July 1

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What is Legal English?

Legal English is more than just English language used in legal settings. It is a specialized language that combines terminology, phrasing, and syntax specific to the legal profession. This blog post delves into what constitutes Legal English, its importance for non-native English speakers in the legal field, and tips for mastering it effectively.

Understanding Legal English

Legal English refers to the style of English used by legal professionals during their work. This includes lawyers, judges, and others in the legal field. It encompasses a wide range of language skills, from writing contracts to arguing in court. Legal English is characterized by its precision, formality, and sometimes, its complexity.

Characteristics of Legal English

  1. Precision: Legal English requires precise language that leaves little to no room for ambiguity. This is crucial in legal documents where a single word can alter the rights and obligations of the parties involved.
  2. Formality: The language used in legal documents and proceedings is formal, reflecting the solemnity and significance of the law. Informal language or slang is typically avoided to maintain professionalism and clarity.
  3. Complexity: Legal English often involves complex sentence structures and vocabulary that are not commonly used in everyday English. This includes the use of passive voice, nominalization (turning verbs into nouns), and embedded clauses.

Why is Legal English Important?

For lawyers and legal professionals whose first language is not English, proficiency in Legal English is crucial. It enables them to:

  • Understand legal documents: Contracts, laws, and court documents often contain complex legal terminology and structures.
  • Communicate effectively: Mastery of Legal English allows ESL lawyers to advocate for their clients effectively and interact professionally with their peers.
  • Advance their careers: Competency in Legal English is often essential for career advancement in law, especially in international contexts or where English is the lingua franca.
  • Master Legal Communication with Elemental Legal English


    To learn more about these terms and others, consider our Elemental Legal English course. Gain Confidence and Competence by Improving Your Legal English Skills! Take this Legal English online course and learn to use proper Legal English terms with your clients and colleagues. We help lawyers and law students understand difficult Legal English terms and collocations without an expensive and time-consuming in-person course. You can complete this online course in your own home or office (or wherever you are) and at your own pace. Learn to use Legal English terms with your international clients and colleagues, even if you do not have prior experience.

    This online course will teach you the fundamental Legal English vocabulary or lexicon: the terms of art that lawyers frequently use when discussing legal matters. You will learn to understand Legal English terms and expressions that will enhance your communication abilities. The course is composed of 12 modules, designed for 1 week of study each—a semester-length course. With over 50 hours of online content and more than 200 individual lessons, you'll have ample opportunities to reinforce your learning. Each module includes flashcard reviews, video lessons, quizzes, and case law for reading comprehension, ensuring a comprehensive learning experience. Additionally, assessments after each module help identify weak points for further review. Invest in your legal English proficiency today and enroll in our Legal English course to enhance your courtroom communication skills.

    Tips for Mastering Legal English

    1. Study legal vocabulary: Focus on learning the specific terms and phrases used in the legal field. Understanding these terms in context can help demystify complex language.
    2. Practice writing legal documents: Engage in drafting various legal documents to get accustomed to the formal tone and structure typical of Legal English.
    3. Engage with legal texts: Regular reading of legal judgments, legislation, and legal commentary helps in understanding the application of legal language and concepts.
    4. Participate in moot courts or legal discussions: These activities offer practical experience in using Legal English in spoken form, which is invaluable for court proceedings and negotiations.
    5. Seek feedback: Regularly have your written and spoken Legal English reviewed by peers or mentors in the legal field to help identify areas for improvement.

    Word List for ESL Lawyers

  • Ambiguity: Uncertainty or inexactness of meaning in language, undesirable in legal contexts where clarity is paramount.
  • Solemnity: The state or quality of being serious and dignified, crucial in legal settings.
  • Lingua Franca: A language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.
  • Nominalization: The process of converting words into nouns; common in legal writing to create a formal tone.
  • Moot Court: A mock court where students argue imaginary cases for practice.
  • Conclusion

    Legal English is an essential skill for non-native speakers working in the law. It is not merely academic but a practical necessity for effective communication and professional success. By understanding its nuances and regularly practicing it, ESL lawyers can significantly enhance their legal expertise and professional opportunities.


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