceny dostateczne, a 1/3 oceny dobre.
Większość osób (75%), które nie zaliczyły testu poświęciły pracy z memrise mniej niż jedną godzinę. Jedna z osób w tej grupie poświęciła memrise więcej czasu (1-3 godzin), ale mimo tego uzyskała ocenę niedostateczną.

Studenci, którzy uzyskali najlepsze wyniki poświęcili pracy z memrise bardzo zróżnicowaną ilość czasu. Na siedmioro respondentów, dwoje korzystało z aplikacji poniżej jednej godziny, dwoje spędziło na nauce od jednej do trzech godzin, dwoje od trzech do sześciu godzin, a jedna osoba uczyła się ponad sześć godzin. Dwoje respondentów (28%) brało udział w opracowywaniu treści kursów memrise.

Wśród osób ankietowanych, którzy uzyskali wynik dostateczny większość pracowała z memrise ok. 1-3 godzin, trzy osoby z dziesięciu – ok. 3-6 godzin, a jedna osoba poniżej jednej godziny. Dwie spośród tych osób (20%) brały udział w opracowywaniu treści kursów.

Jeden na ośmiu ankietowanych to studenci-autorzy definicji na kursach memrise. Deklarowali oni, że poświęcili na naukę stosunkowo najwięcej czasu. Większość z nich uczyła się z aplikacją od 3 do 6 godzin, a jedna osoba ponad 6 godzin. Połowa tych osób uzyskała na teście wynik dobry, a połowa dostateczny.

Studenci, którzy nie korzystali z aplikacji w przygotowaniu do testu, jako wyjaśnienia podawali następujące argumenty:
• Preferowanie i większe zaufanie do podręcznika i własnych notatek (50%)
• Przerabianie kursów memrise zajmuje dużo czasu (50%)
• Problemy techniczne (38%)
• Niechęć do nauki przy komputerze (13%)
• Brak informacji, że memrise istnieje (13%).

Zarzut, że praca z memrise jest czasochłonna i męcząca pojawiał się również najczęściej (44%) w komentarzach osób korzystających z tej aplikacji w przygotowaniach do testu. Drugą istotną wadą stworzonych kursów wymienianą przez co czwartą osobę jest nierozpoznawanie synonimów i uznawanie ich za błędne odpowiedzi. Około 15% ankietowanych narzekało na wady techniczne aplikacji, a pojedyncze osoby wspominały o zbyt długich definicjach, zbyt częstych powtórzeniach, nie uwzględnieniu w kursach wszystkich słów wymaganych potem na teście i możliwości powtórzenia raz przerobionego kursu dopiero po 4 godzinach.

Wśród najistotniejszych zalet pracy z kursami memrise ponad połowa ankietowanych studentów wymienia efektywne utrwalenie materiału poprzez częste powtarzanie przerabianego słownictwa. Jedna osoba na trzy ankietowane podkreśla znaczenie faktu, że memrise jest miejscem, gdzie mają dostęp do najważniejszego słownictwa z zajęć. Taka sama liczba respondentów docenia również nowoczesną, elektroniczną formę aplikacji i jej wersję mobilną. Co siódmy ankietowany wspomina o znaczeniu rywalizacji w nauce i podkreśla motywujący wpływ punktacji osiąganej przez wszystkich użytkowników i rankingów pokazujących najaktywniejszych użytkowników na każdym kursie. Wśród mniej istotnych zalet wymieniono profesjonalny i przejrzysty wygląd aplikacji, różnorodność generowanych ćwiczeń i możliwość nauki pisowni przyswajanych słów w ćwiczeniach, w których punktowana jest bezbłędność zapisu.

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.

George Orwell

The model for writing that is usually cited by the supporters of the Plain English Movement is George Orwell whose simple style and text structure may serve as an excellent example as in the sample below from 1984 (1949, p. 123):

A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is being inspected.

Nothing that he does is indifferent. His friendships, his relaxations, his behaviour towards his wife and children, the expression of his face when he is alone, the words he mutters in sleep, even the characteristic movements of his body, are all jealously scrutinized. Not only any actual misdemeanour, but any eccentricity, however small, any change of habits, any nervous mannerism that could possibly be the symptom of an inner struggle, is certain to be detected. He has no freedom of choice in any direction whatever. On the other hand his actions are not regulated by law or by any clearly formulated code of behaviour.

