Looking to improve your Legal English skills but not sure where to begin? Here are ten tips to help you start!
Ten Tips to Improve Your Legal English
1. Read Legal News in English
There are many websites in English that are focused on the law, recent court decisions, or developments in the law. Of course, many news and analysis websites also discuss legal issues. Bookmark a few of these sites and get in the habit of spending some time checking them every few days ( it does not have to be every day, but at least weekly). Consider this as part of your continuing legal education.
2. Talk to Colleagues and Clients in English
Whenever possible, try to talk to your colleagues and clients in English. This is a very effective way to improve your conversational skills in everyday English, and specifically in Legal English. Try to discuss legal issues or recent developments in the law. By discussing legal topics, you will practice and improve your Legal English skills.
3. Take Legal English Conversation
To focus on improving your speaking skills, consider taking our course Legal English Conversation. This course consists of several one-on-one tutoring sessions with our instructor, Timothy Barrett. He will work with you at the first session to develop a plan that focuses on your goals and taking into consideration your current level. Your speaking and listening skills will greatly improve after these lessons!
4. Attend Webinars / Conferences
Whenever you have the opportunity to attend a conference or workshop that is in English, do it! There are many legal conferences that are conducted in English; to attend and participate in these are a terrific way to improve your Legal English skills. (Of course, in between the meetings is a great way to Talk to Colleagues, as mentioned above!)
In the current world of pandemic lockdowns, many of these conferences and trainings have moved online. Although this is not nearly as good for networking with others, this does have advantages: 1) It is usually much more inexpensive, in both time and money; 2) Allows many lawyers who could not take time off to travel, are now able to spend a few hours attending the virtual meetings; 3) It allows many lawyers and law students to attend more of these trainings than would normally be possible. Take advantage of these opportunities while they last!
5. Practice Speaking Out Loud
When thinking about legal issues, try to think about them in English (instead of your native language). More than that, when you are alone: practice speaking out loud!
The more you think/speak in English, the easier it becomes. This is true for everyday English, but even more so with Legal English. By using the proper Legal English terms and collocations, you improve your skills. The more you discuss legal issues, the easier it becomes.
You do not want the first time you talk about these important issues out loud to be with your client or in front of a judge! Be working on this and practicing frequently, by the time you need to rely on your Legal English skills, they will be ready!
6. Work on your Legal English Vocabulary
If you start some of the suggestions above, you will run across Legal English terms you do not know, or perhaps you are missing the proper term (you know how to say it in your language, but not in English. Either way, pay attention to these terms and follow up.
When you come across legal terms that are new or unfamiliar, look them up and make sure you understand them. Consider keeping a Word document or Excel file with these new terms and definitions. If you do, you can go through these terms every so often to review them and refresh your memory (and avoid looking up the same terms again and again!)
If you are not able to express yourself in the proper Legal English terms, spend some time finding the terms that you are missing.
If you develop a number of Legal English terms you want to practice and learn, flashcards are a great way to do this. Many of our courses come with a Lexicon word list for words to study and understand, and also flashcard application to test yourself with these words. (See Elemental Legal English below!)
7. Elemental Legal English
This is our first course in the Legal English curriculum at 4LegalEnglish! Elemental Legal English is a great course to improve your Legal English skills.
This is over 50 hours of content and is based on a course taught to university students and judges. The short video-lessons are followed with short exercises to test your comprehension and reinforce it (if you have trouble with one quiz, simply go back and review the lesson and try it again). There are downloadable Lexicon sheets with vocabulary words and definitions that are discussed in each lesson. Each unit also includes: a case to read through and discuss; a grammar block about a point of grammar that can be confusing; an idiom block discussing common idioms used in the professional world; flashcards to reinforce your understanding of the terms.
The course is designed to be completed over 12 weeks. However, you are free to complete at your own pace. If you have any questions, each lesson allows you to comment and the instructor or another student will respond with help.
Click here to learn more about this great course!
8. Write a Short Memo or Email About Your Case/Legal Issue
We discussed the usefulness of thinking and speaking about legal issues, in order to improve your Legal English skills. If you are looking to take another step forward: write about legal issues!
Writing is a great way to improve your language/communication skills, and your understanding of a topic. This is true whether you are writing in a foreign language or your mother tongue!
By writing, you force your mind to really organize your thoughts. Often you can discover weak points in your arguments, when you write them down. Of course when writing in English, you will practice using the proper Legal English terms. This is a tremendous way to improve your skills.
Of course, if you want some feedback about your writing, you can take the Legal English Conversation course. Although that course does not focus on writing, the instructor can work with you on that and help review your writing.
9. Use Your Everyday English Skills
Legal English is its own sub-set of English, with terms and concepts that may be very familiar to lawyers, but unknown to non-lawyers. However, if you are looking to improve these skills, don't neglect to use your Everyday English skills too. You will want to work to improve both, otherwise the weak skill will drag you down.
10. Read 4LegalEnglish.com
Check out our Blog regularly. This is a great way to engage in English. Feel free to comment on any of the posts or lessons.
What do you think of this list? What is your favorite from this list? Do you have any tips to add to the list?