In 1946 in his essay “Why I write” Orwell wrote that good prose is like a window pane and a year earlier he published his manifesto entitled “Politics and the English Language” in which he criticised vague, pretentious, Latinised style used in politics and public speeches and formulated six elementary rules of good writing (2013: 19):

i. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Online plain English writing resources

There are many online resources which develop the skill of writing in plain English :

1. Plain language course on: http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/plain_language/basic_course/ which teaches basic tools to help create plain language;

2. Plain Train on http://www.plainlanguagenetwork.org/plaintrain/ with tips and techniques for improving communication skills with the use of plain language;

3. Free guides on http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/free-guides.html offering advice on design and layout, writing letters, cv’s and reports, glossary of alternative terms (or undesirables);

4. 39 rules for writing plain English by W. D. Lutz: http://www.plainlanguagenetwork.org/Resources/lutz.html;

5. A Plain English Handbook: http://www.sec.gov/pdf/handbook.pdf;

6. Free Plain English guides from Plain Language Commission on: http://www.clearest.co.uk/pages/publications/freeguides;

7. Plain English Bibliography: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2006/02/17093804/5.

8. Publication on common errors in English: http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/

9. Garble’s writing resources for plain English: http://home.comcast.net/~garbl/center/#.Ui8bhYzwHDc

10. List of 75 online legal writing resources: http://goingpaperlessblog.com/2010/04/14/75-online-legal-writing-resources-just-in-time-for-summer-associates/

Plain English vs. legalese

Recently one of my students, when she has been asked what plain English is, has remarked that plain English is street English and that answer seems to be a common misconception. Plain English has often been criticised for advocating simple, leading to simplistic, drab, kindergarten, babyish and unsophisticated English which lacks precision. Quite contrary, in real life the precision that is postulated in legalese makes it unintelligible. In fact legal writing has become synonymous with poor writing.

However, plain language is a phenomenon that has already gone beyond plain English only. In Poland the idea of plain language was popularised in 2012 when Plain Polish Section was set up at the Faculty of Polish at the University of Wroclaw, Poland. Its main aim is to prepare a Polish version of plain language – a communication style that is comprehensible to mass audience. Plain language is a variant of a national language recommended to authors and institutions producing texts for general public, so called “every citizen”. The idea of plain language movement is to include into public life the groups of citizens that are excluded due to their inability to comprehend official texts, e.g. administrative, legal, journalistic, corporate, advertising, etc. Plain language text is to be understood by an everyman, irrespective of his/her education and knowledge at first reading. Martin Cutts (1998), a research director of the Plain Language Commission in the United Kingdom, defines plain English as the writing and setting out of essential information in a way that gives a cooperative, motivated person a good chance of understanding the document at the first reading, and in the same sense that the writer meant it to be understood. Plain language standard has already been legally enforced in several countries. In the USA President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 on October 13, 2010. According to this law federal agencies must communicate with the public in such a way that the public can understand and use. On January 18, 2011, Obama issued a new Executive Order, „E.O. 13563 – Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review” which obliges American regulatory system to make sure that their regulations are accessible, consistent, written in plain language, and easy to understand. Other countries where plain language is mandatory include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the UK. An interesting case study from Portugal – a country with the highest illiteracy rate in the EU – is presented in a Sandra Fisher-Martin’s talk entitled “The right to understand” on TED.com.

WIKI for Students of Law

www.duralex.wikispaces.com has been specially designed for Polish and Russian students of Law.

The Project is coordinated by dr Elena Vyushkina from Saratov State Law Academy, Russia and dr Aleksandra Łuczak from Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland.

Below here is a presentation of WIKI DURALEX for the 5th International Scientific and Methodological Conference on „Information and Communication Technologies in Linguistics, ELT and Crosscultural Communication” at Lomonosov Moscow State University on 7-9 June 2012

The article describing DURALEX WIKI Project written by dr Aleksandra Łuczak from Kozminski University has been awarded the third place in the competition organised by a Polish magazine for foreign languages teachers „Języki obce w szkole” and can be read here: http://duralex.wikispaces.com/

 

Decalogue of a Modern Language Teacher

  1. Don’t be afraid of new technologies; in practice they turn out be easy and intuitive and usually they work rather than don’t;

  2. Don’t be afraid to ask more experienced teachers, IT consultants, bloggers or technology enthusiasts for help; they are usually happy to share their experience;

  3. Enroll for a course on Computer Assisted Language Learning (like we did) or suggest organising such a course at you school or university;

  4. If your colleague uses computers in his/her work with students suggest that they run a training for other teachers; the cost of such training will most probably be lower than the cost of an outsourced training;

  5. You can always as your students for help; most probably they know how to solve your technical problems;

  6. Using new technologies your students do not know you can impress them;

  7. With new technologies you will make your life easier by creating a base of teaching materials to use in the future, you will limit the number of paper homeworks written in hard to decipher handwriting, you will engage your students in course creation, you will produce a final product of your work that can be proudly presented to your superiors, colleagues, students’ parents;

  8. You will enrich your CV; e-learning courses are now an integral component of many traditional language courses. Information about your advanced computer literacy can raise your chances on the job market;

  9. Try hard; you learn most by doing things;

  10. Check Russell Stannard website on www.teachertrainingvideos.com where in short videos he shows how to use various applications in the language classroom.